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Holocene settlement shifts and paleoenvironments on the Central Iranian Plateau: investigating linked systems

Schmidt, A., Quigley, M., Fattahi, M., Azizi, G., Maghsoudi, M. and Fazeli Nashli, H. (2011) Holocene settlement shifts and paleoenvironments on the Central Iranian Plateau: investigating linked systems. The Holocene, 21 (4). pp. 583-595. ISSN 0959-6836

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1177/0959683610385961


For thousands of years, humans have inhabited locations that are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, earthquakes, and floods. In order to investigate the extent to which Holocene environmental changes may have impacted on cultural evolution, we present new geologic, geomorphic, and chronologic data from the Qazvin Plain in northwest Iran that provides a backdrop of natural environmental changes for the simultaneous cultural dynamics observed on the Central Iranian Plateau. Well-resolved archaeological data from the neighbouring settlements of Zagheh (7170—6300 yr BP), Ghabristan (6215—4950 yr BP) and Sagzabad (4050—2350 yr BP) indicate that Holocene occupation of the Hajiarab alluvial fan was interrupted by a 900 year settlement hiatus. Multiproxy climate data from nearby lakes in northwest Iran suggest a transition from arid early-Holocene conditions to more humid middle-Holocene conditions from c. 7550 to 6750 yr BP, coinciding with the settlement of Zagheh, and a peak in aridity at c. 4550 yr BP during the settlement hiatus. Palaeoseismic investigations indicate that large active fault systems in close proximity to the tell sites incurred a series of large (MW ~7.1) earthquakes with return periods of ~500—1000 years during human occupation of the tells. Mapping and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) chronology of the alluvial sequences reveals changes in depositional style from coarse-grained unconfined sheet flow deposits to proximal channel flow and distally prograding alluvial deposits sometime after c. 8830 yr BP, possibly reflecting an increase in moisture following the early-Holocene arid phase. The coincidence of major climate changes, earthquake activity, and varying sedimentation styles with changing patterns of human occupation on the Hajiarab fan indicate links between environmental and anthropogenic systems. However, temporal coincidence does not necessitate a fundamental causative dependency.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Social Archaeology
ID Code:27379
Publisher:Sage Publications

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