Skip to main content

Climate stability and the development of agricultural societies

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Barlow LK, White JWC, Barry RC, Rogers JC, Grootes PM (1993) The North Atlantic Oscillation signature in deuterium and deuterium excess signals in the Greenland ICE CORE Sheet Project 2 core, 1840–1970. Geophys Res Lett 20:2901–2904

    Google Scholar 

  • Bar-Matthews M, Ayalon A, Kaufman A (1997) Late Quaternary paleoclimate in the Eastern Mediterranean region from stable isotope analysis of speleothems at Soreq Cave. Quat Res 47:155–168

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bar-Yosef O (1998) The Natufian culture in the Levant, Threshold to the origins of agriculture. Evol Anthropol 6:159–177

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Braidwood R (1960) The agricultural revolution. Sci Am 203:130–148

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bond G, Broecker W, Johnsen S, McManus J, Labeyrie L, Jouzel J, Bonani G (1993) Correlations between climate records from North Atlantic sediments and Greenland ice. Nature 365:143–147

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Butzer KW (1976) Early hydraulic civilization in Egypt. University of Chicago Press, p 54

  • Clark PU, Webb RS, Keigwin LD (eds) (1999) Mechanisms of global climate change at millennial time scales 112. In: Geophysical monograph series, American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC

  • Clottes J (2001) La Grotte Chauvel, l’art des origine. Editions du Seuil, Paris

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen DJ (1998) The origin of domesticated cereals and the Pleistocene–Holocene transition in Eastern Asia. Rev Archaeol 19:22–29

    Google Scholar 

  • Cuffey KM, Clow GD (1997) Temperature, accumulation, and ice sheet elevation in central Greenland through the last deglacial transition. J Geophys Res 102:26383–26396

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cullen HM, deMenocal PB, Hemming S, Hemmiing G, Brown FH, Guilderson T, Sirocko F (2000) Climate change and the collapse of the Akkadian empire: evidence from the deep sea. Geology 28:379–382

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dansgaard W, Jonsen SJ, Clausen HB, Dahl-Jensenm NS, Gundstrup NS, Hammer CU, Hvidberg CS, Steffenson JP, Sveinbjörnsdottir AE, Jouzel J, Bond G (1993) Evidence for general instability of past climate from a 250-kyr ice-core record. Nature 364:218–220

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • De Angelis MJ, Steffensen P, Legrand M, Clausen H, Hammer C (1997) Primary aerosol (sea salt and soil dust) deposited in Greenland ice during the last climatic cycle. Comparison with east Antarctic records. J Geophys Res 102:26598–26681

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ditlevsen PD, Kristensen MS, Andersen KK (2005) The recurrence time of Dansgaard–Oescheger events and limits on the possible periodic component. J Climate 18:2594–2603

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Diamond J (2002) Evolution, consequences and future plant and animal domestication. Nature 418:700

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Genty D, Blamart D, Ouahdl R, Gilmour R, Baker A, Jouzel J, Van-Exter S (2003) Precise dating of Dansgaard–Oeschger climate oscillations in Western Europe from stalagmite data. Nature 421:833–837

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grootes PM, Stuiver M (1997) Oxygen 18/16 variability in Greenland snow and ice with 10–3 to 105-year time resolution. J Geophys Res 102:26455–26470

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haug G, Günther D, Peterson LC, Sigman DM, Hughen KA, Aeschlimann B (2003) Climate and the Collapse of Maya Civilization. Science 299:1731–1735

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Henry DO (1989) From foraging to agriculture: the Levant at the end of the Ice Age. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA

    Google Scholar 

  • Hodell DA, Brenner M, Curtis JH, Guilderson T (2001) Solar forcing of drought frequency in the Maya Lowlands. Science 292:1367–1370

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Huang NE, Shen Z, Long SR, Wu MC, Shih HH, Zheng Q, Yen N-C, Tung CC, Liu HH (1998) The empirical mode decomposition and the Hilbert spectrum for nonlinear and non-stationary time series analysis. Proc R Soc Lond A45:903–995

    Google Scholar 

  • Hughen KA, Southon JR, Lehman SJ, Overpeck JT (2000) Synchronous radiocarbon and climate shifts during the last deglaciation. Science 290:1951–1954

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kislev ME, Hartmann A, Bar-Yosef O (2006) Early domesticated fig in the Jordan valley. Science 312:1372–1375

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kuijt I, Goring-Morris N (2002) Foraging, farming, and social complexity in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the southern Levant: a review and synthesis. J World Prehist 16:361–439

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lea DW, Pak DK, Peterson LC, Hughen K (2003) Synchroeity of tropical and high-latitude Atlantic temperatures over the last glacial termination. Science 301:1361–1364

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Matsuoka Y, Vigouroux Y, Goodman MM, Sanchez J, Buckler ES, Doebley JF (2002) A single domestication for maize shown by multilocus microsatellite genotyping. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 99:6080–6084

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mayewski PA, Meeker LD, Twickler MS, Whitlow SI, Yang Q, Lyons WB, Prentice M (1997) Major features and forcing of high latitude northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation using a 110,000 yearlong glaciochemical series. J Geophys Res 102:26345–26366

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morishima H (2001) Evolution and domestication of rice, rice genetics IV. In: Khush GS et al. (eds) Proc. of 4th Intern. Rice Genet. Symp., 2000. Science Publishers, India & IRRI Philippines

    Google Scholar 

  • National Research Council (2002) Abrupt climate change: inevitable surprises. National Academy of Sciences Report NAS2002, National Academy Press, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  • Peterson LC, Haug GH, Hughen KA, Rohl U (2000) Rapid changes in the hydrologic cycle of the tropical Atlantic during the last glacial. Science 290:1947–1951

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Piperno DR, Pearsall DM (1998) The origins of agriculture in the lowland neotropics. Academic, San Diego, CA

    Google Scholar 

  • Piperno DR (2001) On maize and the sunflower. Science 292:2260–2261

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Piperno DR, Flannery KV (2001) The earliest archaeological maize (Zea mays L.) from highland Mexico: new accelerator mass spectrometry dates and their implications. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 98:2101–2003

    Google Scholar 

  • Piperno DR, Stothert KE (2003) Phytolith evidence for early Holocene Cucurbita domestication in southwest Ecuador. Science 299:1054 –1057

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Quadrelli R, Wallace JM (2004) A simplified linear framework for interpreting patterns of Northern Hemisphere wintertime climate variability. J Climate 17:3728–3744

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rimbu N, Lohmann G, Felis T, Pätzold J (2001) Arctic oscillation signature in a Red Sea coral. Geophys Res Lett 28:2959–2962

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rind D (1987) Components of the ice age circulation. J Geophys Res 92:4241–4281

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ruzmaikin A, Feynman J, Jiang X, Noone DC, Waple AM, Yung YL (2004) The pattern of northern hemisphere surface air temperature during prolonged periods of low solar output. Geophys Res Lett 31, L12201, doi:10.1029/2004GL019955

  • Schulz H, von Rad U, Erlenkeuser H (1998) Correlation between Arabian Sea and Greenland climate oscillations for the past 110,000 years. Nature 393:54–57

    Google Scholar 

  • Seager R, Kushnir Y, Visbeck M, Naik N, Miller J, Krahmann G, Cullen H (2000) Causes of Atlantic ocean climate variability between 1958 and 1998. J Climate 13:2845–2862

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Semino O et al (2000) The genetic legacy of Paleolithic Homo sapiens sapiens in extant Europeans: a Y chromosome perspective. Science 290:1155–1159

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shindell DT, Schmidt GA, Mann ME, Rind D, Waple A (2001) Solar forcing of regional climate change during the Maunder Minimum. Science 294:2149–2152

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith BD (1997) The initial domestication of Curubita pepo in the Americas 10,000 years ago. Science 276:932–934

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spooner DM, McLean K, Ramsey G, Waugh R, Bryan GJ (2005) A single domestication for potato based on multilocus fragment length polymorphism genotyping. Proc Natl Acad Sci 12:41

    Google Scholar 

  • Thompson DWJ, Wallace JM (1998) The arctic oscillation signature in the wintertime geopotential height and temperature fields. J Geophys Res Lett 25:1297–1300

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Toracinta ER, Oglesby RJ, Bromwich DH (2004) Atmospheric response to modified CLIMAP ocean boundary conditions during the last Glacial Maximum. J Climate 17:504–522

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Turnbull PF, Reid CA (1974) The fauna from the terminal Pleistocene of Palegawra Cave. Fieldiana Anthrop 63:81–146.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wells S (2002) The journey of man: a Genetic Odyssey. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

    Google Scholar 

  • Wang Y et al (2005) The Holocene Asian Monsoon: links to solar changes and North Atlantic climate. Science 308:854–857

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • White JWC, Barlow LK, Fisher D, Grpptes P, Jouzel J, Johnsen SJ, Stuiver M, Clausen H (1997) The climate signal in the stable isotopes of snow from Summit, Greenland: results of comparisons with modern climate observations. J Geophys Res 102(C12):26425–26439

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yiou F, Fuhrer PK, Meeker LD, Jouzel J, Johnsen S, Mayewski PA (1997) Paleoclimate variability inferred from the spectral analysis of Greenland and Antarctic ice-core data. J Geophys Res 102:26441–26454

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zohary D, Hopf M (2000) Domestication of plants in the old world, 3rd edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK

    Google Scholar 

  • Zhao, Z. (1998) The Middle Yangtze region in China is one place where rice was domesticated: phytolith evidence from the Diaotonghuan Cave, Northern Jiangxi. Antiquity 72:885–897

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Joan Feynman.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Feynman, J., Ruzmaikin, A. Climate stability and the development of agricultural societies. Climatic Change 84, 295–311 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-007-9248-1

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-007-9248-1

Keywords

  • Empirical Mode Decomposition
  • Instantaneous Frequency
  • Climate Stability
  • Agricultural Society
  • Younger Dryas