Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Skara Brae: local responses to environmental change

Interesting piece in Nature Ecology & Evolution, The resilience of postglacial hunter-gatherers to abrupt climate change, on the Skara Brae site (photo) in Scotland published on-line on 26 march 2018.

I will give you the abstract first and then make a brief comment. The abstract reads:
Understanding the resilience of early societies to climate change is an essential part of exploring the environmental sensitivity of human populations. There is significant interest in the role of abrupt climate events as a driver of early Holocene human activity, but there are very few well-dated records directly compared with local climate archives. Here, we present evidence from the internationally important Mesolithic site of Star Carr showing occupation during the early Holocene, which is directly compared with a high-resolution palaeoclimate record from neighbouring lake beds. We show that—once established—there was intensive human activity at the site for several hundred years when the community was subject to multiple, severe, abrupt climate events that impacted air temperatures, the landscape and the ecosystem of the region. However, these results show that occupation and activity at the site persisted regardless of the environmental stresses experienced by this society. The Star Carr population displayed a high level of resilience to climate change, suggesting that postglacial populations were not necessarily held hostage to the flickering switch of climate change. Instead, we show that local, intrinsic changes in the wetland environment were more significant in determining human activity than the large-scale abrupt early Holocene climate events. 
Simon Blockley, Ian Candy, Ian Matthews, Pete Langdon, Cath Langdon, Adrian Palmer, Paul Lincoln, Ashley Abrook, Barry Taylor, Chantal Conneller, Alex Bayliss, Alison MacLeod, Laura Deeprose, Chris Darvill, Rebecca Kearney, Nancy Beavan, Richard Staff, Michael Bamforth, Maisie Taylor & Nicky Milner The resilience of postglacial hunter-gatherers to abrupt climate change Nature Ecology & Evolution (2018)
The resilience of human populations to survive in the face of extreme change will not come as a surprise to anybody who knows something about the Tasmanian Aborigines. By the time that Skara Brae was established, Tasmania's Aboriginal peoples had survived the Late Glacial maximum and the separation of Tasmania from the mainland. They were affected by but adapted to dramatic climate change.

All this said. the Skara Brae case illustrates the importance of understanding the local effects of change and the nature of responses. I know that I am a broken record on this one. .

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