Secrets of the Sands
Solving a climate mystery from prehistory
Around six thousand years ago, desertification afflicted a huge swathe of land stretching from West Africa to China. Rainfall collapsed in the Northern Subtropics, glaciers advanced and El Niño events recurred regularly. So how did mankind cope? And could better knowledge of these events affect how people respond to environmental messages today?
Answering these questions is the aim of Environmental Change in Prehistory, one of 13 Researching Environmental Change networks funded by the LWEC-accredited Landscape and Environment Programme.
“The Earth’s climate underwent an abrupt shift around six millennia ago, which was a formative period in the development of human civilisation”, says archaeologist Dr Jo Clarke of the University of East Anglia. “By bringing together experts from the UK and beyond, we want to see if it’s possible to draw a direct link between those environmental changes and the major societal developments that occurred at around the same time.”
Focusing on North Africa, South East Europe and Western Asia, the Network could generate valuable insights into the ability of societies to adapt to transformed surroundings and scarcer resources.
Overall, the Landscape and Environment Programme (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council) has sponsored and supported over 50 innovative projects shedding a different light on the landscape and environmental change.
“It’s not just science that can enhance our understanding of what climate change, for example, means,”says Programme Director Stephen Daniels. “From archaeology and geography to law and even music, arts and humanities can provide crucial perspectives on the environment and the alterations it inevitably undergoes”.