EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN PALEOCLIMATE AND ECOSYSTEMS DURING THE RISE OF EARLY CIVILIZATIONS (EMPIRE)
MISSION: We aim to carry out a novel, interdisciplinary study of terrestrial and marine ecosystem change during the rise of Eastern Mediterranean civilizations during the Holocene, in order to derive critical new insight into the sensitivity versus resilience of Mediterranean civilizations to environmental change and the vulnerability of marine ecosystems to early anthropogenic impact.
BACKGROUND: Throughout the Holocene, Mediterranean civilizations closely interacted with their environment, but it is still unclear to what extent climatic and environmental change has influenced their evolution. At the same time, the onset, early extent and consequences of anthropogenic change in terrestrial and notably in marine ecosystems remain poorly constrained. We will use the German research ship "Meteor" to core high-deposition-rate sequences from the Aegean and Adriatic Seas with a large volume "Kasten Corer.” These sediments will be used to decipher environmental change across the coastal zone to quantitatively identify the impact of growing civilizations on coastal ecosystems between the Bronze Age and the present day. Terrestrial environmental changes will be deduced using a multi-proxy approach to understanding changes in vegetation, aridity, and erosion rates within a high-quality, marine-based age frame. For the marine realm, we hope to carry out the first quantitative assessments of fish populations and reconstructions of the marine food web.
This expedition is designed to quantify changes in terrestrial and marine ecosystems in the Eastern Mediterranean region during the rise of human civilization around the basin. Our goal is to assess how climate and human resource demands interacted over the Holo¬cene, both to unravel how environmental change affected Holocene socioeconomic evolution and to quantitatively assess the growing impact of settled society and industrialized economies on Mediterranean ecosystem structures and biodiversity. Cor¬ing sites will be selected to maximize resolution of the history of Mediterranean marine and terrestrial ecosystems and to compare and contrast these histories between different basins and their cultures. These goals are divided into two major research topics:
- The role of Holocene short-term climate and ecosystem change on early cultures in the Aegean region, including the development of early cultures that may be closely connected to short-term climate and ecosystem change; and
- Assessment and quantification of terrestrial and notably marine human-induced ecosystem change during the socioeconomic evolution of Mediterranean civilizations.
The latter research aims to answer critical questions related to the first extensive human impacts on the marine environment that appear to have arisen with the organization of export markets in the “Classic” Roman period; as well as the 1500s through to the modern industrial period, which appear to have produced widespread and transformative impacts on marine and terrestrial ecosystem composition and structure (compared to earlier human societies). We will also explore the emergence and expansion of settled societies and how they may be spatiotemporally closely related with changes in land use.
- PI: Richard Norris, Professor, Paleobiology, Geosciences Research, Scripps, UC San Diego (fish population, biodiversity reconstructions)
Jorg Pross, Heidelberg University (pollen)
- Joseph Maran, Heidelberg University (pro- and protohistory of Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean region)
- Diamantis Panagiotopoulos, Heidelberg University (classical archaeology of Aegean region)
- Andre Barr, Heidelberg University (sedimentology)
- Thomas E. Levy, Distinguished Professor, Anthropology, UC San Diego (archaeology, Eastern Mediterranean)
- Oliver Friedrich, Professor, Geology, Heidelberg University (benthic foraminifera)
- Alexandra Gogou, Associate Researcher, Oceanography, Hellenic Center for Marine Research, Annavissos (organic geochemistry)
- Dimitris Sakellariou, Research Director, Structural/Marine Geology, Hellenic Center for Marine Research, Annavissos (marine geophysics)
- Maria Triantaphyllou, Professor, Micropaleontology, University of Athens (calcareous nannoplankton)
- Rosaria Senatore, Associate Professor, University of Sannio, Italy (marine geophysics)
- Jacek Raddatz, Postdoc, Paleoceanography, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Kiel (carbonate geochemistry)
- Christian Hübscher, Professor, Applied Geophysics, University of Hamburg (marine geophysics)
- Gerhard Schmiedl, Professor, Micropaleontology, University of Hamburg (benthic foraminifera)
- Werner Ehrmann, Professor, Geology, University of Leipzig (clay mineralogy)
- Hartmut Schulz, Professor, Paleobiology, University of Tübingen (planktonic foraminifera)