Holocene climate variability and cultural evolution in the Near East from the Dead Sea sedimentary record

Claudia Migowski, Mordechai Stein*, Sushma Prasad, Jörg F.W. Negendank, Amotz Agnon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

319 Scopus citations


A comprehensive record of lake level changes in the Dead Sea has been reconstructed using multiple, well dated sediment cores recovered from the Dead Sea shore. Interpreting the lake level changes as monitors of precipitation in the Dead Sea drainage area and the regional eastern Mediterranean palaeoclimate, we document the presence of two major wet phases (∼ 10-8.6 and ∼ 5.6-3.5 cal kyr BP) and multiple abrupt arid events during the Holocene. The arid events in the Holocene Dead Sea appear to coincide with major breaks in the Near East cultural evolution (at ∼ 8.6, 8.2, 4.2, 3.5 cal kyr BP). Wetter periods are marked by the enlargement of smaller settlements and growth of farming communities in desert regions, suggesting a parallelism between climate and Near East cultural development.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)421-431
Number of pages11
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Yehouda Enzel for constructive discussion and revision of an early draft of the manuscript, Revital Bookman and Nicolas Waldmann for helping in fieldwork, and for fruitful conversations. The GFZ team led by Jens Mingram carried out the drilling at the Dead Sea using the Usinger set. The Dead Sea level-culture comparison was first presented in the ALDP meeting in Kyoto and then in the ICAANE conference in Berlin. We thank Profs. Y. Yasuda and H. Weiss for the kind invitations. This project was funded by the German Israeli Foundation (GIF) grant number I-805-221.8/2004.


  • Culture history
  • Dead Sea
  • Holocene
  • Near East
  • Paleoclimate
  • Paleohydrology


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