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Environmental determinism in Holocene research: causality or coincidence?

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Abstract:

The past decade has seen a revival of environmental determinism in palaeoenvironmental research, with palaeoclimatic shifts implicated in the collapse of many past civilizations. Implicit in these studies is a belief that the observed cultural transitions can be causally related to the magnitude of climatic change. However, examination of the processes of these declines suggests that many exhibit patterns characteristic of complexity cascading within self-organized systems. If so, the nonlinear nature of these systems’ responses to external forcing means that the assumption of causality in many of these cases should be considered questionable.

Keywords: Akkad; civilization collapse; environmental determinism; marginality; nonlinearity; palaeoclimate

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2005.00634.x

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Wales Aberystwyth, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3DB, Email: pvc@aber.ac.uk 2: Palaeoecology Laboratory (PLUS), School of Geography, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ

Publication date: 2005-09-01

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