Meighan Boyd. Photo: Giorgos Maneas
Meighan Boyd. Photo: Giorgos Maneas

 

The new dissertation contributes a new high resolution climate record to the larger picture of variations in the climate of southern Greece. This research, conducted by Meighan Boyd, uses stalagmites from caves to provide information on climate variations with an end goal of being able to identify how climate impacted the societies and people who lived in the area.

Using stalagmites from Alepotrypa Cave on the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece, the results show that variations in rainfall and vegetation, as well as the degree of human activity in the cave from 6400 to 1000 years ago. Alepotrypa Cave is best known as an important Neolithic settlement.

Stalagmites as historical archive

“Alepotrypa Cave is a fantastic place to work. It has a very special atmosphere because you can clearly see the traces of the people who lived there so long ago. By studying the stalagmites from the cave, we can learn even more about their activities, including how and when they changed the climate within the cave. Stalagmites can act as a sort of historical archive, as well as a climate archive in caves where people have been living”, says Meighan Boyd, who recently completed her PhD in the field of Physical Geography at Stockholm University.

Elemental analysis of the stalagmites has contributed new information about the timing and nature of human activity within the cave in addition to a wider picture which provides a climate reconstruction covering the period up to 1000 years ago, after the cave was closed by an earthquake in the late Neolithic period.

Rapid climate variations around 4200 years ago, which have been observed in other regions, are reconstructed from the Alepotrypa Cave in high resolution for the first time in the Peloponnese. Similar rapidly drying climate is seen also at 3200 and 1600 years ago.

Cimate research and archaeology in collaboration

The factors which control the climate in the region are a complex combination of large scale processes and more regional influences. Variations in the trace elements of the stalagmites show clear indications of human impact on the cave environment, with some stalagmites showing changes related to specific activities, such as the burning of animal dung within the cave.

Meighan Boyd’s research and doctoral thesis has laid the basis for a continued research collaboration which brings together the disciplines of climate research and archaeologists at Alepotrypa Cave.