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Climate change and socioeconomic transformations in the Late Antique Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East

Jacobson, M. J. (2022) Climate change and socioeconomic transformations in the Late Antique Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00113681


Predicting the nature and societal impacts of future climate change requires the publication of a dense network of palaeoclimate proxy records and multi-scalar examination of past human-environment-climate relationships. In the study region of this thesis, the Late Antique (3rd-7th centuries CE) Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, there are deficiencies in both disciplines: spatio-temporal gaps in the network of records, frequent use of records to discuss disparate regions, and a bias towards studying the Byzantine Empire. This interdisciplinary thesis contributes to the fields of palaeoclimatology, archaeology, and history, through three case-studies presented as four stand-alone journal articles. The main case-study, which is examined as a micro-region, to ensure datasets are proximate and comparable, is SW Anatolia (Turkey). Following the production of a new speleothem-based palaeoclimate record from Kocain Cave (Chapter 3) and a new archaeological dataset of 381 settlements (Chapter 4), evidence from this region is sufficient for analysis of human-climate-environment relationships. Climate change is found to be unimportant for settlement expansion in the Roman Imperial Period. Whilst a shift to drier conditions after 460 CE is initially adapted to, settlement abandonment occured at least a century later, following further drying and a combination of other factors. Chapters 5 and 6 present two additional case-studies for polities which have previously not been studied in relation to climatic factors – the Kingdom of Himyar and the Sasanian Empire. A new speleothem-based record from Hoti Cave (Oman, Chapter 5) reveals its driest conditions at the start of the 6th century CE, which are argued to have weakened the Kingdom of Himyar leading to cascading socio-political change. Conversely, coincident dry conditions in the Sasanian Empire (Chapter 6) had no impact, with the empire’s most significant growth-phase continuing unabated. Mitigation strategies against future climate change can be informed by further study of past societal responses.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Fleitmann, D.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Archaeology, Geography & Environmental Science
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:113681
Date on Title Page:October 2021

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