Saturday, November 25, 2017

Improved Climate Facilitated The European Neolithic Revolution

The European Neolithic coincided with a climate shift that made it possible for areas previously marginal for the Fertile Crescent package of crops to support agriculture on this basis:
The transition from hunter-gatherer-fisher groups to agrarian societies is arguably the most significant change in human prehistory. In the European plain there is evidence for fully developed agrarian societies by 7,500 cal. yr BP, yet a well-established agrarian society does not appear in the north until 6,000 cal. yr BP for unknown reasons. Here we show a sudden increase in summer temperature at 6,000 cal. yr BP in northern Europe using a well-dated, high resolution record of sea surface temperature (SST) from the Baltic Sea. This temperature rise resulted in hypoxic conditions across the entire Baltic sea as revealed by multiple sedimentary records and supported by marine ecosystem modeling. Comparison with summed probability distributions of radiocarbon dates from archaeological sites indicate that this temperature rise coincided with both the introduction of farming, and a dramatic population increase. The evidence supports the hypothesis that the boundary of farming rapidly extended north at 6,000 cal. yr BP because terrestrial conditions in a previously marginal region improved.
L. Warden, et al., "Climate induced human demographic and cultural change in northern Europe during the mid-Holocene", 7 Scientific Reports Article No. 15251 (November 10, 2017).

See also Andrew Bevan, et al., "Holocene fluctuations in human population demonstrate repeated links to food production and climate" PNAS (November 20, 2017):
We consider the long-term relationship between human demography, food production, and Holocene climate via an archaeological radiocarbon date series of unprecedented sampling density and detail. There is striking consistency in the inferred human population dynamics across different regions of Britain and Ireland during the middle and later Holocene. Major cross-regional population downturns in population coincide with episodes of more abrupt change in North Atlantic climate and witness societal responses in food procurement as visible in directly dated plants and animals, often with moves toward hardier cereals, increased pastoralism, and/or gathered resources. For the Neolithic, this evidence questions existing models of wholly endogenous demographic boom–bust. For the wider Holocene, it demonstrates that climate-related disruptions have been quasi-periodic drivers of societal and subsistence change.

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