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Resettlement as Climate Change Adaption? Water stress, conflict and displacement in the later Roman Fayum/Egypt

Date and Time: 
Friday, November 20, 2020. 10:00 AM
Meeting Location: 
Zoom
Workshop: 
Data Scarcity in the Ancient Mediterranean
Meeting Description: 

Towards the end of the third century CE, multiple formerly thriving farming villages in one of the most productive wheat-growing regions in the entire Roman Empire, the Arsinoite nome (modern Fayum) in Egypt, went into decline and were eventually abandoned. The evidence implies that irrigation problems lay at the heart of the problem and led to the progressive desertification of formerly agricultural land. The surviving documentation allows us to trace what increasing water stress meant on the ground for the local population and what adaptation strategies they undertook to deal with the degradation and desertification of their farmlands. While socio-economic factors certainly played a role in the decline of these settlements, a change in environmental conditions should be considered as well. In fact, natural proxies record a general shift in East African Monsoon patterns at the source areas of the Nile and consecutively lower and more variable Nile flood levels from the beginning of the third century on.

Sabine R. Huebner holds the chair of ancient history at the University of Basel in Switzerland, is head of the Basel Doctoral Program in Classical Civilizations and Secretary General of the Federation of Associations of Classical Studies (FIEC). She is the director of the Basel Climate Science & Ancient History Lab. Her research focuses on the everyday lives of the common people in the eastern Roman Mediterranean, on papyrology, and on the social, economic, and religious history of Roman and Byzantine Egypt. She has published monographs including The Family in Roman Egypt (Cambridge, 2013) and Papyri and the Social World of the New Testament (Cambridge, 2019), and is co-editor of Growing up Fatherless in Antiquity (Cambridge, 2009), The Encyclopedia of Ancient History (12 vols. Oxford, 2012), Inheritance, Law and Religion in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds (Paris, 2014), Mediterranean Families in Antiquity (Oxford, 2016), The Single Life in the Roman and Later Roman World (Cambridge, 2019), P.Bas. II, the edition of the Basel papyrus collection (Berlin 2020), and Living the End of Antiquity (Berlin and Boston 2020).

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