Such is one geologist’s suggestion, according to a LiveScience story by Tia Ghose:
“This was not a single summer or winter, this was 200 to 300 years of drought,” said Matt Konfirst, a geologist at the Byrd Polar Research Center. … Several geological records point to a long period of drier weather in the Middle East around 4,200 years ago… “As we go into the 4,200-year-ago climate anomaly, we actually see that estimated rainfall decreases substantially in this region and the number of sites that are populated at this time period reduce substantially,” he said. Around the same time, 74 percent of the ancient Mesopotamian settlements were abandoned… The populated area also shrank by 93 percent… After around 2000 B.C., ancient Sumerian gradually died off as a spoken language in the region. For the next 2,000 years, the tongue lingered on as a dead written language, similar to Latin in the Middle Ages, but has been completely extinct since then, Konfirst said.
This is fascinating stuff to read about, but I’m a little perplexed about the focus on the language. Why not “Drought May Have Killed Sumerian Civilization”? Not that I’m complaining; I like language.
Completely unrelated to Sumerian, but I want to pass along the news that two of my favorite Russian-Americans, Boris Dralyuk and Irina Mashinski, have won the 2012 Joseph Brodsky/Stephen Spender Prize for their translation of Полевой госпиталь (“Field Hospital”) by Arseny Tarkovsky, one of my favorite less-famous modern poets. Сердечно поздравляю!