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

Jones, Matthew; 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, Josh; Maher, Lisa A.; Metcalfe, Sarah E.; Parker, Adrian; Petrie, Cameron A.; Primmer, Nick; Richter, Tobias; Roberts, Neil; Roe, Joe; Tindall, Julia C.; Unal-Imer, Ezgi; Weeks, Lloyd

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Professor of Quaternary Science

Nizar Abu-Jaber

Ahmad AlShdaifat

Douglas Baird

Benjamin I. Cook

Mark O. Cuthbert

Jonathan R. Dean

Morteza Djamali

Warren Eastwood

Dominik Fleitmann

Alan Haywood

Ola Kwiecien

Josh Larsen

Lisa A. Maher

Adrian Parker

Cameron A. Petrie

Nick Primmer

Tobias Richter

Neil Roberts

Joe Roe

Julia C. Tindall

Ezgi Unal-Imer

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, multi-scalar perspective on the relevance of past climate, environmental and archaeological research in assessing present day vulnerabilities and risks for the populations of SW 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 vegetation plays in the humanclimate- 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., 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),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 12, 2018
Online Publication Date Feb 10, 2019
Publication Date Mar 1, 2019
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2018
Publicly Available Date Feb 11, 2020
Journal Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water
Electronic ISSN 2049-1948
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Issue 2
Keywords Paleoclimate; Archaeology; Turkey; Iran; Levant; Hydrology; Holocene
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the article, which has been published in final form at . This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.


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