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The impact of volcanism on Scandinavian climate and human societies during the Holocene: Insights into the Fimbulwinter eruptions (536/540 AD)
Department of Natural Sciences and Environmental Health, University of South-Eastern Norway, Norway.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9217-2058
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History. Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4423-7379
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4857-202X
The Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, Norway.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0739-3084
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2024 (English)In: The Holocene, ISSN 0959-6836, E-ISSN 1477-0911Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Recent paleoclimatic research has revealed that volcanic events around 536–540 AD caused severe, short-term global cooling. For this same period, archeological research from various regions evidences significant cultural transformation. However, there is still a lack of understanding of how human societies responded and adapted to extreme climate variability and new circumstances. This study focuses on the effects of the 536/540 AD volcanic event in four Scandinavian regions by exploring the shift in demographic and land use intensity before, during, and after this abrupt climate cooling. To achieve this, we performed climate simulations with and without volcanic eruptions using a dynamically downscaled climate model (iLOVECLIM) at a high resolution (0.25° or ~25 km). We integrated the findings with a comprehensive collection of radiocarbon dates from excavated archeological sites across various Scandinavian regions. Our Earth System Model simulates pronounced cooling (maximum ensemble mean −1.1°C), an abrupt reduction in precipitation, and a particularly acute drop in growing degree days (GDD0) after the volcanic event, which can be used to infer likely impacts on agricultural productivity. When compared to the archeological record, we see considerable regional diversity in the societal response to this sudden environmental event. As a result, this study provides a more comprehensive insight into the demographic chronology of Scandinavia and a deeper understanding of the land-use practices its societies depended on during the 536/540 AD event. Our results suggest that this abrupt climate anomaly amplified a social change already in progress.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2024.
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-523945DOI: 10.1177/09596836231225718OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-523945DiVA, id: diva2:1840860
Funder
EU, Horizon 2020, 813904Available from: 2024-02-27 Created: 2024-02-27 Last updated: 2024-04-15
In thesis
1. Exploring Uncertainty and Significance: Analysing Human Response to Environmental Risk with Computational Archaeology
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring Uncertainty and Significance: Analysing Human Response to Environmental Risk with Computational Archaeology
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

As humanity confronts the escalating challenges posed by rapid climate change, it becomes increasingly urgent to understand the complex dynamics of human-environment interactions to mitigate its multifaceted impacts. Archaeology, with its long-term perspective, offers the opportunity to examine past societal responses to environmental risks across diverse locations in Northwestern Europe and temporal scales. 

This dissertation aims to contribute to this critical endeavour by exploring the socio-environmental dynamics and adaptive strategies of past societies, to inform effective responses to climate change challenges in both the present and future. Utilizing computational archaeology, which integrates digital technologies and computational methods to analyse big data, the dissertation employs probabilistic approaches, including Bayesian modelling like summed probability distributions of radiocarbon (14C) data, to confront uncertainties inherent in reconstructing past human-environmental dynamics from interdisciplinary datasets. Additionally, quantitative methods, such as correlation tests and null hypothesis testing of 14C data, are employed to identify significant shifts in these dynamics, translating insights into quantitative terms for enhanced integration with policy-making processes. 

The primary objective of the dissertation is to illustrate how the integration of archaeological and environmental big data can enrich the understanding of human responses to environmental challenges. The papers in this thesis demonstrate how computational methods can be applied to big data to understand spatiotemporal changes in human-environmental variables, uncovering risk management strategies and societal vulnerabilities. The papers highlight cases where human communities experienced mitigated adverse effects from severe environmental shifts due to diverse socioeconomic strategies. Simultaneously, the results emphasize regional variations in the impacts of climate change, crucial for understanding the effectiveness of human responses. Moreover, the thesis exhibits how big data analytics both complement and challenge existing archaeological interpretations, contributing to the development of new theories. Importantly, it underscores the significance of diverse socioeconomic strategies in mitigating risks, especially in the face of abrupt environmental events.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, 2024. p. 54
Series
Studies in Global Archaeology, ISSN 1651-1255 ; 27
Keywords
computational archaeology, big data, risk, human-environment dynamics, spatiotemporal analysis, radiocarbon dating, climate change, land use, historical ecology, Scandinavia, Rhine-Meuse, Oder, Europe, Holocene
National Category
Archaeology Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-526685 (URN)978-91-506-3048-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2024-06-05, Geijersalen, Engelska parken, Thunbergsvägen 3P, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2024-05-14 Created: 2024-04-15 Last updated: 2024-05-14

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Publisher's full texthttps://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/09596836231225718

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Löwenborg, Daniel

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