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Global megadroughts and global collapses

Date and Time: 
Thursday, February 8, 2018. 05:00 PM - 06:15 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Archaeology Center; Building 500, 488 Escondido Mall MC 2170,
Workshop: 
Data Scarcity of the Earth and Human Past
Meeting Description: 

Synchronous megadrought across the Mediterranean, West Asia, Egypt, and the Indus at 2200-1900 BC extended, as well, to central and southern Africa, East Asia, North America and South America. Dry farming agriculture domains and their productivity were reduced severely, forcing adaptive societal collapses, regional abandonments, habitat-tracking, and nomadization, as in the collapses of the Akkadian Empire of Mesopotamia and the Old Kingdom in Egypt. These adaptive processes extended across societies of hydrographically varied landscapes, and provided demographic and societal resilience in the face of the megadrought’s abruptness, magnitude, and duration. Previously we called this “Ancient History,” or “one damn thing after another.”

Dr. Harvey Weiss is the Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Anthropology and Forestry & Environmental Studies at Yale University. Professor Weiss studies the Mesopotamian climatic record, in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, using archaeological and palaeoclimate records that provide high-resolution data for agricultural regimes, regional settlement patterns, and abrupt high-magnitude climate changes. He founded the Yale University Tell Leilan Project in northeastern Syria in 1978, and has directed extensive excavations at that ancient site along with several seasons of Leilan Region Survey surface reconnaissance. This archaeological research, along with paleoclimate researches, has generated new data and perspectives for understanding Mesopotamian societies’ dynamic agro-production, settlement distributions, and politico-economic histories as cities, states and empires evolved and collapsed during the past ten thousand years.

The effects of periodic regional and global megadought and coincident periods of widespread societal collapse have been identified and refined through Tell Leilan Project research. Adaptive societal responses to Holocene climate change is now a vibrant global research arena within which Tell Leilan Project data and analyses play a significant role in understanding the differences between natural and anthropogenic climate changes and their societal effects. At Yale, Professor Weiss teaches courses on long-term environmental history, the history and evolution of agriculture, and societal responses to climate change.

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