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The 8200 calBP climate event and the spread of the Neolithic in Eastern Europe

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At 8200 calBP, the beginning of the Atlantic period, there was a drastic change from warm and humid climatic conditions to cold conditions. The abrupt cooling at 8200 calBP has been documented in different parts of Europe. In western, and some parts of southern, Europe, this event was a trigger for new forms of economy and migrations of groups of Neolithic farmers. This paper considers the different ways in which ceramic traditions developed in eastern Europe in the steppe, steppe-forest and forest zones as a result of the rapid climate changes at about 8200 calBP.
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77
Documenta Praehistorica XLII (2015)
The 8200 calBP climate event and the spread
of the Neolithic in Eastern Europe
Marianna A. Kulkova1, Andrey N. Mazurkevich2, Ekaterina V. Dolbunova2
and Vladimir M. Lozovsky3
1 Herzen University, St. Petersburg, RU
kulkova@mail.ru
2 The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, RU
3 Institute of the History for Material Culture, St. Petersburg, RU
Introduction
Until now, the Holocene has been considered as an
interstadial period, with stable climatic conditions.
According to Richard Tipping et al. (2012) the old
paradigm of slow, gradual change (Lamb 1977;
1995) has been replaced by one in which change can
be described as abrupt, occurring over short time-
scales of centuries or less, separated by comparati-
vely long periods of quasi-stasis (Mayewski et al.
2004). The 8.2ka years event was part of a climatic
cooling period from c. 8600 to 8000 calBP (Rohling,
Pälike 2005; Thomas et al. 2007; Walker et al. 2012)
that interrupted the long-term trend of rising early-
Holocene temperatures. The event lasted approx.
160 years (Daley et al. 2011; Kobashi et al. 2007).
It has been detected as a marked cold snap in mul-
tiple paleoclimatic records from the Greenland ice
cores and a variety of sedimentary records, espe-
cially in northern Europe (Alley, Ágústsdóttir 2005;
Seppä et al. 2007; Thomas et al. 2007; Walker et al.
2012). The abrupt cooling at 8200 calBP has also
been documented in different parts of Europe. This
evidence includes the stratigraphic record of lake
drainage (Barber et al. 1999), reconstructions of sea
level rises (Li et al. 2012; Tornqvist, Hijma 2012),
and geochemical reconstructions of freshwater dis-
charge from the Hudson Strait and northwest Labra-
dor Sea (Carlson et al. 2009; Hoffman et al. 2012).
The last global syntheses of proxy data around 8200
calBP were published recently (Wiersma, Renssen
2006; Morrill, Jacobsen 2005; Rohling, Pälike 2005;
Morill et al. 2013). There are fewer data available for
Eastern Europe, and they are based mainly on data
of pollen analysis. The high-resolution pollen dia-
gram focusing on the 8400–7700 calBP interval in-
ABSTRACT – At 8200 calBP, the beginning of the Atlantic period, there was a drastic change from
warm and humid climatic conditions to cold conditions. The abrupt cooling at 8200 calBP has been
documented in different parts of Europe. In western, and some parts of southern, Europe, this event
was a trigger for new forms of economy and migrations of groups of Neolithic farmers. This paper
considers the different ways in which ceramic traditions developed in eastern Europe in the steppe,
steppe-forest and forest zones as a result of the rapid climate changes at about 8200 calBP.
IZVLE∞EK – V ≠asu okoli 8200 calBP, to je na za≠etku obdobja atlantika, je pri∏lo do korenite spre-
membe klime, od toplih in vla∫nih pogojev do ohladitev. Nenadna ohladitev v ≠asu 8200 calBP je do-
kumentirana v razli≠nih delih Evrope. V zahodni in v delu ju∫ne Evrope je dogodek spro∫il nove ob-
like gospodarstev in preseljevanje skupin neolitskih poljedelcev. V ≠lanku razpravljamo o razli≠nih
oblikah razvoja kerami≠nih tradicij na stepskih, gozdno-stepskih in gozdnih obmo≠jih v vzhodni Ev-
ropi kot posledico te hitre klimatske spremembe v ≠asu 8200 calBP.
KEY WORDS – rapid climate change; Neolithic; pottery; Eastern Europe
DOI> 10.4312\dp.42.4
Marianna A. Kulkova, Andrey N. Mazurkevich, Ekaterina V. Dolbunova and Vladimir M. Lozovsky
78
dicates that the taxa with the most marked decline
were Alnus, Corylus and Ulmus. In deposits from
lakes located in Finland, the pollen analysis also re-
gistered abrupt climatic cooling at 8200 calBP (Sar-
maja-Korjonen, Seppä 2007; Seppä 2004; Veski et
al. 2004). The end of this event is reflected as a sud-
den change between c. 8075 calBP and c. 8050
calBP, when the pollen proportions of Alnus (10%),
Corylus (2%) and Ulmus (1.5%) increase to 13%, 4%
and 2.5%, respectively. Some evidence for this event
was obtained on the basis of geochemical analyses
of lake deposits and radiocarbon date distributions
for sites in the north-western part of Eastern Eu-
rope (Kulkova et al. 2015).
At the beginning of the Atlantic period, the warm
and humid climatic conditions changed to cold con-
ditions drastically at 8200 calBP. It was the first con-
siderable cooling after the Younger Drias. The tem-
perature fell to 0.5–1.5°C in Europe, Greenland,
Northern America, Asia, Northern Africa and the east-
ern part of northern Atlantic Ocean (Seppä, Poska
2004; Rasmussen et al. 2006; Vinther et al. 2006;
Morrill et al. 2013). According to the data of Ane
Wiersma et al. (2006), the cooling was accompanied
by dry climatic conditions. However, a dry climate
prevailed in northern and southern Europe (Magny
et al. 2003). The humid climate in this period has
been registered in several places in the middle lati-
tudes of Europe, approx. between 43°and 50°north.
One of the main factors in climatic change is varia-
tion in solar activity (Bond et al. 2001; van Geel et
al. 2004). There is a wealth of empirical evidence
to support this theory, mostly based on isotopic data.
The model experiments of Hugues Goosse et al.
(2002) showed that variations in solar radiation
could cause variations in thermohaline convection
in oceans, as well as the polar atmospheric flows in
both of hemispheres. These processes (Lamy et al.
2010; Magny et al. 2003; Mullins, Halfman 2001)
weaken African and Asian monsoons and result in a
fall in temperature and a thermal contrast between
terrestrial and oceanic air masses. On the other
hand, the increase and drift of Westerlies regulates
the humidity balance in low and middle latitudes in
response to changes in the thermal gradient between
high and low latitudes. The territories affected by
Westerlies are characterised by more humid condi-
tions (Bush 2005).
The sensitivity of ecosystems to abrupt climate chan-
ges in the past has been considered by different scho-
lars (Hofmann 2000; Birks, Ammann 2000; Dui-
gan, Birks 2000; Williams et al. 2002; Baldia 2013).
The climatic changes caused by the abrupt cold
event, most notably the cooling in the Northern He-
misphere and an increase in aridity in the lower la-
titudes are thought to have affected human popu-
lations in many parts of Europe and beyond (cf. Bin-
ford 2001; Dincauze 2000; Kelly 1995). The coinci-
dence in the timing of this hemispheric-scale abrupt
climate change or a rapid climatic change (RCC)
(Bond et al. 1997; Mayewski et al. 1997; 2004) with
transformations in prehistoric societies and econo-
mies in north-western Europe has been considered
elsewhere (Berger, Guilaine 2009; Berglund 2003;
Turney et al. 2006; Karlen, Larsson 2007). The en-
vironmental changes were reflected in the records
in various ways that are determined by such things
as the severity of the effects of the changes on the
ecosystem, the readiness of any given group to
adapt, and the threat to group territory, as well as
migrations, conflicts, and technological changes (see
Manninen 2014). The demographic collapses caused
by such crises and the following social and econo-
mic reorganisation can therefore be expected to be
reflected in rapid changes in the record (Riede 2009).
The warm and humid climatic conditions at the be-
ginning of the Holocene, the environmental changes,
the increasing of availability and the diversity of
food resources could have been factors in social tran-
sformation, such as an increase in population densi-
ty (Adger et al. 2012; Gronenborn 2009; Munoz et
al. 2010; Riede 2009; Robinson et al. 2013). One of
these events was the development of Mesolithic so-
cieties, whereas the formation of Mesolithic groups
occurred probably during a cold climatic period. The
transition from the Paleolithic to Mesolithic attribut-
ed to the Younger Drias period resulted in the com-
plication of social structures, the occupation of new
territories and the diffusion of small, independent
Mesolithic groups over considerable distances (Bell,
Walker 2005; Bassetti et al. 2009). In western and
some parts of southern Europe, the abrupt cold
event at 8.2ka BP could have triggered new forms
of economy, such as the Neolithic, and also triggered
the migration of groups of Neolithic farmers (Berger,
Guilaine 2009; Weninger et al. 2006; Budja 2007).
In the steppe and forest zones of Eastern Europe,
these processes are not so clearly manifested.
The 8200 calBP climate event and the Neolithic
population dispersal
A warm and humid monsoon climate prevailed in
North Africa at the beginning of the Holocene, fa-
vourable to savannah with numerous lakes. The co-
The 8200 calBP climate event and the spread of the Neolithic in Eastern Europe
79
oling and decreasing of African monsoons at 8200
calBP caused dry climatic conditions. Some authors
(e.g., Brooks et al. 2005) suggest that this period
was a key point in the development of cattle pas-
toralism in the Sahara. Increased aridity is believed
to have played a key role in encouraging the integra-
tion of cattle herding with existing hunting and for-
aging systems (Holl 1998; Hassan 2002). The ex-
ploitation of mountain pastures for goat and sheep
grazing (possibly developed first in western Asia)
was a result of drier conditions in the foothills of
Libya. In this period, the dispersal and isolation of
different cultural groups occurred all across the Sa-
hara. These groups migrated to unknown territories
in search of water and pastures. Subsequently, settle-
ments grew up around water basins (Brooks 2006).
The earliest settlements in the southern part of Egypt
consisted of small groups engaged in cattle hus-
bandry and pottery making (Wendorf, Shild 1998).
The 8200 calBP climate event resulted in economic
developments such as the appearance of small cat-
tle and the growth of settlements with numerous fi-
replaces near large water basins.
According to Bernhard Weninger et al. (2006), the
influence of the 8200 calBP event in Europe was
greatest in Central Anatolia. The flourishing and
well-established settlement at Catalhöyük-East was
deserted quite abruptly around 8200 calBP. The site
was reoccupied later, with a shift of the settlement
by approx. 200m to a new position (Çatalhöyük-
West). This settlement shift marks the beginning of
the Early Chalcolithic in Central Anatolia. The im-
pact of climate event on prehistoric groups in Ana-
tolia, Cyprus, Greece and Bulgaria has been consi-
dered by various authors (Staubwasser, Weiss 2006;
Migowski et al. 2006; Weninger et al. 2006).
The 8200 calBP climate event was associated with
the transition from the Pre-Pottery to the Pottery
Neolithic era, which was marked by the collapse of
the ‘ritual economy’ and agricultural PPN aggrega-
tion centres in the Levant (Budja 2007). As he noted,
this climatic anomaly correlates chronologically with
the process of the neolithisation in the Near East and
south-eastern Europe. The collapse of the agricultur-
al PPN aggregation centre in the Levant correlates
with the cooling period and aridity. The initial agri-
culture in the Peloponnese and most of the Balkans
predate the climate event at around 8150–7950
calBP, but the ‘Neolithic package’ (for more detail,
see Cilingiroglu 2005) seems to have crossed the
Danube and entered the southernmost region of the
Pannonian Plain after the major climate fluctuations,
and remained there for centuries (Budja 2007.
196–197).
Archaeological data and palaeoecological records
suggest that the Neolithic acculturation process of
the Carpathian Basin took place between approxima-
tely 8450–7450 calBP (Sümegi et al. 1998; Banffy,
Sümegi 2012). It was a period of various transfor-
mations in Neolithic society.
The spread of the Neolithic in Eastern Europe
The process of neolithisation in Eastern and South-
eastern, Central and Western Europe differed signi-
ficantly. While the ‘Neolithic package’ distribution,
‘agricultural frontiers’ spread and ‘demic diffusion’
(Zvelebil 1998; Özdogan 2001; Cilingiroglu 2005;
Budja 2013) mark it in the latter, in Eastern Eu-
rope, the main marker of the Neolithic process was
pottery appearance without any other Neolithic com-
ponents. However, some different components of the
Neolithic package have been be found at the site Ra-
kushechny Yar in the Low Don River region (9050–
8450 calBP) (Belanovskaya et al. 2003) (Fig. 1). The
earliest pottery and adobe architecture can be found
in the Low Volga region (the Varfolomeevka site)
(Yudin 2000). Also, the earliest pottery in this re-
gion appeared at sites in the Kairshak-Tenteksor
group and Dzgangar-Varfolomeevka (9050–8650
calBP), and the Elshanian group in the Middle Vol-
ga River region (9150–7950 calBP) (Vybornov et al.
2008a; 2008b; 2010).
The steppe and forest-steppe zones of Eastern
Europe
Rakushechny Yar in the Low Don River region
One of crucial Early Neolithic sites in Eastern Eu-
rope, where almost all the components of Neolithic
were found is at Rakushechny Yar (Belanovskaya
1995), located in the Lower Don River region (Fig.
1). Some types of pottery found at this site closely
resemble ceramic types from other cultures of East-
ern Europe. The artefact assemblage of this site is si-
gnificant for understanding the process of neolithisa-
tion in the north-eastern Black Sea region. The ra-
diocarbon dates, typological analogies of pottery, the
specific bone industry, cattle husbandry, and adobe
architecture reveal a similarity with Near Eastern
sites, indicating an allochthonous character of the
site (Belanovskaya, Timofeev 2003; Belanovskaya
et al. 2003; Kotova 2002; Mazurkevich et al. 2012).
Therefore, it should be considered a ‘primary’ cen-
tre for the development of some Neolithic ceramic
Marianna A. Kulkova, Andrey N. Mazurkevich, Ekaterina V. Dolbunova and Vladimir M. Lozovsky
80
traditions in the Low Volga
and Don regions, the Upper
Volga region, and the Dnepr-
Dvina region.
The pottery from the Raku-
shechy Yar site has different
shapes with flat bottoms (Fig.
2). Silt clay from deep and
shallow water areas of the
Don River basin was used for
ceramic moulding. According
to the petrographic analysis
(Mazurkevich et al. 2013) the
ceramic paste consists of clay
loam tempered with sand and
grog (dried and ground clay).
The coil technique with stret-
ching of strips of clay was
used to make some of the ear-
liest types of ceramics. The
surface of the pottery was
smoothed after scratching, or
polished and smoothed with-
out scratching. This type of
pottery was undecorated.
Another ceramic type from
these cultural layers has dec-
oration; the decorated frag-
ments make up about 9% of
the ceramic collection. A va-
riety of ornamentation can be
observed here: simple com-
positions consisting of trian-
gular signs, I-shaped motifs
made with the impression
technique, combing incisions,
lines and denticulated impres-
sions made with the ‘rocking-chair’ technique. Diffe-
rent types of raw clay deposits were used for making
this type of pottery.
The radiocarbon dates on food crusts from the early
types of pottery date this site to c. 8700–7840 calBP.
The Kairshak-Tenteksor and Dzgangar-Varfo-
lomeevka groups in the Lower Volga River re-
gion
According to Alexander Vybornov et al. (2012), sites
of Kairshak complex existed on the semi-desert
northern coast of the Caspian Sea from c. 8600
calBP onward. The pottery is characterised by flat
bottoms, incisions as pottery decorations (after Vy-
bornov 2008a) (Fig. 3), and is made of clay mixed
with silt and shell. The local Mesolithic stone indus-
try that persisted during the Neolithic period is cha-
racterised by artefacts such as geometric microliths
in the form of segments and parallelograms. These
Neolithic sites present a local type of neolithisation.
On the north-west coast of the Caspian Sea, the ear-
liest sites of the Dzhangar type (Tu-Buzgu-Huduk I
site) were dated to the first half of the 8th milennium
BP. The main innovation was the appearance of pot-
tery (Fig. 3). The Kairshak and Dzhangar cultures
influenced the development of the Orlovskaya cul-
tural tradition in the Middle Volga River region
around c. 8500–8400 calBP. The earliest Neolithic
Fig. 1. Map of Early Neolithic site locations in eastern Europe. a– ‘pri-
mary centres’: 1 Bugo-Dnestr sites; 2 Rakushechy Yar site of the Lower
Don region; 3 Kairshak-Djangar-Varfolomeevka sites in the Low Volga re-
gion. b,c,d,e – ‘secondary centres’: 4 Middle Don River sites; 5 sites in the
Desna River basin; 6 sites in the Upper Dnepr River basin; 7 sites in the
Dvina River basin; 8 sites in the Valday region; 9 sites in the Upper Volga
River basin; 10–11 sites in the Middle Volga river basin; 12 sites in the
Dnepro-Donezk region; 13 sites in the Sursko-Mokshanian basin; 14 Ka-
ramishevo 9 site; 15 Berezovaya slobodka II-III, IV sites; 16 Gora Strumel
site; 17 Zvidze site.
The 8200 calBP climate event and the spread of the Neolithic in Eastern Europe
81
ceramics from the Djangar-Varfolomeevka sites were
made from silt clay with sand and organic inclusions.
The pottery has a closed shape with flat walls and
flat or roundish bottoms. The decoration in the up-
per part was made with triangular and oval pins; the
motifs consist of horizontal rows and horizontal zig-
zags (Vasilieva, Vybornov 2013; Vybornov 2008b).
The Elshanian cultural group in the Middle
Volga River basin
The earliest Neolithic sites with ‘Elshanian-type’
pottery are located between the steppe and forest
steppe zones in the Middle Volga River basin (Fig.
1). The most important sites of the early stage are
the Ivanovo site on the Samara River and the Che-
kalino on the Sok River (Vybornov 2011). The pot-
tery was made of plastic clay. It has pointed bases
with impressions and incisions (Fig. 4) (Vasilieva,
Vybornov 2013). The 14C dating of different mate-
rials (such as foodcrusts, bones, pottery) from these
sites dates the Elshanian ceramics to c. 8760–8000
calBP. The closest analogues to the typological and
technological characteristics of Elshanian pottery
were found on the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea
and the Central Asian interfluves at the Uchaschy,
Daryasay, and Dzhebel sites (Vybornov et al. 2012).
Radiocarbon dates on the earliest Neolithic materi-
als in Central Asia have the same age (Brunet et al.
2012). No sites in the Volga region of the steppe
forest dating to 8350–8100 calBP have been found
(Vybornov et al. 2010).
At the end of the 8th millennium BP, some Elshanian
groups occupied the north-western Middle Volga re-
gion in the Sura River valley. The Vyunovo Ozero I
and Utuzh sites, the Ozimenky site in the Moksha Ri-
ver basin (Vybornov 2011), the Imerka 7 site, the
Plautino I and IV sites in the south-western part of
the middle Khoper River, the Ustie Izlegoshy site in
the Upper Don region, and sites of the Karamishevo
type (Ivnitsa and Karamishevo 5 and 9 sites; see
Smolyaninov 2012) date to this period.
Because of the 8200 calBP climatic event the groups
which produced the ‘Kairshak type’ pottery moved
from the northern Caspian shore towards the steppe
region of the Volga River basin and the northwestern
coast of the Caspian. They influenced the develop-
ment of the Varfolomeevka and Dzhangar traditions
in these regions. The characteristics of the pottery,
the ornamentation techniques, and motifs support
this. The process of neolithisation on the north coast
of the Caspian and the Lower Volga regions was em-
bedded in the period c. 8500–7900 calBP (Vybor-
nov et al. 2008b) (Fig. 1).
The climate in the steppe and forest steppe regions
was more arid than today (Lavrushin, Spiridonova
Fig. 2. The earliest (8700–7840 calBP and earlier) Neolithic pottery from the site Rakushechny Yar (bot-
tom layers).
Marianna A. Kulkova, Andrey N. Mazurkevich, Ekaterina V. Dolbunova and Vladimir M. Lozovsky
82
Fig. 3. Pottery from the Lower Volga region: 1–2 Kugat IV; 3 Kulagaisi; 4–5 Tu-Buzgu-Huduk I; 6–30 Kair-
shak (after Vybornov 2008).
The 8200 calBP climate event and the spread of the Neolithic in Eastern Europe
83
1990; 1995; Levkovskaya 1995; Spiridonova, Ale-
shinskaya 1999; Mamonov 2006). The forest steppe
zone transformed into the forest zone only recently.
There was steppe, with patches of forest inside river
valleys. Naturally, in dry periods the forest zone with
woodlands and rich food resources was a favourable
area for people from more southerly regions (Arsla-
nov et al. 2009; Vybornov 2011).
The forest zone of Eastern Europe
In the forest zone of Eastern Europe generally only
one component of the Neolithic was distributed,
namely pottery, the characteristics of which allow to
us to make conclusions about the process of neoli-
thisation in this part of Europe.
The Dvina-Lovat River region
The detailed studies of artefact assemblages of the
Dvina River Region allow us to distinguish several
ceramic traditions that were defined as ‘ceramic
phases’ (see Miklayev 1994).
Lakes in the Dvina-Lovat River region were mainly
formed at the end of the Pleistocene – beginning of
the Holocene within fluvioglacial and moraine de-
pressions after the recession of the Late Würm stage
ice-sheet. The further development of the lake sys-
tems relates to the humid period, when most of them
were transformed into peat-bogs in the Late Holo-
cene (Davidova 1992). However, some authors
(Miettinen 2002; Lak 1975) argue that the tectonic
processes of the Fennoscandian shield had more in-
fluence on the development of the drainage network
on the north-western Russian plateau and the water
fluctuations in the lake basins than climatic changes
during the Holocene.
At the beginning of the Holocene, the Serteya valley
consisted of large and deep lakes with steep slopes.
More than 38 early Neolithic sites have been found
in this region (Fig. 1) (Mazurkevich et al. 2012).
The Early Neolithic Serteya culture includes ceramic
phases ‘a’, ‘b’, and ‘b–1’. Other cultural traditions
comprise the ceramic phases ‘a–1’, ‘c–1’ and also
‘a–2’, and ‘b–2’ (Mazurkevich et al. 2008) (Fig. 5).
Ceramics from the ‘a–1’ phase (Fig. 5) were made
from clay tempered with sand and grog. The coil
technique was used to make the pottery, which
consisted of small circular coils. Traces of scratching
treatment were visible both on the outer and inner
surfaces of vessels. There are sherds with smoothed
and polished surfaces. Ceramics of this type has no
decoration. The pots are open or straight, with small
cambered flat edges, similar to a cylindrical form.
This type of pottery has analogues with undecorated
vessels from the lowest layers of the Rakushechny
Yar site.
The radiocarbon date on food crust of ceramic type
‘a–1’ from Serteya XIV site falls within the interval
between 9520–9270 calBP; due to the reservoir ef-
fect, this date is probably too old (δ13C in food crust
is –33.8‰) (Fischer, Heinemeier 2003). Neverthe-
less, it falls into the earliest typological interval of
ceramic tradition (see more detail in Mazurkevich
et al. 2013). Due to the proposed correction based
on modern sample dating (Kulkova et al. 2014) it
can be attributed to the beginning of the 9th millen-
nium calBP; the lowest cultural layers from the Ra-
kushechny Yar site also match this date.
Another ceramic type relates to phase ‘a’ (Fig. 5).
This type of pottery was formed from clay tempered
with sand and grog, or from silt clay with organic in-
clusions without temper. The coil technique was used
for moulding. The outer and inner surfaces were
treated by scratching and then smoothed. This pot-
tery was decorated with incisions and has analogues
with ceramics from sites in the Low Volga River ba-
sin and in the Middle and Upper Don River basin.
Fig. 4. ‘Elshanian type’ pottery from the site Che-
kalino at 8760–8000 calBP (after Vybornov et al.
2010).
Marianna A. Kulkova, Andrey N. Mazurkevich, Ekaterina V. Dolbunova and Vladimir M. Lozovsky
84
The radiocarbon date of wood from the layer with
ceramic type of phase ‘a’ is 8400–7760 calBP (Timo-
feev et al. 2004) (Fig. 5). The age of the food crust
on pottery from Rudnya Serteya site is 8990–8500
caBP. The cultural tradition represented by ceramic
phase ‘a–2’, which is similar to Elshanian cultural tra-
ditions, can be dated to the same time. The ceramic
tradition of local phase ‘b’ was formed on the base
of ceramic phase ‘a’ between c. 8200–7900 calBP
(Mazurkevich et al. 2013).
After c. 9450 calBP, the water level fell in the Ser-
teya valley lakes. The regression minimum was dated
to c. 8550 calBP. This was quite a warm period, but
the climate remained dry. The bio-productivity of the
lakes decreased. Data shows a decrease in population
during this period (Mazurkevich et al. 2009). Paleo-
geographical studies indicate that there was a short
period of cooler and drier climate beginning at c.
8200 calBP, which coincided with the rapid regres-
sion of lakes in the Serteya valley due to tectonic
processes in Fennoscandia and the transgression of
the Baltic Sea. This caused an increase in the lake’s
bio-productivity, as well as strengthening the anthro-
pogenic influence on the lake system. The data pro-
vides evidence of population growth. Thus, the ‘a-1’
and ‘a’ phases of the Serteya tradition began earlier
than 8200 calBP, and further pottery groups of the
phases ‘a-2’ and ‘b’ were formed (Mazurkevich et al.
2012; Mazurkevich, Dolbunova 2012; Mazurkevich
et al. 2013).
The Upper Volga River region
According to various studies (Krainov, Khotinsky
1977; Zetlin 2008; Engovatova et al. 1998; Zaret-
skaya, Kostyleva 2008), the Neolithic culture of the
Upper Volga River went through several stages. Un-
decorated ceramics constitute an element in the first
stage of the Upper Volga culture. The data obtained
show that various typological and technological
styles can be differentiated within the undecorated
pottery. Because of the complicated cultural proces-
ses present in the Volga-Oka basin, it is probable
that similar ceramic groups from other sites of the
Upper Volga River basin varied in the same way.
The earliest ceramics were cylindrical shape or with
a partly closed rim (Fig. 6a). Only a few fragments
of this type have been found. Similar examples of
this type can be found in the pottery assemblage
Fig. 5. Types of Early Neolithic pottery from the Serteya River basin.
The 8200 calBP climate event and the spread of the Neolithic in Eastern Europe
85
from the Rakushechny Yar site, the Dvina River basin
sites (ceramic phase ‘a-1’) and the Valday culture
(‘type 1’). The radiocarbon dates of this type from
the Zamostje 2 site obtained from the food crust on
vessels fall into the long interval from 8600–7300
calBP (Meadows et al. 2015).
Another undecorated ceramic type from this collec-
tion is characterised by the use of coil stretching and
molding with slabs. The clay paste contains shells.
The outer and inner surfaces were treated by pebble
smoothing and, as a result, coarse particles appear
on the surface of the pottery walls (Fig. 6b). The
shapes are either closed in the form of convergent
cones or biconical. The radiocarbon dates of the food
crusts on pottery fall into the period between 8200–
7620 calBP (Meadows et al. 2015). This ceramic tra-
dition is represented by different types of undecorat-
ed pottery which has analogues in assemblages from
the Middle Volga River sites, the Valday site, and the
Berezovaya Slobodka II-III site. The radiocarbon
dates on the wood and charcoal from Berezovaya
Slobodka II, III cultural layers with the finds of deco-
rated and undecorated pottery fall into the interval
between 8200–7980 calBP (Timofeev et al. 2004).
Organic material (bone, peat) from layers contain-
ing Upper Volga pottery dated between 8200–7400
calBP (Lozovski 2003).
The Early Neolithic cultural layers containing the Up-
per-Volga ceramics were found in the Mesolithic lay-
ers of the sites at Ivanovskoe 3, 7, Sahtish 2a, Stano-
voe 4, Ozerki 5 and Zamostje 2 (Kostyleva 2003).
For the period from c. 8400–8100 calBP, some au-
thors (Spiridonova, Aleshinskaya 1996; Aleshin-
skaya et al. 2001) have found the beginning of a re-
duction in water levels in the basin in this region on
data from proxy indicators from peat-lake deposits.
This process is connected with aridisation, mostly in
the steppe and forest-steppe zones. Complete aridi-
sation occurred at c. 8100 calBP, which the authors
suggest marked the natural transition from the Me-
solithic to Neolithic in central Russia.
The appearance of Neolithic traditions among Meso-
lithic hunter-gatherers can be connected with migra-
tion of Neolithic farmers. Environmental factors were
probably among the causes: the transition from the
Mesolithic to the Neolithic (at c. 8200 calBP) was cha-
racterised by complete aridisation not only in the
steppe and forest-steppe zones, but also in the forest
zones in Eastern Europe. These changes have been
recorded in the pollen spectra for various parts of
Eastern Europe (Spiridonova, Aleshinskaya 1999).
As noted by Elena Kostyleva (2003), migration did
not include the whole population, but instead could
have been in the form of small groups dispersing
from the southern to northern regions.
Discussion and conclusion
At around 8200 calBP cold and dry climatic condi-
tions were present in the Dvina-Lovat basin and the
Upper Volga river region. These cold and dry condi-
tions were an abrupt event that occurred in many
areas of Eastern and Western Europe, as well as in
the Middle East (Kofler et al. 2005; Magny 2003;
Mayevsky et al. 2004, Aleshinskaya, Spiridonova
1999). A fall in river and lake water levels caused si-
gnificant environmental transformations, provoking
widespread migration (Mazurkevich et al. 2013).
The high water level in the lakes of Dvina-Lovat ba-
sin, related to isostatic processes in the Baltic Sea,
was one of the factors that attracted people in this
area from the dry regions of the centre and south of
the East European Plain (Kulkova et al. 2015).
The earliest Neolithic pottery appeared in the period
from 9500 to 8950 calBP. This is the undecorated
pottery found at various sites in Eastern Europe
(Mazurkevich, Dolbunova 2012; Mazurkevich et al.
2013) including at Serteya XIV (Dniepr-Dvina region,
phase ‘a-1’), Rakushechny Yar (Low Don River, bot-
tom layers), and later, at the Zamostje 2 (Upper Vol-
ga region, types ‘4’ and ‘7’) sites.
In the period from 8950 to 8200 calBP, ceramics de-
corated with a retreating incised style have been
found at North Caspian sites (Vybornov et al. 2012)
(Kairshak III site, Kizilkhak, Varfolomeevka (layer 3),
Kugat IV), in the Low Volga region, and in the Dnepr-
Dvina basin (Rudnja Serteya, phase ‘a’). At almost
the same time, c. 8200 calBP, the ceramic types ‘b’
and ‘a-2’ appeared in the Dvina-Lovat basin.
Pottery decorated with retreating incised style and
with impressions in the period between 8200–7350
calBP was found at North Caspian sites and in the
Low Volga region (including at sites such as Kair-
shak I and III, Djangar – layer 3, Varfolomeevka –
layer 2B), in the Middle Volga region (II Sherbet-
skaya), the Dniepr-Dvina region (Serteya X – phase
‘a’), Upper Volga region (Sakhtysh 2a, Zamostie 2),
Sukhona River region (Berezovaya Slobodka II-III),
and other regions of Eastern Europe. During the pe-
riod from 7950 to 7350 calBP, new types of undeco-
rated pottery also appeared at several of these sites.
Marianna A. Kulkova, Andrey N. Mazurkevich, Ekaterina V. Dolbunova and Vladimir M. Lozovsky
86
The radiocarbon dates show the very fast propaga-
tion of the pottery within groups of local Mesolithic
people in Eastern Europe (Belanovskaya, Timofeev
2003). There is a ‘paradox of speed’ in the spread of
pottery. Both the appearance of Neolithic traditions
at primary sites and the spread of pottery to other
regions occurred during a short time. The migrants
bearing ceramic traditions probably moved along
the main waterways of Eastern Europe in meridion-
al directions. At the same time, the river currents in
latitudinal directions became natural barriers to the
distribution of earliest pottery traditions, according
to the distribution of early Neolithic sites (Dolukha-
nov et al. 2009a). These sites where pottery tradi-
tions were newly established, ‘small islands of inno-
vations’, were secondary centres from which ceramic
traditions spread among local Mesolithic groups (dur-
ing the second half of 9th and in the beginning of
8th millenium BP). The ceramic traditions remained
the same for a long time and, therefore, pottery from
different periods has very similar typological char-
acteristics (Mazurkevich et al. 2006). A small popu-
lation occupied ecological niches as poor soil ferti-
lity, long winters and abundant terrestrial and water
food resources were features of most of Eastern Eu-
rope (Dolukhanov et al. 2009b).
The most drastic climatic changes connected with
the global climatic fluctuations were reflected in
the distribution of different cultural traditions. The
main migrations were probably from regions with
the worst environment, in which the biomass had
Fig. 6. a – Typology of ‘type 1’ undecorated Early Neolithic ceramics from site the Zamostje 2 at 8200–
7620 calBP; b – typology of ‘type 2’ undecorated Early Neolithic ceramics from Zamostje 2.
The 8200 calBP climate event and the spread of the Neolithic in Eastern Europe
87
decreased, to regions with more favourable environ-
mental conditions. Some evidence can be traced on
the basis of the ceramic traditions at sites in the
steppe, forest-steppe, and the forest zones of Eastern
Europe. In the period of sharp climatic deterioration,
ancient groups of people began to relocate. The den-
sity of population and settlements of different groups
of people increased in certain micro-regions, as a rule
with a more favourable environment. The most cold
and dry climatic event occurred c. 8200 calBP, which
influenced the reduction of water and food resources
in the steppe and forest-steppe zones of Eastern Eu-
rope. In the forest zone, these changes were less
clear. The transgressions in the Baltic Sea and in-
ner lake basins connected by a hydrological network
in regions such as the Dvina-Lovat basin, which were
rich in natural resources, were one of the causes that
attracted people in this period. Groups with different
cultural traditions interacted, and exchanged expe-
rience and technologies. These groups arrived in se-
veral places in Eastern Europe. Different stylistic
types of pottery dated to the same period can be
found at one site. We can suggest that people of dif-
ferent cultures occupied the most favourable places
at the same time during the period of climatic dete-
rioration, for example, in the migration from the
steppe and forest steppe zones to the forest zone.
The analysis allows us to consider impulses in the
development of human groups in the period of the
climatic cold event at 8200 calBP. In the drastic cool-
ing and arid event population density was redistri-
buted, and settlements were consolidated in places
favourable for survival. The appearance of ceramic
traditions among Mesolithic groups in Eastern Eu-
rope illustrates this event: this was a distribution of
technology from less favourable to more favourable
places. The ‘primary centres’ of neolithisation emerg-
ed in the Eastern Europe territory before the climat-
ic cold event, but the appearance of pottery tradi-
tions at secondary centres began in the same period.
Local Mesolithic people accepted only pottery techno-
logy, while hunting and gathering remained their
main form of subsistence in the forest zones for a
long time.
This study is supported by the Russian Found for Ba-
sic Research (RFBR), projects – 13-06-12057-ofi-m,
11-06-00090-a.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
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... Neolithization processes in Central and Northern Europe were mainly caused by climate fluctuations, especially during the period between 8.2 and 6 ka cal BP [1]. The cold event in 8.2 ka cal BP caused the migration of Neolithic communities northward from the steppe area of the Black Sea Lowland region toward the coniferous and mixed forest belt of the East European Plain [2]. The rise of temperature in Northern Europe in ca. ...
... Paleoclimatic research is less developed in Eastern Europe compared to the western part of the continent [2,[9][10][11]. Thus, the paleoclimatic background for archeological discoveries on Mesolithic and Neolithic cultures in Eastern Europe is still insufficient. Good qualitative data, unfortunately, the temperature reconstructions are not available for the following publication: Tallinn region (Estonia) [12], Myshetskoe-Dolgoe Lake in Moscow [13], Lake Kenozero [14], Ukraine and Belarus [15,16]. ...
... The cold oscillations took place at about 5.9 and 4.2 ka. Generally, these oscillations are weak and are apparent in a few consecutive samples (1)(2)(3)(4) and indicate a drop in T Jul of ca. 1-2 • C. ...
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Although extensive archeological research works have been conducted in the Serteya region in recent years, the Holocene climate history in the Western Dvina Lakeland in Western Russia is still poorly understood. The Neolithic human occupation of the Serteyka lake-river system responded to climate oscillations, resulting in the development of a pile-dwelling settlement between 5.9 and 4.2 ka cal BP. In this paper, we present the quantitative paleoclimatic reconstructions of the Northgrippian stage (8.2-4.2 ka cal BP) from the Great Serteya Palaeolake Basin. The reconstructions were created based on a multiproxy (Chironomidae, pollen and Cladocera) approach. The mean July air temperature remained at 17-20 °C, which is similar to the present temperature in the Smolensk Upland. The summer temperature revealed only weak oscillations during 5.9 and 4.2 ka cal BP. A more remarkable feature during those events was an increase in continen-tality, manifested by a lower winter temperature and lower annual precipitation. During the third, intermediate oscillation in 5.0-4.7 ka cal BP, a rise in summer temperature and stronger shifts in continental air masses were recorded. It is still unclear if the above-described climate fluctuations are linked to the North Atlantic Oscillation and can be interpreted as an indication of Bond events because only a few high-resolution paleoclimatic reconstructions from the region have been presented and these reconstructions do not demonstrate explicit oscillations in the period of 5.9 and 4.2 ka cal BP. Citation: Mroczkowska, A.; Pawłowski, D.; Gauthier, E.; Mazurkevich, A.; Luoto, T.P.; Peyron, O.; Kotrys, B.; Brooks, S.J.; Nazarova, L.B.; Syrykh, L.; et al. Middle Holocene Climate Oscillations Recorded in the Western Dvina Lakeland. Water 2021, 13, 1611. https://doi.
... One of the best recognized in East European Plain is the Serteyka lake-river system (Kittel et al., 2018 in the Western Dvina Lakeland. It is regarded as a crucial area for the development of Neolithic communities in Eastern Europe (Kulkova et al., 2015a;Mazurkevich et al., 2020b;Mazurkevich et al., 2009a). Over the last 30 years, relicts of numerous Neolithic settlements dating from 8.2 kyr cal BP to ca. 4.2 kyr cal BP have been discovered in the lower course of the Serteyka River valley, a left tributary of the western Dvina River (Mazurkevich and Dolbunova, 2015;Mazurkevich et al., 2020b;Wieckowska-Lüth et al. 2021). ...
... Pollen, diatom and basic geochemical analyses have been performed in the lower Serteyka River valley but they have only been carried out at two locations (Dolukhanov et al., 1989;Kulkova et al., 2015a;Mazurkevich et al., 2009b;Tarasov et al., 2019), and the findings are hampered by low resolution, a lack of palaeozoological analysis, weak geochemical analyses of the mineral fraction in the biogenic sediments, and a lack of AMS dating of selected plant remains. The only multi-proxy study of the Great Serteya Palaeolake Basin (GSPB) concerns the Middle Holocene from ca. 5.9 kyr cal BP to ca 4.2. ...
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East European lake-river systems have hydrological regimes typical for continental climate zones. The Postglacial development of the basins and regional palaeoclimatic pattern in the Holocene implied a specific succession of biota communities passing through lakes’ subsequent stages in the water level, trophic state and habitat availability. The Great Serteya Palaeolake Basin is the largest palaeolake within the Serteyka lake-river system, which has been functioning since the Late Weichselian (Vistulian). Presented below is a multi-proxy study on the sequence from the paleolake within the present-day valley. During the Late Weichselian, it formed an astatic, and later a permanent, water body of Postglacial origin. The associated melting, flooding and aeolian processes acted as sources of various Late Weichselian sediments. Summer mean air temperature drove the lake ecosystem development. The Holocene Thermal Optimum in 8.5–7.7 kyr cal BP was followed by subsequent lower temperature. There is weak evidence of coole oscillations at 8.2 kyr cal BP, 7.0–6.8 kyr cal BP and 5.8–5.9 kyr cal BP and the Little Ice Age (480–395 yr cal BP), until modern time (􀀀 65 yr cal BP). Five stages of lake ecosystem development were identified based on the biota: 1) an initial stage during the Late Weichselian with glaciolacustrine and later lacustrine accumulation of inorganic deposits, 2) the stage with Cladocera as a leading indicators of mesotrophic water body with a well-developed pelagic zone supplied by early spring floods of the Serteyka River, carrying melting snow and ice floes to the lake basin, 3) the stage dominated by Chironomidae and diatoms typical to high trophic states reflecting widespread open bottom sediment and macrophyte habitats 4) a stage with distinct Neolithic community impact reflected by macrofossils remain after pile-dwelling
... However, in East Asia, the wider use of scientific dating methods, notably Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon ( 14 C), has completely decoupled pottery use and agriculture, with the former emerging in the Late Pleistocene, many millennia before the introduction of domesticated plants and animals [4]. In Eastern Europe and Western Siberia, the use of pottery among hunter-gatherer societies, established along major river basins (e.g. the Ob', Volga and Don rivers) [5][6][7], is well attested, and here, in contrast to the Western conception, is regarded as the innovation that defined the start of the Neolithic itself. Indeed, these Eastern 'Neolithic' hunter-gatherer ceramic traditions might have influenced prehistoric hunter-gatherers in present-day Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus (including the Narva and Neman cultures) who began producing pottery by the mid-6th millennium cal BC [8][9][10]. ...
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The introduction of pottery vessels to Europe has long been seen as closely linked with the spread of agriculture and pastoralism from the Near East. The adoption of pottery technology by hunter-gatherers in Northern and Eastern Europe does not fit this paradigm, and its role within these communities is so far unresolved. To investigate the motivations for hunter-gatherer pottery use, here, we present the systematic analysis of the contents of 528 early vessels from the Baltic Sea region, mostly dating to the late 6th-5th millennium cal BC, using molecular and isotopic characterization techniques. The results demonstrate clear sub-regional trends in the use of ceramics by hunter-gatherers; aquatic resources in the Eastern Baltic, non-ruminant animal fats in the Southeastern Baltic, and a more variable use, including ruminant animal products, in the Western Baltic, potentially including dairy. We found surprisingly little evidence for the use of ceramics for non-culinary activities, such as the production of resins. We attribute the emergence of these sub-regional cuisines to the diffusion of new culinary ideas afforded by the adoption of pottery, e.g. cooking and combining foods, but culturally contextualized and influenced by traditional practices.
... These freshwater snails were clearly highly prized by the sites' occupants and may have been more than a complementary meal. However, we cannot but notice that the formation of this deposit corresponds chronologically to the 6200 BC climatic crisis widely recognised worldwide (Budja 2007;Kobashi et al. 2007;Daley et al. 2009;Pross et al. 2009;Manninen 2014;Kulkova et al. 2015;Gauthier 2016;Roffet-Salque et al. 2018). An in-progress isotope study on these Pila sp. ...
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The excavation at al-Khiday’s Mesolithic and Neolithic sites, located along the western bank of the White Nile, 25 km south of Khartoum, provides a complex view of hunter-gatherer-fisher pottery-bearing communities inhabiting this region of Sudan during the early and middle Holocene. Its state of preservation, combined with special attention to site formation processes and a multidisciplinary approach to excavation and recording methods, has identified a settlement evolving from an ephemeral occupation into a village in which spaces were organised with different structures suggesting diversified functions and activities. Combined palaeoenvironmental, archaeological and bio-archaeological studies allow reconstruction of the transition from residential mobility to a nearly sedentary lifestyle and, in the later phase, a return to more mobile strategies.
... The results of undertaken multi-proxy palaeoecological reconstructions allows for better understanding of the relationships of Neolithic communities and local environmental changes controlled both by global climate fluctuations and human impact. The study of Serteya region is significant due to the importance the area in the Neolithization of Eastern Europe, as well as to the strong impact of landscape geo-and biodiversity and also climate and hydrologic fluctuations on local settlement and economy in the Neolithic (Mazurkevich et al., 2009(Mazurkevich et al., , 2012Kulkova et al., 2015). ...
... On the other hand, the present study did not investigate why this fundamental subsistence change occurred in this particular period. In considering this question, one can easily recall a currently popular argument that relates a series of cultural changes at the final 9th millennium cal BP, in the Fertile Crescent and its neighboring regions including the Black Sea, to the rapid environmental changes known as the 8.2 ka event (van der Horn et al., 2015;Kulkova et al., 2015;Weninger et al., 2014;cf. Flohr et al., 2016). ...
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In the Middle Holocene, favorable living conditions were formed environmental on the territory of the modern Upper Volga River, which, after the retreat of the latest glacier, abounded with a branched system of feeders. They contributed to the economic stability driven by hunting for elk and beaver, waterfowl and marsh birds, as well as intensive fishing. In the recent decades, it was considered proven that ceramics were perceived by the native population, and the Early Neolithic, thus, was developed on a local basis. The new data accumulated in recent years makes it possible to bring up this topic again. Natural, economic and cultural changes during the period from the end of the 7th to the beginning of the 6th millennium cal BC are considered on the example of the well-known multi-layer wetland site Zamostje 2, with preserved wooden fishing structures and a large number of bone and antler artefacts. The period of sharp climatic changes, known as the 8200 Cold Event, synchronous with the upper Mesolithic layer, influenced the site landscape, but, as it seems, did not affect the lifestyle of the local population. The comparison between the two main archaeological layers of the lake settlement — the Late Mesolithic Upper layer (LM UL) and the Early Neolithic (EN), represented by the Upper Volga culture (UVc), shows both clear traces of continuity, primarily in the structure of the economy and production toolkits as well as new cultural influences reflected in the types of projectile hunting weapons and fishing gear. The function of the Early Neolithic pots, reconstructed on the basis of lipid analysis, also indicates the preservation of the comprehensive Mesolithic diet.
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The article presents the results of a study on archaeological structures and horizons developed in the palaeolake shore-zone of the Serteya II site that was occupied intermittently and to a greater or lesser intensity from the Mesolithic up to the Middle Ages. The Serteya II site is a multilayer complex used by hunter–fisher–gatherer communities in the 9th–8th mill. BC, and from the end of the 7th till the end of the 3rd mill. BC. The article is focused on the particularities of the formation of archaeological layers and the reconstruction of the ancient environment in different periods of time. The study of the sets of artefacts, their state of preservation, as well as the traits of archaeological features, may indicate the peculiarities of the formation of different sedimentological units. Based on the results of complex natural-scientific research it was possible to reconstruct the palaeo-ecology of changing water regimes as well as changes in environmental conditions.
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Tarihöncesi, özellikle de Tarım Devriminin ortaya çıkıp olgunlaştığı “Neolitik Dönem”, okumaya meraklı kitlenin ilgisini çekmesine karşın daha ziyade akademik metinlerde işlenen bir konu olmaya devam ediyor. Oysa çok teknik olabilen bilimsel çalışmaların anlaşılır kılınarak konuya dair bilgilerin geniş kitlelere ulaştırılmasında sonsuz yarar var. Zira türümüzün nereden nereye geldiğini, niçin/nasıl ve hangi koşullarda besin üretmeye başladığını, Neolitik Devrimin “çekirdek bölge” Bereketli Hilal’den çevreye nasıl yayıldığını, ilk evlerin görünümlerini ve büyüklüklerini, dini/siyasal kurumların ortaya çıkış koşullarını, ilk yerleşimlerin nasıl büyüdüğünü, tabakalı toplumlara niçin ve ne zaman geçildiğini, toplumsal hiyerarşinin kaçınılmaz olup olmadığını istisnasız hepimiz merak ediyoruz. Neolitik, İnsanlık Tarihi’nin en kritik dönemeci. Avcı-toplayıcılıktan çiftçi-çobanlığa geçiş, yaşadığımız dünyayı ortaya çıkaran unsurların en önemlisi. Ama bu vites değişikliğinin bizi daha mutlu bir türe dönüştürdüğünü söylemek zor. Çiftçilerin avcılara nazaran çok daha sağlıksız ve mutsuz olduklarını ifade eden hayli geniş bir literatür var. Aslında hayvan ve bitkileri bilinçli bir tercihin ürünü olmaksızın evcilleştiren atalarımız, kendileri de evcilleşmek zorunda kaldılar, belli bir mekâna hapsoldular ve uzun vadede envaiçeşit hastalığı yaşadıkları yerleşimlere çektiler. Hastalıklar kadar, yoğun nüfus artışlarının, eşitsizliğin (toplumsal hiyerarşinin), kent/uygarlık/devletin ve savaşın kökenleri de Neolitiğe uzanıyor. Alan H. Simmons’ın isabetle belirttiği üzere, türümüz Neolitik Devrimi yaşamamış olsaydı bu tip kitapları yazamayacak, böylesi bir çabaya ihtiyaç duymayacaktık. Ama herhalde Sapiens’in başka bir yol izleme şansı da yoktu ki besin üretimi dünya yüzeyinde birbirinden bağımsız 8-10 merkezde birden doğdu. Yakın Doğu olmasaydı Çin’de, Çin olmasaydı Meksika’da besin üretimi icat edilecekti (edildi). Öyleyse, bugünü sevenler için “Yaşasın”, eşitsizliği lanetleyenler için de “Kahrolsun” Neolitik!
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The extent to which North Atlantic Holocene climatic perturbations influenced past human societies is an area of considerable uncertainty and fierce debate. Ireland is ideally placed to help resolve this issue, being occupied for over 9000 yr and located on the eastern Atlantic seaboard, a region dominated by westerly airflow. Irish bog and lake tree populations provide unambiguous evidence of major shifts in surface moisture through the Holocene similar to cycles recorded in the marine realm of the North Atlantic, indicating significant changes in the latitude and intensity of zonal atmospheric circulation across the region. To test for human response to these cycles we summed the probabilities of 465 radiocarbon ages obtained from Irish archaeological contexts and observe enhanced archaeological visibility during periods of sustained wet conditions. These results suggest either increasing density of human populations in key, often defensive locations, and/or the development of subsistence strategies to overcome changing conditions, the latter recently proposed as a significant factor in avoiding societal collapse. Regardless, we demonstrate environmental change is a significantly more important factor in influencing human activity in the landscape than has hitherto been acknowledged.
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The Paleoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project (PMIP3) now includes the 8.2 ka event as a test of model sensitivity to North Atlantic freshwater forcing. To provide benchmarks for intercomparison, we compiled and analyzed high-resolution records spanning this event. Two previously-described anomaly patterns that emerge are cooling around the North Atlantic and drier conditions in the Northern Hemisphere tropics. Newer to this compilation are more robustly-defined wetter conditions in the Southern Hemisphere tropics and regionally-limited warming in the Southern Hemisphere. Most anomalies around the globe lasted on the order of 100 to 150 yr. More quantitative reconstructions are now available and indicate cooling of ~ 1 °C and a ~ 20% decrease in precipitation in parts of Europe as well as spatial gradients in δ18O from the high to low latitudes. Unresolved questions remain about the seasonality of the climate response to freshwater forcing and the extent to which the bipolar seesaw operated in the early Holocene.
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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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Ongoing anthropogenic perturbations to the atmosphere and biosphere increase the risk of future abrupt changes in the climate system and generate concern about the ability of natural ecosystems to respond to rapid climate change. Study of past climatic events and biotic responses can inform us about potential future change. Qualitatively fast local responses of plant taxa to abrupt late glacial climate oscillations have been reported from individual records and attributed to short migration distances in areas of high topographic relief. By using quantitative time-series analyses, we show that vegetation responses to late glacial climate change around the North Atlantic were rapid and widespread and occurred in areas of differing relief. Cross-correlation analysis of 11 high-resolution lacustrine records in eastern North America and Europe indicates vegetation-response times consistently of <200 yr and often <100 yr, despite regional differences in physiography and species composition. Vegetation lags of <200 yr confirm theoretical predictions, and the apparently tight coupling between vegetation and atmosphere suggests that recent climatic trends may already have begun to affect plant population abundances and distributions.
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Radiocarbon dates of food residue on pottery from northern European inland areas seem to be influenced significantly by the freshwater reservoir effect ("hardwater" effect) stemming from fish and mollusks cooked in the pots. Bones of freshwater fish from Stone Age Åmose, Denmark, are demonstrated to be 100 to 500 14C yr older than their archaeological context. Likewise, food residues on cooking pots, seemingly used for the preparation of freshwater fish, are shown to have 14C age excesses of up to 300 yr. It is probable that age excesses of similar or even larger magnitude are involved in food residue dates from other periods and regions. Since this effect cannot, so far, be quantified and corrected for, 14C dating of food residue, which may potentially include material from freshwater ecosystems, should be treated with reserve.
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Steppe and forest-steppe areas of the Povolzhye area (Caucasus and central Asia) bear much interest for the Neolithic in connection with the productive economy of the region at the time. Recent data have allowed correction of the region's chronology. A number of 14C dates denote the existence of the Neolithic in this territory as early as the 5th to 6th millennium BP. However, some questions are still under debate and require further data to clarify. © 2012 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona.