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From 300 BC to AD 300, the city of Pergamon underwent a profound transformation that impacted the rural settlement patterns and the concomitant geomorphodynamics. We present a geoarchaeological study in a long-term settled catchment in the Pergamon micro-region to disentangle the Holocene geomorphodynamics and triggering factors, for example, climate change and human activity. The analyses of eight radiocarbon-dated sediment profiles from the Tekkedere alluvial fan and its catchment indicate four principal sedimentation phases. Phase 1 (ca. 6.2 to 5–4 ka) is dominated by the floodplain aggradation of the receiving Bakırçay River, which is followed by the formation of floodplain soils (phase 2). Substantial geomorphodynamic changes occurred around 4 ka (phase 3), when the edge of the floodplain was buried by fan sediments of the tributary Tekkedere creek. This is attributed to supraregional aridization and rapid climate change events, superimposed by the onset of local human activities. Repeated cycles of coarse- and fine-textured fan sediments with age inversions after ca. 3.8 ka and valley infills younger than 1300 yr BP indicate the strong erosion and redeposition of sediments in phase 4. These increased geomorphodynamics may coincide with the changing settlement pattern and thus reflect human–environment interactions.
With the emergence of modern techniques of environmental analysis and widespread availability of accessible tools and quantitative data, the question of environmental determinism is once again on the agenda. This paper is theoretical in character, attempting, for the benefit of drawing up research designs, to understand and evaluate the character of environmental determinism. We reach three main conclusions: (1) in a typical pattern of research design, studies seek to detect simultaneous shifts in the environmental and archaeological records, variously positing the former to have influenced, triggered or caused the latter; (2) the question of determinism involves uncertainty about the justification for the above research design in particular in what comes to biologism and the concept of environmental thresholds on the one hand and the externality of the drivers of transformation in human groups and societies on the other; (3) adapting the concepts of the social production of vulnerability and the social basis of hazards from anthropology may help to clarify the available research design choices at hand.