Climate Change, Ecological Transitions and the First Plague Pandemic in the Sixth Century AD

The lecture will be held in English.

A number of areas across the globe experienced notable climatic changes in the sixth century AD, particularly the Mediterranean region. A phase of erratic weather – recently termed the Late Antique Little Ice Age (LALIA) – commenced towards the middle of the century, spurred largely by a succession of volcanic eruptions in AD 536, 539/540, and 547. While environmental change resulting from the changes in climate cannot be assumed for the entire ancient Mediterranean region, many areas do exhibit environmental and societal transitions that cohere with dramatic climate change as the cause. Around the same time as the onset of the LALIA, the first wave of the Justnianic Plague (AD 541-544) broke out in Egypt, and from there spread to the Near East, Europe, and as far northwest as Britain. Disentangling the effects of the plague from the effects of the LALIA is, by itself, a difficult task. Further complicating the issue of disentanglement, sixth-century climate change may be partly responsible for the plague’s arrival to Mediterranean shores.

This talk reviews the most recent paleoclimatic evidence for climate change in the sixth-century Mediterranean world, evaluates the ecological changes that most likely followed and their impact on Mediterranean civilizations, and considers the relationship between climatic and ecological change and the first wave of the Justinianic Plague. The talk will also discuss the impact of both the LALIA and the plague, and the difficulties encountered in distinguishing which is responsible for the societal transitions observed in the archaeology.

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Meeting ID: 958 8869 1757
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