Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


1 May 2020

Climatic and human impact on the environment?: A question of scale

John Chapman Quaternary International 496 (2018): 3-13


The environmental context of cultural transformation’ – frames the central issue of this paper – how were Neolithic and Chalcolithic landscapes in the Aegean, Balkan and Carpathian (ABC) zones shaped and transformed by climatic and anthropogenic impacts? The difficulties in interpreting proxy records for the middle, transitional stage of the Holocene aridification sequence, falling between the early wet stage and the late arid stage, have been created by the conjoint influence of two kinds of impact – climatic and anthropogenic. An unhelpful influence in this debate stems from Willis and Bennett’s (1994) hypothesis of minimal human impact on the pre-Bronze Age landscapes of South East Europe. In this paper, two questions are posed: (1) what were the effects of the claimed global changes in Holocene climate at the regional and local scale in the ABC zones?; and (2) can we recognise human impact in these proxy records prior to the Bronze Age of our study regions? Following a discussion of general long-term climatic trends and RCCs (episodes of rapid climatic change), I base a discussion of the so-called 8200BP ‘event’ and pre-Bronze Age human impacts on a suite of 24 well-dated proxy records – mostly pollen sequences. The principal findings are that there is little evidence for impact from the 8200BP ‘event’ in these records, while there is substantial evidence for pre-Bronze Age human impacts on the landscapes of the Aegean, Balkan and Carpathian regions.


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