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20,000 years of societal vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in southwest Asia

Jones, Matthew D; Abu-Jaber, Nizar; Alshdaifat, Ahmad; Baird, Douglas; Cook, Benjamin I; Cuthbert, Mark O.; Dean, Jonathan R.; Djamali, Morteza; Eastwood, Warren; Fleitmann, Dominik; Haywood, Alan; Kwiecien, Ola; Larsen, Joshua; Maher, Lisa A.; Metcalfe, Sarah E.; Parker, Adrian; Petrie, Cameron A.; Primmer, Nick; Richter, Tobias; Roberts, Neil; Roe, Joe; Tindall, Julia C.; Ünal‐İmer, Ezgi; Weeks, Lloyd


Matthew D Jones

Nizar Abu-Jaber

Ahmad Alshdaifat

Douglas Baird

Benjamin I Cook

Mark O. Cuthbert

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Dr Jonathan Dean
Lecturer in Quaternary Science, Director of Education, Co-Deputy Head of School

Morteza Djamali

Warren Eastwood

Dominik Fleitmann

Alan Haywood

Ola Kwiecien

Joshua Larsen

Lisa A. Maher

Sarah E. Metcalfe

Adrian Parker

Cameron A. Petrie

Nick Primmer

Tobias Richter

Neil Roberts

Joe Roe

Julia C. Tindall

Ezgi Ünal‐İmer

Lloyd Weeks


The Fertile Crescent, its hilly flanks and surrounding drylands has been a critical region for studying how climate has influenced societal change, and this review focuses on the region over the last 20,000 years. The complex social, economic, and environmental landscapes in the region today are not new phenomena and understanding their interactions requires a nuanced, multidisciplinary understanding of the past. This review builds on a history of collaboration between the social and natural palaeoscience disciplines. We provide a multidisciplinary, multiscalar perspective on the relevance of past climate, environmental, and archaeological research in assessing present day vulnerabilities and risks for the populations of southwest Asia. We discuss the complexity of palaeoclimatic data interpretation, particularly in relation to hydrology, and provide an overview of key time periods of palaeoclimatic interest. We discuss the critical role that vegetation plays in the human–climate–environment nexus and discuss the implications of the available palaeoclimate and archaeological data, and their interpretation, for palaeonarratives of the region, both climatically and socially. We also provide an overview of how modelling can improve our understanding of past climate impacts and associated change in risk to societies. We conclude by looking to future work, and identify themes of “scale” and “seasonality” as still requiring further focus. We suggest that by appreciating a given locale's place in the regional hydroscape, be it an archaeological site or palaeoenvironmental archive, more robust links to climate can be made where appropriate and interpretations drawn will demand the resolution of factors acting across multiple scales.


Jones, M. D., Abu-Jaber, N., Alshdaifat, A., Baird, D., Cook, B. I., Cuthbert, M. O., …Weeks, L. (2019). 20,000 years of societal vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in southwest Asia. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water, 6(2), Article e1330.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 12, 2018
Online Publication Date Feb 10, 2019
Publication Date 2019-03
Deposit Date Feb 12, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 12, 2019
Journal Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water
Print ISSN 2049-1948
Electronic ISSN 2049-1948
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Issue 2
Article Number e1330
Keywords Archaeology; Holocene; Hydrology; Iran; Levant; Palaeoclimate; Turkey
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Additional Information This will appear in the journal WIREs Water.


Published article (5.1 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2019 The Authors. WIREs Water published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.

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