At The Hague – Hungary v. Slovakia
“The environmental stakes in this case are very high: The wetlands involved are the remains of the only inland sea delta in Europe. This delta survived since the last Ice Age, when the Pannon Sea filled the Carpathian Basin. Some 400 unique species have survived from what used to be this Pannon sea delta, and what today is called the Szigetkoz (“the region of a thousand islands”–in Hungarian), where, since the rerouting, not a single island remains,–as there is no water.” Bela Liptak, Yale
In brief, the influence of the 8200 calBP event is most easily recognised on Cyprus and Central Anatolia. Here, the large and long-flourishing settlement at Çatalhöyük-East was abruptly deserted around 8200 calBP. We speculate that this was most likely due to irregularities in the water-supply of this large settlement. Following 8200 calBP, the site was re-occupied, but with a shift of the settlement by c. 200 m to a new position (Çatalhöyük-West). This settlement shift marks the beginning of the Pottery Neolithic (sensu strictu) in Central Anatolia. It is further intriguing that many other major archaeological sites in the Eastern Mediterranean are alternatively either first occupied at c. 8200 calBP (in North-West Anatolia: Hoca Çeşme IV); in Greece: Nea Nikomedeia, Achilleion, Sesklo; in Bulgaria: Ovcarovo-Platoto) or else deserted (in Cyprus: Khirokitia and Kalavassos-Tenta). Conversely, in the regions under study we have not been able to identify any sites with clear stratigraphic evidence for a continuous settlement extending through the 8200 calBP event. It appears remarkable, that – following the (more or less) simultaneous desertion of Khirokitia and Kalavassos-Tenta around 8200 calBP – the island of Cyprus was apparently deserted and remained uninhabited for more than 1500 years. We furthermore observe that the major neolithic tell settlement at Mersin in Cilicia (Yumuktepe) was deserted during the time of the 8.2 ka calBP event – and was immediately reoccupied following the event. Major changes in cultural trajectories are also to be observed in North Syria (e.g. Tell Sabi Abyad)
Our observations first of all highlight the major weakness of previous Neolithisation models, all of which lack any plausible mechanism to explain the unexpectedly rapid population movements in Central Anatolia around 8200 calBP (i.e. the transition from the Late Neolithic to the Early Chalcolithic). With the notable exception of the clearly more flexible approach of Mehmet Özdoğan, according to which the Neolithisation spread from within a “large cultural formation zone”, none of the other diffusion models correctly describe the speed with which the earliest farmers moved into South- East Europe. For example, if we assume that the migration may be described by frequent relocation of the settlements over short distances, which is the base of the calculations put forward by Ammermann and Cavalli- Sforza, then the Neolithic “wave-of-advance” can only proceed at average speeds less than 1 km/year. The major limiting factors are food production and birth rate. However, on the basis of the site chronologies and geographic distances described in our paper, we conclude that the dispersion speeds are more in the order of 1000-5000 km per 100-200 years. As such, the neolithic population is expanding at a factor of more than ten times more rapidly (depending on the assumed settlement area) than can be explained by traditional diffusion models. Such expansion rates are well above all limits based on realistic human growth rate calculations. Indeed, all such calculations lose their meaning – vis-a-vis the causal mechanisms for migration now indicated by the 8200 calBP aridity scenario. The farmers would be forced to migrate, quasi-immediately and with few alternatives, if they wished to survive yet another year of crop failures and encroaching famine.
Such a scenario of sudden population relocation is not unusual in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was witnessed before in the southern Levant, when all of Palestine and the Jordan Valley were suddenly abandoned c. 7500 calBC, with the populations moving up onto the Jordanian plateau . Due to the major drop in the availability of archaeological charcoals dating to the interval 7500 and 7100 calBC (Fig.), we now have indications that similar processes may indeed be acting simultaneously in Turkey. But we have argued previously that such migration processes could well be caused by over-population and over-stress on local ecological habitats, and we are quite reluctant to any potential overestimation of the effects of climate-forcing on prehistoric societies. However – due the sheer magnitude of the 8200 calBP climate event – in the present paper we consider it necessary to envisage a primary climatic background to many of the societal responses we observe in this time range.