Publication date: November 2016Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 75
Author(s): Nicolas Gauthier
I examine the relationship between the spatial pattern of aridification in the northeastern Mediterranean ca 8600 years ago and the spread of Neolithic farmers into the region surrounding the Aegean Sea. I use a generalized additive model to downscale winter rainfall from a state-of-the-art paleoclimate simulation. The model performs well at reproducing the present-day pattern of rainfall in the northeastern Mediterranean, and it generates physically-interpretable estimates of past rainfall consistent with global and regional proxy records of early Holocene climate. Comparing modeled rainfall with Neolithic settlement patterns reveals spatially-heterogeneous regional impacts of this period of global aridification. Only the humid regions of the Aegean coast experienced major drought, while more inland zones temporarily experienced more rainfall. The result of this spatially heterogeneous climate event was, conversely, more homogeneous regional rainfall. Neolithic colonists from southwest Asia would have encountered new landscapes with a more familiar, and predictable, precipitation regime.