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Impacts of palaeoenvironmental changes on Meso-Neolithic innovation and adaptation in the Caspian coast

Funding body

British Academy


Project description

Exceptional caves on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, inhabited 14,000 years ago by hunter-gatherers, saw the early appearance of firing of clay. These peoples survived deep environmental changes: not only cold/arid conditions of the Younger Dryas period, but also alteration in the width of the coastal plain as lake levels rapidly rose and fell. Thus, these peoples had to adapt in order to survive.

Animal bones recovered from two caves suggest that when the coastal plain was narrow they relied on seal and deer but as it widened they consumed a range of species, including auroch, gazelle, sheep and goat.

This study will examine small fossil remains in two sediment cores obtained near the caves and dated by radiocarbon. In particular, pollen grains and charcoal will provide information on vegetation; parasite eggs and fungal spores on the presence of large herbivores; and small aquatic organisms on lake level. Results are timely for the new archaeological excavations to be undertaken in the caves as they will help understanding human behaviour adaptations.