Climatic Change

, Volume 52, Issue 1–2, pp 129–135 | Cite as

Changing Gradients of Climate Change in Southern Africa during the Past Millennium: Implications for Population Movements

  • P. D. Tyson
  • J. Lee-Thorp
  • K. Holmgren
  • J. F. Thackeray


Climates of equatorial East Africa and subtropical Southern Africa have varied inversely over long periods of time. The high-resolution δ 18O stalagmite record from Cold Air Cave in the Makapansgat valley in South Africa and a similar resolution lake-level record for Lake Naivasha in Kenya have been in anti-phase for much of the last thousand years. A similar relationship is evident in the twentieth century meteorological record. The changes in rainfall in the two regions on multi-decadal to centennial scales have influenced both settlement patterns and livelihoods of Iron Age agriculturalists. The resulting latitudinal gradient of change may have been a significant factor in promoting southward migration of Sotho-Tswana speaking people from equatorial East Africa during the first few centuries of the last millennium and earlier. This would have occurred at times when environments in the north were deteriorating and those to the south were ameliorating.


Iron Climate Change Migration Twentieth Century Similar Relationship 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. D. Tyson
    • 1
  • J. Lee-Thorp
    • 2
  • K. Holmgren
    • 3
  • J. F. Thackeray
    • 4
  1. 1.Climatology Research GroupUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Physical GeographyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  4. 4.Transvaal MuseumPretoriaSouth Africa

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