The proposed network will bring together archaeologists and climate scientists with expertise in the early and mid Holocene in order to investigate one of the most interesting but understudied cultural shifts in prehistory occurring in much of the Mediterranean after 6000 calibrated BP (4000 calibrated BC). In Europe, the Near East, Cyprus and North Africa archaeologists have documented widespread changes in settlement patterns and social and economic behaviour. Traditional interpretations of these changes have favoured regionally specific cultural explanations but increasingly, archaeological and environmental data recovered from excavations of 6th millennium BP sites are supporting and supplementing the growing body of climatic data indicating that the 6th millennium BP was a period of profound and irreversible climatic change. A forum which brings together key contributors to the debate is therefore timely and essential if we are to gain greater understanding of this emerging area of intellectual importance.
The study of past climatic and environmental change and its impact on human societies will become increasingly relevant as we move into the 21st century. Discussion of responses to rapid climatic and environmental change is essentially absent from the debate, yet the past provides us with comparisons which may prove relevant in the future. The geographically widespread climatic and environmental changes evident between ~6000 and 5000 BP provide us with an opportunity to explore the impacts of changes in climatic and environmental conditions on societies which, while remote in time, share many characteristics with historical and modern societies.
The results of this research will thus be of wide interest, not only amongst archaeologists and climate scientists, but also potentially, historians, art historians, human geographers and anthropologists researching modern human responses to environmental change.