Climate, discovery by Cnr researchers: the crisis of 8,200 years ago did not influence the Neolithic Revolution

Scholars: “The centuries of aridity that hit the Mesopotamia region at the time did not affect the great transformation of the first civilizations of farmers and breeders of the Near East

There climate crisis occurred on our planet about 8,200 years did not affect the Neolithic Revolution as previously thought. A new study conducted by a team of researchers from the Institute of Geosciences and Georesources of the National Research Council of Pisa (Cnr-Igg) sheds new light on the possibility of climate change effects on a period of great transformation for our species. . The researchers of the Cnrtogether with scholars from the State University of Milan, reconstructed and analyzed the climate that characterized the Mesopotamiathe region between present-day Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.

The objective of the research, explains the Cnr, was to understand what role the climate crisis of millennia ago had in the development of the first civilizations of farmers and breeders in the Near East. Also known as the Fertile Crescent, this region saw the start of the Neolithic Revolution which included the set of cultural, economic and technological transformations which led to the progressive domestication of animal and plant species, to the birth of the first urban settlements and the first population growth, eventually leading to the development of the first complex societies.

Many scholars have hypothesized that the climate has played a crucial role in this process: in particular, a globally identified climate crisis and dated around 8,200 years ago, would have caused an arid period lasting just a few centuries in the Fertile Crescent, pushing the Neolithic populations to develop new strategies to improve the yield of cultivated fields and subsequently the creation of the first urban centres. But these hypotheses have been reevaluated and revised by the study published in Scientific Reports, a research coordinated by Eleonora Regattieri of the Cnr-Igg and by Andrea Zerboni of the State University of Milan, which has shed new light on the role played by the variation of intensity of rains on this process.

The group of geoarchaeologists and paleoclimatologists, working as part of an archaeological research project in Iraqi Kurdistan coordinated by the University of Udine, has taken a speleothem (cave concretion) formed at the turn of the climatic event of 8,200 years ago, whose geochemical properties allow the variations in rainfall intensity to be ‘recorded’: these variations were analyzed with a ten-year resolution. “The analyzes have demonstrated, for the first time, the scarce relevance of this event in the region, where there is no strong aridification as previously assumed” explains Regattieri.

The Cnr scientist points out that “the comparison with the archaeological data has instead shown a correspondence between the variations in rainfall highlighted by the speleothem and the way in which the Neolithic population exploited the surrounding environment, above all in terms of distribution of settlements and management of water resources.These results – he says- lead to refute the deterministic hypothesis according to which the climate has significantly influenced the development of communities”.

According to the researchers, the archaeological communities of the Fertile Crescent were far more versatile than one might have imagined. The researcher Andrea Zerboni, of the Department of Earth Sciences ‘A. Desio’ of the Statale di Milano, adds that their “hypothesis is that climatic variability, which leads to an increase in stress or an improvement in the underlying environmental conditions, only seems to modulate the existing cultural and livelihood dynamics, which however are not directly attributable to climate change itself”. “In this case, as increasingly emerges from the geo-archaeological record, we see how climatic variations play a limited role in governing the dynamics of complex communities, generally resilient and with great ability to resist apparently adverse conditions, acting instead only as a push to accelerate cultural processes already underway” finally clarifies Zerboni.