Mystery of the 300-Year Drought

The world's first empire may have been doomed by a volcano and an epic dry spell

Before the Han dynasty, before Alexander the Great, even before Ramses, the first empire the world ever knew was built by a Mesopotamian ruler named Sargon of Akkad. He conquered and subjugated dozens of cities and villages between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers more than 4,000 years ago, forcing them to pay tribute in wheat, barley and silver. For a century the regime flourished, first under Sargon and then under his grandson until suddenly, mysteriously, it collapsed. Neither the capital city of Akkad, famed for its harbor filled with vessels from distant shores, nor the imperial records, etched in cuneiform and...

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