Human responses and non-responses to climatic variations during the last Glacial-Interglacial transition in the eastern Mediterranean
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© 2017 Elsevier Ltd. We review and evaluate human adaptations during the last glacial-interglacial climatic transition in southwest Asia. Stable isotope data imply that climatic change was synchronous across the region within the limits of dating uncertainty. Changes in vegetation, as indicated from pollen and charcoal, mirror step-wise shifts between cold-dry and warm-wet climatic conditions, but with lag effects for woody vegetation in some upland and interior areas. Palaeoenvironmental data can be set against regional archaeological evidence for human occupancy and economy from the later Epipalaeolithic to the aceramic Neolithic. Demographic change is evaluated from summed radiocarbon date probability distributions, which indicating contrasting - and in some cases opposite - population trajectories in different regions. Abrupt warming transitions at ∼14.5 and 11.7 ka BP may have acted as pacemakers for rapid cultural change in some areas, notably at the start of the Natufian and Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures. However temporal synchroneity does not mean that climatic changes had the same environmental or societal consequences in different regions. During cold-dry time intervals, regions such as the Levant acted as refugia for plant and animal resources and human population. In areas where socio-ecological continuity was maintained through periods of adverse climate (e.g. Younger Dryas) human communities were able to respond rapidly to subsequent climatic improvement. By contrast, in areas where there was a break in settlement at these times (e.g. central Anatolia), populations were slower to react to the new opportunities provided by the interglacial world.
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