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Dr. Emmanuele Russo


Landscape Archaeology and Architecture (LAA)

Physische Geographie

Universität Bern
Philosophisch-naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Physikalisches Institut
Hochschulstrasse 6
3012 Bern

Master degree in Environmental Physics, Università degli Studi di Catania (Italy)

Bachelor degree in Physics, Università degli Studi di Catania (Italy)

2009 – 2010     
Erasmus student at the Univerisity Michel de Montaigne of Bordeaux (France)

Mid-to-Late Holocene Climate and Ecological Changes over Europe

The natural vegetation of the region north of the Black Sea is characterized by a narrow strip of steppe bordered by forest-steppe and cold mixed forest further north. Archaeo-zoological evidence suggests that the cultures inhabiting this area from Mid-to-Late-Holocene changed subsistence strategies of hunting game and sheep and goat husbandry to cattle husbandry. In this project a possible connection to climate and ecological change will be investigated from a multidisciplinary perspective. For that purpose a complex model chain of regional climate, ecological, zoological and human-energy-balance models will be developed. First, a regional climate model will be optimized for this region. Secondly, a vegetation model is applied to simulate changes in biomes, i.e. uninfluenced natural vegetation. Then the consumption of different animals will be investigated to estimate the number of animals of a certain species that may be fed in the environment simulated by the vegetation model. Employing expertise from agricultural science and human-energy balance knowledge the number of humans, that could be sustained by the meat production, can be modelled. Overall, employing multiple models, climate conditions and its impact on subsistence strategies in the region north of the Black Sea will be investigated. The results will be fed back to the archaeological community and contribute to the understanding of cultural development in the region.

In this project a complex experimental framework consisting of climate and ecological models at different temporal and spatial resolution and proxy reconstructions has been developed. The main goal of the research was to reconstruct climatic and ecological conditions during the mid-to-late Holocene, from 7000 years ago to present days. The work covered different areas, from the global to the local scale, with a main focus on Europe.

Research led to some relevant results. From a modelling point of view, it allowed to gain information on the added value of high resolution climate models for the study of past climate changes. Additionally, results have allowed to get a better physical understanding of past climate and ecological changes that characterized Europe during the mid-to-late Holocene and to gain information on the possible reasons for disagreement between climate models and proxy reconstructions for the region and period of study. Finally, the results of the project have been used in collaboration with other researchers of the Excellence Cluster Topoi for the conduction of interdisciplinary climate-archaeological studies.

Main outcomes and activities

  • The results of the project have contributed to a PhD dissertation with the title: ”Mid-to-late Holocene Climate and Ecological Changes over Europe”.
  • Results have been presented at different international conferences, including the American Geophysical Union 2015 conference in San Francisco (USA) and the XIX INQUA congress 2015 in Nagoya (Japan).
  • Different seminars have been held at the institute of Meteorology of the Freie Universität Berlin and within the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies during the time of the research.
  • The research included several cooperation projects, involving international partners such as the Joint Research Centre of the European commission, as well as other researchers of the Freie Universität Berlin.

This dissertation project was successfully completed within the Research Group A-2 The political ecology of non-sedentary communities of the Excellence Cluster 264 Topoi.