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Holocene Rapid Climate Change in the Eastern Mediterranean: An Emerging Archaeological Climate Research Project

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... The postulated contribution of general aridification from around 8600 cal BP to the spread of the Neolithic (Weninger and Clare, 2011;Weninger et al., 2014) is in general agreement with our set of quality-checked 14 C-dates. The only exceptions are several charcoal samples from the site of Ulucak in Western Anatolia ( Fig. S2; Fig. 3 site 9). ...
... The base map is derived from ArcGIS (sources: ESRI, USGS, NOAA), the precipitation map is derived from the KNMI Explorer tool (van Oldenborgh, 2015) and based on CRU 1901-2013 precipitation observations (Climatic Research Unit University of East Anglia, 2008).andRosen, 2009;Weninger and Clare, 2011;Weninger et al., 2006Weninger et al., , 2009, but new 14 Cdates show that occupation continued until at least 8000 cal BP(Marciniak et al., 2015;Marciniak and Czerniak, 2007).The decrease in probability values in the Southern Levant probably reflects the abandonment of larger LPPNB farming villages ('mega-sites'), which has previously been ascribed to the 8.2 ka event(Staubwasser and Weiss, 2006), but clearly occurs too early (Fig. 5-6, see alsoFig. S2-B; see alsoMaher et al., 2011).Clare (2010) argues that these 14 C-dates could be too early due to old wood effects and that the decline could be related to the general aridification starting at around 8600 cal BP. ...
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Climate change is often cited as a major factor in social change. The so-called 8.2 ka event was one of the most pronounced and abrupt Holocene cold and arid events. The 9.2 ka event was similar, albeit of a smaller magnitude. Both events affected the Northern Hemisphere climate and caused cooling and aridification in Southwest Asia. Yet, the impacts of the 8.2 and 9.2 ka events on early farming communities in this region are not well understood. Current hypotheses for an effect of the 8.2 ka event vary from large-scale site abandonment and migration (including the Neolithisation of Europe) to continuation of occupation and local adaptation, while impacts of the 9.2 ka have not previously been systematically studied. In this paper, we present a thorough assessment of available, quality-checked radiocarbon (14C) dates for sites from Southwest Asia covering the time interval between 9500 and 7500 cal BP, which we interpret in combination with archaeological evidence. In this way, the synchronicity between changes observed in the archaeological record and the rapid climate events is tested. It is shown that there is no evidence for a simultaneous and widespread collapse, large-scale site abandonment, or migration at the time of the events. However, there are indications for local adaptation. We conclude that early farming communities were resilient to the abrupt, severe climate changes at 9250 and 8200 cal BP.
... Studies of Greenland ice cores showed, that the decline in δ 18 O values started at 8247 years BP and lasted 160.5 ± 5.5 years (Thomas et al., 2007). However, in the eastern Mediterranean regions the 8.2 event is recorded as a much longer period lasting from 8400 to 8000 years BP (Berger et al., 2016;Weninger and Clare, 2011;Weninger et al., 2006). Therefore, we believe that the isotopic excursions observed in Yenikapı-Istanbul area, which commenced at 8340 cal. ...
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During the archaeological excavations in the Byzantine Theodosian harbor (Istanbul) a Holocene dark gray to black clay sequence was uncovered. This clay unit was deposited under anoxic conditions in a small swamp. Both wooden artifacts from the Neolithic period, but also dispersed organic matter were perfectly preserved within this sequence. The aim of this study was the assessment of environmental changes and anthropogenic impacts with the help of organic geochemical and isotopic characterization of organic matter in this clay unit. The age model, based on ¹⁴ C data, showed that the clay was deposited during a period about from 11,100 to 7500 cal. years BP. Hydrogen Index values lower than 100 mgHC/gTOC, n-alkane distributions with maxima at nC 29 or at nC 31 , a predominance of long-chain n-alkanes (C 25 –C 33 ) and δ ¹³ C org values around −24‰ to −27‰ suggest a predominantly terrestrial origin of organic matter from C 3 plants. Obvious excursions of bulk δ ¹³ C org and compound-specific δ ¹³ C and δD values of nC 27 , nC 29 , nC 31 , and nC 33 are interpreted as indicators of changes in environmental and climatic conditions. Several shifts toward colder and warmer climatic conditions were identified and dated. Furthermore, two sudden changes in the hydrological regime were dated to 9000–8820 cal. years BP and to 8150–8050 cal. years BP toward wetter and drier conditions, respectively. Specific molecular organic geochemical indicators such as faecal sterols or a strong enrichment of δ ¹⁵ N caused by human impact could not be detected. Therefore, the swamp should not have been intensively affected by Neolithic people and/or respective indicators of their influence have been diluted due to the high sedimentation rate.
... Studies of Greenland ice cores showed, that the decline in δ 18 O values started at 8247 years BP and lasted 160.5 ± 5.5 years (Thomas et al., 2007). However, in the eastern Mediterranean regions the 8.2 event is recorded as a much longer period lasting from 8400 to 8000 years BP (Berger et al., 2016;Weninger and Clare, 2011;Weninger et al., 2006). Therefore, we believe that the isotopic excursions observed in Yenikapı-Istanbul area, which commenced at 8340 cal. ...
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Beginning from the Early Holocene marked environmental changes have been revealed by a multi-proxy study of two radiocarbon-dated sediment cores from Lake Marmara. Both cores are composed of fine clastic sediments deposited over the last 1845 years. The core taken from the western depocentre supplementary consists of a 20 cm thick interval which represents a time period of 10.28 to 8.28ka yrBP. A desiccation event caused 6435 year hiatus in the sedimentary record. The lake was established again at 1.85ka yrBP. After a transitional humid phase at the beginning of the Late Holocene, overall arid conditions were continuously effective. Especially the difference between the geochemical composition of Early and Late Holocene sediments indicates distinctive environmental conditions. Respective humid phases took place in between 10.28 and 8.28ka yrBP (Early Holocene) and 1.85 to 1.72ka yrBP (Late Holocene). The Early Holocene phase is characterized by higher fluvial activity controlled by the humid climate and active tectonics. Right after the Middle Holocene droughts, a short-termed tendency to relatively fresh and oxic conditions prevailed. However, the small surface area of the lake and its shallow conditions caused fast variations of hydrology, oxidation level, salinity and organic productivity during the last 1850 years. We suggest that a combination of the instability of the Eastern Mediterranean climate and local conditions is the main control on the changing paleo-environment during the study period.
... Climatic data suggest that during the Holocene drier and colder episodes occurred circa every 1500 years (Bond et al., 1997). In archaeological literature, especially the impact of the 8.2 ka and 4.2 ka events on southwest Asian societies is discussed intensively as these "events" coincide with periods of high significance in human history such as the agricultural revolution and urbanization processes (Weninger and Clare, 2011;Weiss, 2017, Roberts et al., 2011Blanco-Gonzalez et al., 2018). Although these events are well-supported with multi-proxy paleoclimatic data from around the world (Lemke and Sturm, 1997;Rohling and P€ alike, 2005;Ellison et al., 2006;Kobashi et al., 2007;Bar-Matthews et al., 1999), due to lack of regional high-resolution proxies and interdisciplinary research programmes that enable direct comparison of archaeological and paleoclimatic data, precise effects of these abrupt climatic changes on human groups in various areas of the eastern Mediterranean are still relatively unknown. ...
Article
Sedimentological and paleoclimatological data from a fluvial infill retrieved from a series of cores taken across Kureyşler Valley, Kütahya, western Turkey, are compared alongside evidence for an almost unbroken record of human occupation in the area since Neolithic times. Recent salvage excavations in the valley exposed settlement remains from the Early Bronze Age and Late Byzantine periods with interfingering of archaeological and geological materials in the valley-fill, adding a wealth of information to the archaeological record in this region. Our geological data, constrained by seven radiocarbon dates from the sediment infill demonstrate that the earliest sediments were deposited during the Late Glacial (∼13.8 ka) under a cold and relatively dry climatic conditions with evidence of amelioration and increase in arboreal taxa from the Neolithic onwards. The occurrence of Cerealia-T and Apiaceae pollen is significant as an important indicator for anthropisation already present during the Epipaleolithic period (before 9 ka cal. BP). Also, the effects of 8.2 ka climatic event are clearly visible in our multi-proxy results. The onset of the Early Bronze Age settlements in the vicinity ∼ ca. 5.2 ka BP occurred alongside a climatic switch to warmer conditions recorded by a lithological change and a positive shift in isotopic data. The 4.2 ka event, present in records related to several Early Bronze Age (EBA) sites of Anatolia is also recorded in the Kureyşler Valley both in the pollen and δ¹⁸O records. In general, these results show that climate shifts occurred at the beginning and end of the EBA, as well as during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic and are to be compared with new archaeological data.
... For the first period, the main question concerns the consequences of RCC on human migration and the spread of Neolithic cultures from the Near East across Anatolia and Aegean towards Europe (e.g., Weninger et al., 2006Weninger et al., , 2014Berger and Guilaine, 2009;Lemmen and Wirtz, 2014). The second focuses on the effects of the 4200-4000 cal yr BP aridification on Middle Bronze Age societies in the Near East and eastern Mediterranean regions (e.g., Weiss et al., 1993;DeMenocal, 2001;Weninger et al., 2006Weninger et al., , 2009Weninger and Clare, 2011;Kaniewski et al., 2013;Wiener, 2014). ...
... For the first period, the main question concerns the consequences of RCC on human migration and the spread of Neolithic cultures from the Near East across Anatolia and Aegean towards Europe (e.g., Weninger et al., 2006Weninger et al., , 2014Berger and Guilaine, 2009;Lemmen and Wirtz, 2014). The second focuses on the effects of the 4200-4000 cal yr BP aridification on Middle Bronze Age societies in the Near East and eastern Mediterranean regions (e.g., Weiss et al., 1993;DeMenocal, 2001;Weninger et al., 2006Weninger et al., , 2009Weninger and Clare, 2011;Kaniewski et al., 2013;Wiener, 2014). ...
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Numerous researchers discuss of the collapse of civilizations in response to abrupt climate change in the Mediterranean region. The period between 6500 and 5000 cal yr BP is one of the least studied episodes of rapid climate change at the end of the Late Neolithic. This period is characterized by a dramatic decline in settlement and a cultural break in the Balkans. High-resolution paleoenvironmental proxy data obtained in the Lower Angitis Valley enables an examination of the societal responses to rapid climatic change in Greece. Development of a lasting fluviolacustrine environment followed by enhanced fluvial activity is evident from 6000 cal yr BP. Paleoecological data show a succession of dry events at 5800–5700, 5450 and 5000–4900 cal yr BP. These events correspond to incursion of cold air masses to the eastern Mediterranean, confirming the climatic instability of the middle Holocene climate transition. Two periods with farming and pastural activities (6300–5600 and 5100–4700 cal BP) are evident. The intervening period is marked by environmental changes, but the continuous occurrence of anthropogenic taxa suggests the persistence of human activities despite the absence of archaeological evidence. The environmental factors alone were not sufficient to trigger the observed societal changes
... 6, 9). Being an important milestone in the Neolithization of the Balkans, expansion on such a scale at this date could be explained through the changes in environmental conditions as the 8200 cal BP event (Weninger & Clare, 2011). However, this occurrence was not the first of its kind; such sudden changes, including the enlargement of the Neolithized area, also took place at the beginning, middle, and end of the seventh millennium BC, showing the regional expansion of Neolithic settlements. ...
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Increasing research in western Anatolia since the 1990s onwards shows that the Neolithic way of life in this region emerged in the first half of the seventh millennium bc and evolved rapidly in the same millennium. Current data indicate western Anatolia, which is located alongside the primary zone of Neolithization in the Near East, has a complex constitution rather than being a bridge or barrier between east and west. In this article, data from past and current excavations in western Anatolia are discussed over time and space. In this context, eastern Thrace, where there are strong connections with west Anatolia, is also included.
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We provide a detailed chronological framework for the Early Neolithic of the Eastern Rif of Morocco. Neolithic innovations such as pottery and domestic plants begin ca. 7.6 ka calBP, at which time plant cultivation is clearly documented for cereals (Triticum monococcum/dicoccum, Triticum aestivum/durum, Hordeum vulgare) and pulses (Lens culinaris, Pisum sativum, Vicia faba). This represents the earliest evidence for Africa as a whole. The Early Neolithic ends ca. 6.3 ka calBP and is marked by the definitive disappearance of Cardium-decorated pottery. The disintegration of the Early Neolithic dates to the interval 6.6–6.0 ka calBP, during which time a gradual desiccation of the Sahara has been observed. In the Eastern Rif of Morocco, Saharan influences become visible after 6.0 ka calBP. These are characterised by the presence of ivory objects and the appearance of comb-impressed pottery with so-called herringbone motives.
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Recent advances in palaeoclimatological research combined with new radiocarbon data from West and Northwest Anatolia, the Aegean, and Southeast Europe have led us to the formulation of a new hypothesis for the temporal and spatial dispersal of Neolithic lifestyles from their core areas of genesis. This hypothesis, which we term the ‘Rapid Climate Change (RCC) Neolithisation Model’, incorporates numerous insights from modern vulnerability theory (Clare, 2013). In the present paper we focus on the Late Neolithic (Anatolian terminology), which is followed in the Balkans by the Early Neolithic (European terminology). Following a halt in the Central Anatolian plateau of more than 1000 yrs (Düring, 2013; Brami 2014), from high-resolution 14C-case studies we infer a very rapid west-directed movement of early farming communities into the Aegean coastal regions. This movement begins in-phase (± 50 yrs) with the onset of RCC-conditions (~6600 calBC). Upon reaching the Aegean coastline, Neolithic dispersal again comes to halt. It is not until some 500 years later, around 6050 calBC i.e. at the close of cumulative RCC and 8.2 ka calBP (sensu strictu: Hudson Bay) cold conditions, that there occurs yet another abrupt movement of farming lifestyles. This new movement is along two routes, both of which departed simultaneously from the Aegean. While the first route took these new lifestyles out of the Aegean in continental direction, as far north as the northeastern Pannonian Basin, the second progressed up the Adriatic and then along the northern coastline of the Mediterranean basin, as far west as the Iberian Peninsula. The speed of dispersal is essentially identical along both paths.
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This study discusses the function(s) of Neolithic stamps and their designs by using two different lines of evidence. The function of the artifact itself is considered by using contextual information from the Neolithic site of Ulucak Höyük, located in the vicinity of İzmir in western Turkey. It will be argued that the co-occurrence of stamps with objects related to textile manufacturing - e.g. bone needles, spindle whorls and loom weights - at Ulucak allows us to interpret their function as stamps to make patterns, among other cultural media, on woven fabrics. Secondly, the role of images on stamps is discussed in terms of what they might have signified to the communities who reproduced them over a vast time and area. The intention is to demonstrate that geometrical and floral images observed on Neolithic stamps were not simply decorative but also symbolic, referring to central themes and stories of - and for - early farming communities. © The Fund for Mediterranean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2009.
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In this paper, one of the most frequently used terms in Neolithic studies, e.g. the so-called “Neolithic package”, will be discussed. Apart from providing a brief historical background of the term and how it was used since the 80’s, the text will concentrate on a plausible definition and the possible contents of the package which can be observed as a common set of objects in Southwest Asia, Anatolia and Southeast Europe. It will be argued that the use of this concept has both advantages and disadvantages. Although the term provides a macro level look to the large geography mentioned above, that was obviously closely interconnected in the course of 7th and 6th millennia BC, the term should be implemented cautiously at regions where the elements of the package do not seem to be fully integrated into the life of the groups.
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