RA 5: Climate Changes and Long Term History
It has become increasingly clear that most of the northern Black Sea region underwent two major transformations, first around 475 BC, and again around 270 BC. On both occasions a severe cutback in activity has been noted in the chorai of the Greek states, and by mid-5th century BC the decline became visible further north. In the last third of the 5th century BC, the situation in the Greek chorai improved when poleis expanded their territories noticeably. The following period of flourishing from the late 5th and trough the entire 4th centuries BC ended abruptly again about 270 BC with the total desolation or destruction of the rural settlements of nearly all the Greek states in the region. The numismatic evidence reveals that this process was accompanied by severe monetary crises.
Most scholars agree in explaining the first crisis by an abrupt change of the political situation and the large-scale expansion of the Scythian Nomads, and the second crisis has been explained similarly as a result of a Sarmatian invasion into Scythia. The factors behind the crises were probably much more complicated. A number of data from archaeological investigations of Greek rural sites, as well as paleobotanical data indicate an abrupt climatic change in the 3rd century BC. The Centre aims at testing whether climatic changes were the prime factor for the above-mentioned large-scale changes in the societies of the northern Black Sea region in the 5th and 3rd centuries BC.
Crimea is one of the few places in the northern Black Sea region with mineral lakes with sediments that can give information about paleoclimate and environmental changes over a long time period. Nearly all of these lakes are shallow (c. 1-1.5 m) saline lakes of marine origin (former marine bays and lagoons), the emergence of which took place in ‘historical’ time (c. 5000 yrs ago). The thickness of sediments is generally considerable reaching up to 20-25 m. The recovery of long sediment sequences permits comparative study of the complex interactions among humans, climate and environment in the Crimea. Moreover, it provides an opportunity to establish a direct chronological link between major ethno-historical and economic processes on the one hand and climatic changes such as wet-dry circles that affected the whole area on the other.
Within the framework of an international Danish-Russian-Ukrainian project entitled "Northern Black Sea in the 1st century BC: climate change and long term history" (project director V.F. Stolba; participating parties: DNRF’s CBSS, Institute of Limnology, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Institute of Geography, Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, Kiev) the paleolimnological team of the joint expedition sampled bottom sediments of the saline lakes Saki and Džarylgač situated in the Saki and Černomorskoe Districts of the Republic of Crimea. The fieldwork obtained valuable logistic support from the Saki hydrogeological station.
At Saki Lake, the works concerned mainly the western basin, which is separated from the sea by a 500-metre-wide sand barrier. A total of nine sites were sampled. The detailed examination of the cores, which includes varve counting, lithostratigraphy, geochemistry, pollen, diatom and ostracods analyses is presently being carried out by the team members from the Institute of limnology, RAS, Institute of Geography and Institute of Physics of the Earth, both UNAS. The identification of taxa of plant remains is being undertaken by Kaj Strand Petersen (Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), the AMS 14C dating is being processed by the Radiocarbon Laboratory, Institute of Physics and Astronomy, University of Aarhus (Jan Heinemeier).
Responsible: Vladimir F. Stolba in collaboration with the Institute of Limnology, The Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg (D. Subetto, T. Sapelko), and the Institute of Geography, The National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kiev (N. Gerasimenko)
Main activity: Fieldwork 2005, International round table seminar in 2005 (programme and materials), International seminar in 2007.