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Culture Change and Continuity in the Eastern Mediterranean during Rapid Climate Change: Assessing the Vulnerability of Neolithic Communities to a Little Ice Age in the Seventh Millennium calBC

Abstract

In the past several years there has been increasing interest in a short interval of abrupt climate change known to have occurred towards the end of the 7th millennium calBC, most often referred to as the 8.2 ka calBP event. Growing numbers of studies have discussed the role of this interval in coincident Neolithic culture change in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean, albeit lacking a true comprehension of 1) the superordinate climate mechanism, and 2) further-reaching implications, e.g. the early dispersal of Neolithic communities into Southeast Europe. For this reason, this PhD study focused on palaeoclimate and archaeological records from the Early Holocene in the Levant and Anatolia; it was dedicated to the following aims:

- The provision of a comprehensive review of available palaeoclimate data for early Holocene conditions and effects of abrupt climate change in the 9th millennium calBP/7th millennium calBC;
- The elimination of the widespread misconception that climate perturbations in this period are restricted to the 8.2 ka calBP event;
- To increase awareness of a longer-lived Rapid Climate Change (RCC) interval (8600-8000 calBP), its mechanism and it repeated occurrence in the Holocene;
- The development of a complex (non-deterministic) theoretical approach for
Assessing effects of climate change on prehistoric communities;
- To review all available radiocarbon data for the study period and region to determine which sites - or settlement phases - coincide with RCC;
- To apply the developed theoretical approach to the archaeological record of these sites; and
- To promote climate change as a determinant factor in Neolithic culture diversification and innovation processes.

The combination of the so-called “adaptive cycle model” (Widlok et al. 2012; Zimmermann 2012) with insights from “vulnerability studies” (Blaikie et al. 1994; Kelly & Adger 2000) led to the identification of phases in cultural cycles which would be more (or less) resilient to climate change impact. This model was applied to Neolithic data from the Eastern Mediterranean study areas. For the RCC-period (8.600-8.000 calBP/6.600-6.000 calBC) this culminated in the formulation of "prehistoric scenarios" for two study regions (Central Anatolia and the Southern Levant). In summary, there is good evidence for decreasing levels of vulnerability to RCC-impacts over the course of its duration, thus supporting the claim that even in the Holocene, periods with recurrent short-lived hazards can decisively influence human behaviour and cultural development.

Bibliography

Clare, L. (2013): Culture Change and Continuity in the Eastern Mediterranean during Rapid Climate Change: Assessing the Vulnerability of Neolithic Communities to a Little Ice Age in the Seventh Millennium calBC. University of Cologne

Authors Clare, Lee
Type phdthesis
Title Culture Change and Continuity in the Eastern Mediterranean during Rapid Climate Change: Assessing the Vulnerability of Neolithic Communities to a Little Ice Age in the Seventh Millennium calBC
Year 2013
School University of Cologne
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