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Recent fieldwork and archival sedimentary materials from southern Iraq have revealed new insights into the environment that shaped southern Mesopotamia from the pre-Ubaid (early Holocene) until the early Islamic period. These data have been combined with northern Iraqi speleothem, or stalagmite, data that have revealed relevant palaeoclimate information. The new results are investigated in light of textual sources and satellite remote sensing work. It is evident that areas south of Baghdad, and to the region of Uruk, were already potentially habitable between the eleventh and early eighth millennia B.C., suggesting there were settlements in southern Iraq prior to the Ubaid. Date palms, the earliest recorded for Iraq, are evident before 10,000 B.C., and oak trees are evident south of Baghdad in the early Holocene but disappeared after the mid-sixth millennium B.C. New climate results suggest increased aridity after the end of the fourth millennium B.C. For the third millennium B.C. to first millennium A.D., a negative relationship between grain and date palm cultivation in Nippur is evident, suggesting shifting cultivation emphasising one of these crops at any given time in parts of the city. The Shatt en-Nil was also likely used as a channel for most of Nippur's historical occupation from the third millennium B.C. to the first millennium A.D. In the early to mid-first millennium A.D., around the time of the Sasanian period, a major increase in irrigation is evident in plant remains, likely reflecting large-scale irrigation expansion in the Nippur region. The first millennium B.C. to first millennium A.D. reflects a relatively dry period with periodic increased rainfall. Sedimentary results suggest the Nahrawan, prior to it becoming a well-known canal, formed an ancient branch of the Tigris, while the region just south of Baghdad, around Dalmaj, was near or part of an ancient confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates.
The Chinese Loess Plateau, the world’s largest and oldest loess record, preserves evidence of Asia’s long-term dust source dynamics, but there is uncertainty over the source of the deposits. Recent single-grain detrital zircon U-Pb age analysis has progressed this issue, but debates remain about source changes, and the generation and interpretation of zircon data. To address this, we analyze different groupings of new and existing datasets from the Loess Plateau and potential sources. We also present the results of a first high resolution sampling, multi-proxy provenance analysis of Beiguoyuan loess using U-Pb dating of detrital zircons and detrital garnet geochemistry. The data shows that some small source differences seem to exist between different areas on the Loess Plateau. However, sediment source appears to be unchanging between loess and palaeosols, supporting a recent material recycling hypothesis. Our zircon and garnet data demonstrates, however, that Beiguoyuan experienced a temporary, abrupt source shift during the last glacial maximum, implying that local dust sources became periodically active during the Quaternary. Our results highlight that grouping data to achieve bigger datasets could cause identification of misleading trends. Additionally, we suggest that multi-proxy single-grain approaches are required to gain further insight into Chinese Loess Plateau dust sources.
We applied magnetostratigraphy and mammal biostratigraphy to date climate-sensitive pollen cycles and lithostratigraphic units of the Pliocene–Pleistocene Leffe sedimentary succession from the Southern Alps, Italy. The Leffe section was correlated to additional sections (Casnigo, Fornaci di Ranica, and Pianengo) to construct a stratigraphic network along a common fluviatile system (the Serio River) sourced in the Southern Alps and flowing southward into the Po River Basin. We obtained a coherent scenario of climate variability for the last ∼ 2 Myr. At Leffe, lacustrine deposition commenced during the Olduvai Normal Subchron (1.94–1.78 Ma) and lasted up to a chronologic level compatible with Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 22 (0.87 Ma). Pollen analysis revealed that climate varied cyclically from warm-temperate to cool during this time interval, but never as cold as during glacial intervals. At around MIS 22, climate cooled globally. Gravels, attributed to high-energy braided river systems fed locally by alluvial fans, prograded from the Serio River catchment area over the Leffe Basin and toward the Po Plain in response to a generalized event of vegetation withdrawal and enhanced physical erosion. At this time, Alpine valley glaciers reached their first maximum southward expansion with glacier fronts located at only ∼ 5 km upstream from Leffe.
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