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Oasis or Mirage? Assessing the Role of Abrupt Climate Change in the Prehistory of the Southern Levant

  • Lisa A. Maher (a1), E.B. Banning (a2) and Michael Chazan (a3)

Abstract

Few prehistoric developments have received as much attention as the origins of agriculture and its associated societal implications in the Near East. A great deal of this research has focused on correlating the timing of various cultural transformations leading up to farming and village life with dramatic climatic events. Using rigorously selected radiocarbon dates from archaeological sites and palaeoenvironmental datasets, we test the predominate models for culture change from the early Epipalaeolithic to the Pottery Neolithic (c. 23,000–8000 cal. bp) to explore how well they actually fit with well-documented and dated palaeoclimatic events, such as the Bølling-Allerød, Younger Dryas, Preboreal and 8.2 ka event. Our results demonstrate that these correlations are not always as clear or as consistent as some authors suggest. Rather, any relationships between climate change and culture change are more complicated than existing models allow. The lack of fit between these sources of data highlight our need for further and more precise chronological data from archaeological sites, additional localized palaeoclimatic data sets, and more nuanced models for integrating palaeoenvironmental data and prehistoric people's behaviours.

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