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Climate Change and Social Unrest: A 6,000‐Year Chronicle From the Eastern Mediterranean

Journal article
Authors David Kaniewski
Nick Marriner
Rachid Cheddadi
Peter M. Fischer
Thierry Otto
Frederic Luce
Elise Van Campo
Published in Geophysical Research Letters
Volume 47
Issue 7
ISSN 0094-8276
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Historical Studies
Language en
Keywords climate 6000 years Eastern Mediterranean Cyprus Hala Sultan Tekke
Subject categories Archaeology, classical


The history of the Eastern Mediterranean is punctuated by major crises that have influenced many of the region's established socioeconomic models. Recent studies have underscored the role of drought and temperature oscillations in driving changes but attempts to quantify their magnitude remain equivocal, hindering long‐term assessments of the potential interplay between climate and society. Here, we fill this knowledge gap using a 6,000‐year pollen‐based reconstruction of temperature and precipitation from Hala Sultan Tekke, Cyprus. We find that major social changes and plague outbreaks often occurred in tandem with cooler climate conditions, with anomalies ranging from −3 ± 0.4 °C to −1 ± 0.5 °C, coupled with changing precipitation patterns. We suggest that major climate changes may weaken societies by affecting primary livelihood systems. This long‐term view highlights recurrent cold periods in the Eastern Mediterranean's climate history and advocates that, despite frequent adversity and pandemics, Near Eastern populations adapted and were ultimately resilient to major climate changes.

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