Climate and Cultural Change in Prehistoric Europe and the Near East

Edited by Peter F. Biehl & Olivier P. Nieuwenhuyse

Subjects: Archaeology, Anthropology, Environmental Studies, History, Middle East Studies
Series: SUNY series, The Institute for European and Mediterranean Archaeology Distinguished Monograph Series
Paperback : 9781438461823, 318 pages, July 2017
Hardcover : 9781438461830, 318 pages, December 2016

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Introduction: Climate and Culture Change in Archaeology
Olivier P. Nieuwenhuyse, Peter F. Biehl
Part I. Near East
1. The Oasis of Palmyra in Prehistory: Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene Paleoclimate and Human Occupation in the Region of Palmyra/Tadmor (Central Syria)
Mauro Cremaschi, Andrea Zerboni
2. When the Going Gets Tough: Risk Minimization Responses to the 8. 2 ka Event in the Near East and Their Role in Emergence of the Halaf Cultural Phenomenon
Mandy Mottram
Chapter Three,
3. The 8. 2 Event in Upper Mesopotamia: Climate and Cultural Change
Olivier P. Nieuwenhuyse, Peter Akkermans, Johannes van der Plicht, Anna Russell, Akemi Kaneda
4. The Aftermath of the 8. 2 Event: Cultural and Environmental Effects in the Anatolian Late Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic
Patrick T. Willett, Ingmar Franz, Ceren Kabukcu, David Orton, Jana Rogasch, Elizabeth Stroud, Eva Rosenstock, Peter F. Biehl
5. Managing Risk through Diversification in Plant Exploitation during the Seventh Millennium B. C.: The Phytolith Record at Catalhoyuk
Philippa Ryan, Arlene Rosen
6. The 8. 2 Event and the Neolithic Expansion in Western Anatolia
Bleda S. Düring
Part II. Europe
7. "Singing in the Rain": Khirokitia (Cyprus) in the Second Half of the Seventh Millennium cal B. C.
Odile Daune-Le Brun, Alain Le Brun
8. Early Holocene Climatic Fluctuations and Human Responses in Greece
Catherine Perlès
9. Rapid Climate Change and Radiocarbon Discontinuities in the Mesolithic-Early Neolithic Settlement Record of the Iron Gates: Cause or Coincidence?
Clive Bonsall, Mark Macklin, Adina Boroneanţ, Catriona Pickard, László Bartosiewicz, Gordon Cook, Thomas Higham
10. Climate Fluctuations, Human Migrations, and the Spread of Farming in Western Eurasia: Refining the Argument
Detlef Gronenborn

11. Economic and Social Changes and Climate between 3200 and 2500 B. C.: Late Neolithic Transformations in Southeastern Poland
Andrzej Pelisiak

12. Climate and the Definition of Archaeological Periods in Sweden
Daniel Löwenborg, Thomas Eriksson

Part III. Commentary
13. Epilogue to a Prologue: The Changing Climate of the Past, Present, and Future
Ezra B. W. Zubrow


Rich case studies examining responses to climatic events in ancient Europe and the Near East.


The subject of climate change could hardly be more timely. In Climate and Cultural Change in Prehistoric Europe and the Near East, an interdisciplinary group of contributors examine climate change through the lens of new archaeological and paleo-environmental data over the course of more than 10,000 years from the Near East to Europe. Key climatic and other events are contextualized with cultural changes and transitions for which the authors discuss when, how, and if, changes in climate and environment caused people to adapt, move or perish. More than this publication of crucial archaeological and paleo-environmental data, however, the volume seeks to understand the social, political and economic significance of climate change as it was manifested in various ways around the Old World. Contrary to perceptions of threatening global warming in our popular media, and in contrast to grim images of collapse presented in some archaeological discussions of past climate change, this book rejects outright societal collapse as a likely outcome. Yet this does not keep the authors from considering climate change as a potential factor in explaining culture change by adopting a critical stance with regard to the long-standing practice of equating synchronicity with causality, and explicitly considering alternative explanations.

Peter F. Biehl is Professor and Department Chair of Anthropology at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, and the coeditor (with Douglas C. Comer, Christopher Prescott, and Hilary A. Soderland) of Identity and Heritage: Contemporary Challenges in a Globalized World. Olivier P. Nieuwenhuyse is Assistant Professor of Archaeology at Leiden University, Netherlands.


"…this volume should be an excellent reference for generalists and specialists alike … [it] does an excellent job of tracking the subtle linkages between environmental transitions and transformations at the dawn of Western Civilization. And that is not faint praise. " — Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies