Remains of the Norse church at Hvalsey, in the Viking Eastern settlement on Greenland. The last written record of this settlement was a wedding recorded in AD 1408 (Photo: Wikipedia under a Creative Commons license).
Integration of high-res climate archives with archaeological and documentary evidence.
Despite great advances in geochemical and other dating techniques, accurate and precise dating of events in the past few millennia – especially before the start of reliable written records - remains a significant challenge for archaeology and paleoclimatology. This is especially problematic for coastal sites, where variable marine radiocarbon reservoir ages can result in dating uncertainties, in some cases, of several hundred years.
The idea behind CLIM-ARCH-DATE is to use new absolutely-dated marine proxy archives, together with other dating techniques, to determine more precisely the timing of cultural and environmental events in the past. If we can do this, we will be able to provide a more informed assessment of theories of environmental determinism (Judkins et al. 2008), and, ultimately, we may be able to model the extent to which environmental change might affect societal stability and patterns of migration in the future (Hulme, 2011).
We are adopting a transdisciplinary approach, integrating high resolution and precisely dated paleoclimate archives with documentary records and the latest archaeological dating techniques to improve our understanding of the timing (onset and duration) of cultural, environmental and climatic changes, and hence of how communities responded to climate change and more short-term environmental events, including storms, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.
Project strategy and timeline
The project will start by identifying specific cultural transitions that can usefully be addressed using the methods proposed here. Examples might be the end of the Norse settlement in Greenland, the decline of the Maya culture during the Terminal Classic (AD 800-1000), the relationship of the Justinian Plague (AD 541-543) to volcanic episodes or the disappearance of the Rapanui civilization of Easter Island. There are many more such episodes. Once these transitions have been identified, we can invite relevant experts to join the team.
We aim to get funding for one or more projects before 2020. An initial goal for the project will therefore be to identify the most appropriate funding streams.
We will ensure momentum with regular meetings (these will be by Skype, unless funding can be obtained for physical meetings) and will also communicate regularly with the participants on the project status and any new or ongoing initiatives.