To better understand the history of ancient European civilizations, the scientists are sometimes forced to look for hints in very uncommon places as it would be the Greenland ice sheet. Apparently, thousands of years ago, during the bloom of the ancient Romand and Greek empires, lead emissions from mining and lead and silver processing conducted all over on the European continent were carried by the air currents over Greenland where lead particle settled on the ice.
In a recent research, a team formed of archaeologists and economists from the University of Oxford and the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), used North Greenland Ice Core Project (NGRIP) to calculate and analyze everything possible related to the ancient European civilizations lead emissions trapped in the Greenland ice sheet between 1100 BC and 800 AD.
“We found that lead pollution in Greenland closely follows known pests, wars, social unrest and imperial expansion during European antiquity,” says Joe McConnell, the leading author of the study.
Ancient European Civilizations contributed to lead pollution in Greenland with increased lead emissions
To find out how much impact had the ancient European civilization on the lead pollution of Greenland, the scientists used high-end simulations and computer models of atmospheric transport.
“We believe this is the first time this detailed model has been used to interpret a record of man-made pollution and to identify the most likely source region of pollution,” says Andreas Stohl, the co-author of the research.
Apparently, the largest amounts of lead emissions of those times are due to the silver mining and processing, as silver was, back then, a currency.
“Because most of the emissions during these periods resulted from the mining and smelting of lead and silver ores, lead emissions can be seen as an indicator or agent of general economic activity,” said McConnell.
Using very powerful and accurate ice core chronology, the scientists seeked for connection between higher levels of lead emissions and remarkable historical moments. Accordingly, the researchers revealed that the lead pollution in Greenland started to grow sometime in 900 BC which coincides with the moment when the Phoenicians extended the trading paths to the Western Mediterranean region.
Besides, the lead emissions increased proportionally with the ancient European civilization interest in mining, an activity exclusively handled by Romans and Carthaginians in the Iberian Peninsula.