Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climate change and drought in ancient times

Date:
August 11, 2014
Source:
Universitaet Tübingen
Summary:
The influence of climate on agriculture is believed to be a key factor in the rise and fall of societies in the Ancient Near East. An investigation into archaeological finds of grain has taken place in order to find out what influence climate had on agriculture in early farming societies. The research team analyzed grains of barley up to 12,000 years old from 33 locations across the Fertile Crescent to ascertain if they had had enough water while growing and ripening.

Samples taken from these sites: Top, left to right: Ghab Valley (western Syria), Iron Age settlement of Zincirli, Hatay Province (SE Turkey), and Hittite-era settlement of Nerik (near Samsun,Turkey); Middle, left to right: irrigation channel below Tel Halaf (northern Syria), barley growing near Zincirli, Hatay Province (SE Turkey), and a field in the same place after the harvest; Bottom, left to right: irrigation channel near Zincirli, fields near Zincirli and arid lands with field in Jabroud Region (SW Syria).
Credit: Simone Riehl/University of Tübingen

The influence of climate on agriculture is believed to be a key factor in the rise and fall of societies in the Ancient Near East. Dr. Simone Riehl of Tübingen University's Institute for Archaeological Science and the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment has headed an investigation into archaeological finds of grain in order to find out what influence climate had on agriculture in early farming societies. Her findings are published in this week's PNAS -- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

She and her team analyzed grains of barley up to 12,000 years old from 33 locations across the Fertile Crescent to ascertain if they had had enough water while growing and ripening. Riehl found that periods of drought had had noticeable and widely differing effects on agriculture and societies in the Ancient Near East, with settlements finding a variety of ways to deal with the problem.

The 1,037 ancient samples were between 12,000 and 2,500 years old. They were compared with modern samples from 13 locations in the former Fertile Crescent. Dr. Riehl and her team measured the grains' content of two stable carbon isotopes. When barley grass gets insufficient water while growing, the proportion of heavier carbon isotopes deposited in its cells will be higher than normal. The two isotopes 12C und 13C remain stable for thousands of years and can be measured precisely -- giving Simone Riehl and her colleagues reliable information on the availability of water while the plants were growing.

They found that many settlements were affected by drought linked to major climate fluctuations. "Geographic factors and technologies introduced by humans played a big role and influenced societies' options for development as well as their particular ways of dealing with drought," says Riehl. Her findings indicate that harvests in coastal regions of the northern Levant were little affected by drought; but further inland, drought lead to the need for irrigation or, in extreme cases, abandonment of the settlement.

The findings give archaeologists clues as to how early agricultural societies dealt with climate fluctuations and differing local environments. "They can also help evaluate current conditions in regions with a high risk of crop failures," Riehl adds. The study is part of a German Research Foundation-backed project looking into the conditions under which Ancient Near Eastern societies rose and fell.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universitaet Tübingen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Riehl, K. E. Pustovoytov, H. Weippert, S. Klett, F. Hole. Drought stress variability in ancient Near Eastern agricultural systems evidenced by  13C in barley grain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1409516111

Cite This Page:

Universitaet Tübingen. "Climate change and drought in ancient times." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140811151549.htm>.
Universitaet Tübingen. (2014, August 11). Climate change and drought in ancient times. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140811151549.htm
Universitaet Tübingen. "Climate change and drought in ancient times." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140811151549.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) — The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) — A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins