Did climate change end the reign of the pharaohs?

Mar 2014
Lost in Yharnam
The discovery of a tomb of a previously unknown queen is shedding light on a dark period of ancient Egyptian history.

Archaeologists recently unearthed the 4,600-year-old tomb of Khentkaus III - a queen of the Old Kingdom - in a necropolis of Abu-sir, southwest of Cairo.
Now one expert believes the grave could reveal that the kingdom was facing similar problems to our own, in the form of political unrest and climate change.

The tomb of Khentkaus III was discovered in the necropolis of Abu-Sir, which was used by the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis.
Here, pyramids dedicated to Fifth Dynasty pharaohs can be found.
The queen's body was found 650ft (198 metres) away from her husband, Pharaoh Neferefre who ruled the Old Kingdom between 2460 and 2458 BC.

An epithet of 'Queen Mother' was found scrawled on the wall of the grave, along with 30 utensils, pottery, woodwork, copper and animal bones.
These artefacts, including the anthropological evidence in human bones, could offer clues about the queen's life, how she died and the environment she lived in.

Professor Miroslav Bárta, of the Czech Institute of Egyptology believes the situation thousands of years ago serves as a warning to us, as disaster ensued and the kingdom collapsed soon afterwards.
In particular, he said the find is revealing 'a black patch in the history of the Old Kingdom,' according to CNN.

For example, the woman was buried during a critical period when the Old Kingdom started to run into problems, with the rise of democracy and impact of nepotism threatening to destabilise rulers.
Professor Bárta believes climate change played a role in toppling the Old Kingdom, and within just 200 years of Khentkaus III's death the land was wracked with droughts as the Nile no longer flooded.

The situation contributed to the disintegration of the era of the pyramid builders, he said.
This is because harvests were damaged by the lack of floods and people couldn't pay their taxes, meaning there were no funds to maintain the state apparatus.
The Fourth Dynasty, between 2613 and 2494 BC, saw the construction of the first pyramids. Professor Barta said the tomb serves as a historical echo and a warning.
'You can find many paths to our modern world, which is also facing many internal and external challenges,' he said, adding that we can learn about the present from past events.
'People always think 'this time it's different' and that 'we're different'. We are not.'

In 2014, experts at Cornell University analysed tree ring samples found in an ancient Egyptian coffin dated to around 4,000 years ago to conclude the region could have been undone by rapid climate change.
The find adds to the debate about what led to the collapse of the civilisation more than 3,000 years ago, with theories ranging from wars to famine and disease.
Professor Bárta said that while we may be on the brink of disaster, we have a chance to take a different path from the ancient Egyptians.
Experts will continue to analyse the tomb for around two years and carbon dating could reveal at what age the queen died, as well as if she was suffering from any illnesses.


In 2014, experts at Cornell University analysed tree ring samples found in an ancient Egyptian coffin dated to around 4,000 years ago to conclude Ancient Egypt could have been undone by rapid climate change.
Scientists studied samples taken from the Ipi-ha-ishutef Egyptian coffin alongside wood from funeral boats buried near the pyramid of Sesostris III, south of Cairo.
'The tree rings show the kind of rapid climate change that we and policymakers fear,' said Professor Stuart Manning from Cornell University at the time.
'This record shows that climate change doesn't have to be as catastrophic as an Ice Age to wreak havoc'.
The samples showed a small, unusual anomaly following the year 2,200BC, which supports palaeoclimate research there was a short-term drought event at about this time.
'We're showing that radiocarbon and these archaeological objects can confirm and in some ways better date a key climate episode,' Professor Manning said, adding it had political implications.
There was just enough change in the climate to upset food resources and other infrastructure, which is likely what led to the collapse of the Akkadian Empire and affected the Old Kingdom of Egypt.
'We're in exactly the same situation as the Akkadians: If something suddenly undid the standard food production model in large areas of the US it would be a disaster,' he said.

Read more: Ancient Egyptian Queen Khentkaus III's tomb sheds light on 'black period' | Daily Mail Online
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Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
Gads... Has anyone not figured out that the climate has been changing since the planet first formed?? It's ALWAYS changing! Often those changes cause population explosions. Sometimes they disrupt agriculture, etc., but prosperity generally returns in some way, and growth continues. It's perfectly NATURAL! Droughts, floods, and other disasters were just part of ancient life, and part of modern life. Throw in the odd volcano or meteor--none of them have killed us all off yet.

To get all hysterical about "This could happen to US!" is ludicrous. The modern world does NOT depend on the whimsical annual flooding cycles of a single river. Even modern Egypt has gone to great lengths to assure that the Nile does not flood any more! We're still here, aren't we?

Try to remain calm. There are plenty of other things to worry about.



Forum Staff
Oct 2011
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Old Kingdom

I don't know but the last ruling dynasty were Greeks.
Reading the title of the thread I was just wondering "which reign?", since this is not the first time I hear theories about a climate change as cause of the end of the Old Kingdom.

I would remind that there is an interesting document related to the first intermediate period which describes real disasters hitting Egypt: the Ipuwer Papyrus. So with scientific studies we can put also a literary source to sustain this theory.

In my opinion, it's a good hypothesis.
Sep 2014
I prefer the rise of the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau for the desertification of Africa, and that began around 7,000 bce....the effect not the creation of the mountains.

and I was going to say the Persians brought the rule of the pharaohs to their end...cyaxares to be exact


Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
The modern male bovine excrement about "Climate Change" (we used to call it weather) being a result of man-made activity is given the lie by history. All around the world we see the results of both sudden and slow changes in the climatic environment that has brought disaster on civilisations and inhabitants. True, some have been helped along by humans, like the Indus Valley civilisation and the Nazca culture--but these were localised.
It seems pretty clear that the late Bronze Age collapse can, at least in part, be attributed to the Younger Dryas cooling and volcanic activity--that includes Egypt. The planetary cooling and long term droughts right across the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean were not caused by excessive airline travel or Minoan coal-fired power stations, neither were the warm periods.
Feb 2011
Kitchener. Ont.
The modern male bovine excrement about "Climate Change" (we used to call it weather)...
Are people still confusing Climate, with Weather?

It seems pretty clear that the late Bronze Age collapse can, at least in part, be attributed to the Younger Dryas cooling and volcanic activity--that includes Egypt.
I think the Bronze Age collapse (in the east Mediterranean?), is more of a misnomer than reality.
Most ancient sites that are noted as evidence of collapse are not dated, there could be tens or hundreds of years between their destructions, quite possibly all unrelated.
If a reminder is needed, we need only turn to the Amarna Tablets for evidence of city-to-city conflict and local unrest ending in devastation for some.
Local conflict has now been determined for what was always assumed to be Sea Peoples devastation on Cyprus.
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Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
Even more so, Ptolemy I's descendants claimed that he was secretly Alexander's half brother.
If she wasn't a descendant of Alexander, she was a descendant of the Persian king Cyrus the Great via a maternal ancestor who was the daughter of one of the Pontic kings.