Climate and Society in Ancient Worlds. Diversity in Collapse and Resilience



Paleis der Academiën, Brussel

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Climate change over the past thousands of years is undeniable, but debate has arisen about its impact on past human societies. The decline and even collapse of complex societies in the Americas, Africa and the Eurasian continent has been related to catastrophic shifts in temperature and precipitation. Other scholars, however, see climate change as potentially hastening endogenous processes of political, economic and demographic decline, but argue that complex societies did not fall victim to climate alone. In other words, a debate has arisen concerning the nature and scope of climatic forces on human society and the extent of resilience within complex societies to deal with adverse changes in natural circumstances. The debate so far has shown that the role of long-term climate change and short-term climatic events in the history of mankind can no longer be denied. At the same time, the realization has also emerged that further study must go beyond global patterns and general answers. Diversity governs both climate change and human society. Hence, furthering our understanding of the role of climate in human history requires complex theories that combine on the one hand recent paleoclimatic models that recognize the high extent of temporal and spatial variation and, on the other, models of societal change that allow for the complexity of societal response to internal and external forces...

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