Scientists at the University of Bristol have recently published a new study that reveals the Neolithic residents of Catalhoyuk in Turkey responded extraordinarily well to the climate change that their society faced 8,200 years ago.
According to Phys.org, the new research focused on both the Chalcolithic and Neolithic people of Catalhoyuk, which was settled with a substantial number of people between the years 7500 to 5700 BC. The climate change that occurred to their civilization caused temperatures to plummet worldwide, which was the direct result of glaciers that emptied large amounts of cold water into the North Atlantic.
This period of climate change is estimated to have lasted for around 160 years and caused conditions to become not just markedly colder, but also much drier throughout Southwest Asia and Europe.
By examining animal bones that have been excavated at the site, scientists have concluded that during the time of climate change, these Neolithic settlers gravitated more towards goats and sheep, as these animals responded much better to drought than other cattle, and goats are very efficient at producing milk and also don’t require the same large grazing areas that cows would.
Scientists also noticed that the bones of many of these animals had more cut marks on them than would normally be expected, showing that the Neolithic residents changed their butchering methods by taking more meat off the bones, extracting any meat possible during desperate times where starvation may have been imminent otherwise.
Dr. Melanie Roffet-Salque, the lead author of the new study, noted that “changes in precipitation patterns in the past are traditionally obtained using ocean or lake sediment cores.”
However, scientists involved in this new research were able to use cooking pots to help them learn more about this period of climate change for the Neolithic people. With the recovery of around 13,000 fragments of pottery at the site, there were certainly plenty of objects to study.
“This is the first time that such information is derived from cooking pots. We have used the signal carried by the hydrogen atoms from the animal fats trapped in the pottery vessels after cooking. This opens up a completely new avenue of investigation—the reconstruction of past climate at the very location where people lived using pottery.”
Professor Richard Evershed, a co-author of the new study, has said that examination of the cooking pots helped greatly to reveal how the Neolithic people of Catalhoyuk would have dealt with climate change.
“It is really significant that the climate models of the event are in complete agreement with the H signals we see in the animal fats preserved in the pots. The models point to seasonal changes farmers would have had to adapt to—overall colder temperatures and drier summers—which would have had inevitable impacts on agriculture.”
The new study that determines the Neolithic residents of Catalhoyuk coped well in times of climate change has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).