In ancient times human activities were tightly related and sensitive to rainfall amounts and seasonal distribution. East Mediterranean settlements were concentrated around numerous small to large springs, such as the Judean Mountains area. The goals of this study were to determine (a) the sensitivity of total discharge, recession curve, and response time of such springs to annual precipitation patterns, and (b) how spring hydrology responds to series of drought or wet years and to transitions from drought to normal and/or wet episodes (and vice versa). These goals were achieved by setting a finite-element hydro-geological flow model for selected perched springs that characterize the numerous springs throughout the carbonate karst terrain in the Judean Mountains. In addition, we estimated the effect of proposed regional past climate changes on the springs; in so doing, we transfer climate change to community size, livelihood and economic strength that were highly dependent on agricultural productivity. The results of the hydro-geological model revealed that these mountainous communities had the potential to prosper during historically wetter episodes and were probably adapted to short-term variability in annual rainfall. However, moderate to extreme droughts lasting only a few years could have led to a partial or even total abandonment of the springs as focal sites of intensive agricultural production. Spring drying eliminated the primary cause for the location of settlement. This occurred simultaneously in numerous settlements around the mountains of the southern Levant and therefore, must have caused dramatic economic and societal changes in the entire region, perhaps even resonating afar.
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Acknowledgments Funding for this research was provided by the Israeli Water Authority and by GLOWA— Jordan River Project [funded by the German Ministry of Science and Education (BMBF)], in collaboration with the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). We thank the Israel Hydrological Service for the spring discharge data and the Israel Meteorological Service for the rain gauge data. Three anonymous reviewers significantly contributed to the quality of the paper.