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Archaeologists suggest the Bronze Age ended 100 years earlier than previously thought

New research published in the journal PLOS One suggests that the traditional dates assigned to the Greek Bronze Age — and thus, the end of the Aegean civilization — may be wrong.

The Bronze Age is generally thought to have ended around 1025 B.C.E., but the new study suggests the Bronze Age could have ended as many as 100 years earlier. Archaeologists from the University of Birmingham used radiocarbon dating to analyze 60 samples from animal bones, plant remains, and charred building timbers, which they collected from the Assiros excavation site in northern Greece, outside the modern city of Thessaloniki.

Previous historical dates, meanwhile, were obtained from Minoan and Mycenaean pottery and other exported and imported objects from Egypt. However, the study researchers hoped to find a more exact date for the time period, since previous dating methods had "wide error margins" and have "been viewed by some archaeologists with suspicion." The researchers add that the study has provided the first sequence of absolute dates that are "in no way mediated by reference to historical context or predicted duration of any phase."

After using radiocarbon dating on the samples, the researchers discovered that their absolute dates were "systematically earlier than the conventional chronologies of southern Greece by between 70 and 100 years," according to the study. Their data is the most complete set yet for the Greek Bronze Age, from the mid-14th century B.C.E. to the 10th century B.C.E. The study authors add that their findings support the idea of "high rather than low Iron Age chronologies from Spain to Israel," but they note that the timeline is still "fiercely debated."

"This is a fundamental reassessment and is important, not just for Greece, but in the wider Mediterranean context," Dr. Ken Wardle of the University of Birmingham's classics department, told Phys.org. "It affects the ways in which we understand the relationships between different areas, including the hotly debated dates of developments in Israel and Spain."