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Third Millennium B.C. Abrupt Climate Change and Social Collapse in Greece and the Aegean

Collaborative Effort with:

    Harvey Weiss, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Department of Anthropology, Yale University (

    Kathy Willis, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford (

    Jason Curtis, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville (

Project Summary

A multi-disciplinary project is proposed to define the 2200 B.C. abrupt climate change event in SE Europe (Greece and Aegean area) through coring of two pre-tested lake sites in NW Greece.  Combining geochemistry, stable isotope analyses, radiocarbon dating, palynology and archaeology, this project will identify and quantify the abrupt natural alterations associated with this event and quantify its human impacts, already identified as the major regional abandonment of sedentary settlement across the Peloponesse, Aegean and Crete.

The 2200 B.C. abrupt climate change event is one of the two largest abrupt climate change events of the Holocene.  The regional, hemispheric and global signals for this event are, uniformly, aridification, wind turbulence, cooling, major forest and tree reduction.

In West Asia and Egypt, the 2200 B.C. abrupt climate change is associated with imperial collapse, regional abandonments of dry farming zones, population concentrations along major rivers, and major increases in pastoral nomad populations. 

There is no utilizable, dated, pollen record for SE Europe that permits observation and dating of this event.  We seek to identify, define and date the event, and test its synchroneity with events in West Asia and Egypt. 

We will use sediment core transects from shallow to deep water at two closed basin sites to identify, map and date lake-level changes associated with variations in the moisture balance.  This approach has proved successful in past studies on Lake Titicaca (cf. Abbott et al., 1997; Binford et al., 1997).  In addition, oxygen-18 studies on the carbonate-rich sediments will be used to document shifts in 18O associated with changes in lake level status.  Although focus of the paleoclimate investigation will be centered on the 2200 B.C. event we will characterize the Holocene sediments at century-scale with higher-resolution sampling over abrupt transitions.


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