The Socio-Environmental History of the Peloponnese during the Holocene

Those who like their history long should be interested in this new article in Quarternary Science Reviews on environmental and human change in the Peloponnese over the last 9,000 years. Co-authored by fifteen historians, archaeologists, geographers, and geologists, the article aims to relate a range of climatic data with archaeological data to discern the relationship between environment and human settlement  during the Holocene.

  • Weiberg, Erika, Ingmar Unkel, Katerina Kouli, Karin Holmgren, Pavlos Avramidis, Anton Bonnier, Flint Dibble, et al. “The Socio-Environmental History of the Peloponnese during the Holocene: Towards an Integrated Understanding of the Past.” Quaternary Science Reviews. Accessed January 12, 2016.

 
The comparison  of data over many regions and long stretches of times means that the environmental records do not neatly match up with the archaeological data. The authors identify social and political factors as most significant than economic factors, and reject the notion that better climate always meant greater settlement. The article, while inconclusive, is nuanced and cautious, and devotes discussion to the challenges of doing such coarse comparisons, especially in respect to regional variation and chronology. Here’s the abstract:

Published archaeological, palaeoenvironmental, and palaeoclimatic data from the Peloponnese in Greece are compiled, discussed and evaluated in order to analyse the interactions between humans and the environment over the last 9000 years. Our study indicates that the number of human settlements found scattered over the peninsula have quadrupled from the prehistoric to historical periods and that this evolution occurred over periods of climate change and seismo–tectonic activity. We show that societal development occurs both during periods of harsh as well as favourable climatic conditions. At some times, some settlements develop while others decline. Well-known climate events such as the 4.2 ka and 3.2 ka events are recognizable in some of the palaeoclimatic records and a regional decline in the number and sizes of settlements occurs roughly at the same time, but their precise chronological fit with the archaeological record remains uncertain. Local socio-political processes were probably always the key drivers behind the diverse strategies that human societies took in times of changing climate. The study thus reveals considerable chronological parallels between societal development and palaeoenvironmental records, but also demonstrates the ambiguities in these correspondences and, in doing so, highlights some of the challenges that will face future interdisciplinary projects. We suggest that there can be no general association made between societal expansion phases and periods of advantageous climate. We also propose that the relevance of climatic and environmental regionality, as well as any potential impacts of seismo-tectonics on societal development, need to be part of the interpretative frameworks.

 

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Categories: Archaeological Survey, Diachronic, Geology, Peloponnese

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