Long-term fire histories provide insight into the effects of climate, ecology and humans on fire activity; they can be generated using accumulation rates of charcoal and soot black carbon in lacustrine sediments. This study uses both charcoal and black carbon, and other paleoclimate indicators from Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), Israel, to reconstruct late Holocene variations in biomass burning and aridity. We compare the fire history data with a regional biomass-burning reconstruction from 18 different charcoal records and with pollen, climate, and population data to decipher the relative impacts of regional climate, vegetation changes, and human activity on fire. We show a long-term decline in fire activity over the past 3070 years, from high biomass burning ~ 3070–1750 cal yr BP to significantly lower levels after ~ 1750 cal yr BP. Human modification of the landscape (e.g., forest clearing, agriculture, settlement expansion and early industry) in periods of low to moderate precipitation appears to have been the greatest cause of high biomass burning during the late Holocene in southern Levant, while wetter climate apparently reduced fire activity during periods of both low and high human activity.