Holocene Abrupt Climate Change Over NW Iran: The Hand That Rocked The Cradle Of Civilization?
Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 5:45 PM
Human civilizations around the globe have been influenced by abrupt climate change throughout the Holocene. The paucity of high-resolution palaeoclimate data from the “Cradle of Civilization” in West Asia, however, has limited our ability to evaluate the potential role of Holocene climate variability on early societies. We present a high-resolution, multi-proxy reconstruction of aeolian input and palaeoenvironmental conditions based on a 13-kyr record of ombrotrophic (rain fed) peat from Neor Lake in Northwest Iran. Variations in relative abundances of major and trace elements, total organic carbon (TOC), stable carbon isotopes of TOC (δ13CTOC) and compound-specific leaf wax hydrogen isotope (δD) compositions suggest dry and dusty conditions prevailed during the Younger Dryas, and a substantial increase in atmospheric dust loading and decrease in moisture availability occurred between the early and late Holocene. In addition, variations in radiogenic Sr-Nd-Hf isotopic composition and REE anomalies in samples from Neor peat core indicate significant shifts occurred in source contributions of eolian material to the study area between the Younger Dryas, early and late Holocene. Time-series analysis of aeolian input to NE Iran reveals periodicities at 540, 1050 and 2940 years that correspond with solar variability and internal climate feedbacks identified in other records of Holocene climate change from the northern hemisphere. Transitions in major Mesopotamian and Persian civilizations, including the collapse of the Akkadian empire at 4,200 yr BP, the fall of the Ur III empire at 3,955 yr BP, the fall of Elam empire at 2,500 yr BP and the demise of the Achaemenids around 2,280 BP overlap with major dust events from this study. Several other episodes of enhanced atmospheric dust, however, are not reflected in historical or archaeological accounts of the late Holocene. This indicates either abrupt climate change was not the sole driver of societal changes in the region, or that historical records of these events are incomplete.