While it previously has been suggested that the Palace of Nestor collapsed as a result of drier climate, the stalagmite record shows little or no unequivocal evidence for drier conditions at the precise time when the palace was destroyed, from Late Helladic IIIB to Late Helladic IIIC (~1200 BC - 1180 BC). The record does, however, offer an insight into difficulties that existed before and after the collapse of the palatial system, which probably influenced societal processes.

Karin Holmgren och Martin Finné i närheten av grottan Mavri Trypa på ön Schiza utanför Peloponnesos sydvästra kust.
Karin Holmgren and Martin Finné in the vicinity of Mavri Trypa on the Island Schiza, Peloponnesos. The environment arount the cave is important for the study of stalagmites.

A dry period of around two decades ended some 50 years before the destruction of the palace. Evidently, the centralized administrative system at Pylos managed to survive that period of drought, although cracks in the system were beginning to emerge. After the destruction of the Palace at Pylos had occurred, the stalagmite record shows strong evidence of progressively more arid conditions resulting in pronounced aridity at the very end of the Late Bronze Age. This marked trend towards drier conditions most likely caused reduced agricultural output, which hampered the restoration of a central authority and/or the formation of new social elites. Small-scale subsistence agriculture however, persisted in the area. 

Karin Holmgren och Martin Finné i grottmiljön som är både trång och fantastiskt vacker på samma gång! Foto: Giogos Maneas.
Researchers in the cave, narrow and beautiful at the same time! Photo: Giorgos Maneas.

This locally-based study offers convincing evidence, for the first time, that climate may have been one factor of the process that led to the failure of the Mycenaean way of life in Pylos and that developing aridity that followed the destruction of the Palace made it difficult for social elites to re-form and for the palatial system to re-emerge. Although one cannot attribute the collapse of the Mycenaean way of life to a single monolithic cause or event, climate change was certainly a critical component in the suite of factors that contributed to the inability of the palatial elite to sustain and reconstitute the complex political, economic, and social organization that existed at the end of Late Helladic IIIB. ​

Results from research at Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO)

This research is a result of studies at Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO), a cooperation between Stockholm University, the Academy of Athens and TEMES S.A.
NEO is dedicated to research and education on the climate and environment of the Mediterranean region.

Read the article

Finné M, Holmgren K, Shen C-C, Hu H-M, Boyd M, Stocker S (2017) Late Bronze Age climate change and the destruction of the Mycenaean Palace of Nestor at Pylos. PLoS ONE 12(12): e0189447.