Climatic Change

, Volume 84, Issue 3–4, pp 295–311 | Cite as

Climate stability and the development of agricultural societies

  • Joan FeynmanEmail author
  • Alexander Ruzmaikin


Although Modern Man had developed long before the migration from Africa began ∼ 55,000 years ago no agricultural societies developed until about ∼ 10,000 years ago. In the next 5,000 years agricultures developed independently in at least six regions of the world. It is virtually certain that it was not a chance occurrence that so many new agricultures appeared in the same 5,000 years. What inhibited agriculture world wide for 44,000 years and what changed ∼ 10,000 years ago? Here we suggest that a major factor influencing the development of agricultural societies was climate stability. From the experience of four cultures we estimate that the development of agriculture needed ∼ 2,000 years of climate free from significant climate variations on time scales of a few centuries. Using the Empirical Mode Decomposition technique specifically designed to exhibit the time history of the amplitude of variations in non-stationary time series such as climate proxy records, we find that between 50,000 years ago and the termination of the Younger Dryas ∼ 11,600 years ago there was probably no time span as long as 2,000 years that was free of relatively large century scale variations. Furthermore variations on these time scales appear to have been relatively small since the Younger Dryas (YD) ended, supporting our proposition concerning the importance of climate stability in the history of human culture.


Empirical Mode Decomposition Instantaneous Frequency Climate Stability Agricultural Society Younger Dryas 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA

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