Journal Article

20,000 years of societal vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in southwest Asia


The Fertile Crescent, its hilly flanks and surrounding drylands has been a critical region for studying how climate has influenced societal change, and this review focuses on the region over the last 20,000 years. The complex social, economic and environmental landscapes in the region today are not new phenomena and understanding their interactions requires a nuanced, multidisciplinary understanding of the past. This review builds on a history of collaboration between the social and natural palaeoscience disciplines. We provide a multidisciplinary, multi-scalar perspective on the relevance of past climate, environmental and archaeological research in assessing present day vulnerabilities and risks for the populations of SW Asia. We discuss the complexity of palaeoclimatic data interpretation, particularly in relation to hydrology, and provide an overview of key time periods of palaeoclimatic interest. We discuss the critical role vegetation plays in the humanclimate-environment nexus and discuss the implications of the available palaeoclimate and archaeological data, and their interpretation, for palaeonarratives of the region, both climatically and socially. We also provide an overview of how modelling can improve our understanding of past climate impacts and associated change in risk to societies. We conclude by looking to future work, and identify themes of ‘scale’ and ‘seasonality’ as still requiring further focus. We suggest that by appreciating a given locale’s place in the regional hydroscape, be it an archaeological site or palaeoenvironmental archive, more robust links to climate can be made where appropriate and, interpretations drawn will demand the resolution of factors acting across multiple scales.

Attached files


Jones, Matthew D.
Abu-Jaber, Nizar
AlShdaifat, Ahmad
Baird, Douglas
Cook, Benjamin I.
Cuthbert, Mark O.
Dean, Jonathan R.
Djamali, Morteza
Eastwood, Warren
Fleitmann, Dominik
Haywood, Alan
Kwiecien, Ola
Larsen, Josh
Maher, Lisa A.
Metcalfe, Sarah E.
Parker, Adrian
Petrie, Cameron A.
Primmer, Nick
Richter, Tobias
Roberts, Neil
Roe, Joe
Tindall, Julia C.
Unal-Imer, Ezgi
Weeks, Lloyd

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences\Department of Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2019
Date of RADAR deposit: 2018-11-19

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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This RADAR resource is the Version of Record of 20,000 years of societal vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in southwest Asia


  • Owner: Joseph Ripp
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