Rapid climate changes during the Mesolithic. Impact on man and environment in the southern part of the NW European plain



During the Early Holocene, starting ca. 11650 cal BP (or ca. 9700 cal BC) and corresponding to the Mesolithic, at least four abrupt centennial-scale Rapid Climate Change events (RCC) have occurred, which have been globally identified by recent climate records. However, still little is known about the impact of these RCCs on Mesolithic societies and their ecosystems. The ambition of this multidisciplinary project is to assess the effects and responses (or lack thereof) of these rapid cooling events on hunter-gatherers and their environment in the Belgian and S-Dutch sand belt region. This is done by means of a multi-proxy investigation of well-preserved Mesolithic peat deposits in river palaeochannels across the study area in combination with a palaeodemographic study of the Mesolithic population. The newly generated high-resolution data will be correlated to the climate data of the INTIMATE event stratigraphy to determine the synchronicity of environmental and societal changes with the cooling events. The causality and resilience will further be investigated through theoretical modelling. The peat deposits provide a unique and non-renewable resource of information for the evaluation of the changing Mesolithic subsistence in this area, since unburnt human/faunal and botanical remains usually lack on archaeological sites. However, current climate change causes a destruction of these palaeoenvironmental sedimentary archives, and the loss of these “unread books” forever.






Johan De Grave

Department of Geology - Ghent University