Historical landscape change in Cappadocia (central Turkey): a palaeoecological investigation of annually laminated sediments from Nar lake

Ann England, Warren Eastwood, N Roberts, Rebecca Turner, John F. Haldon

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65 Citations (Scopus)


Coupled multiproxy indicators (pollen, stable isotopes and charcoal) reconstructed from annually laminated lake sediments from Nar Golu in Cappadocia (central Turkey) complemented by documentary and archaeological evidence provide a detailed record of environmental changes and their causes from late Antiquity (AD 300) to the present day. Stable isotope data indicate marked shifts in the variability in summer drought intensity and winter-spring rainfall, but these did not coincide in time with changes in vegetation and land use shown by pollen data. Rather, human impacts appear to have been the main driver of landscape ecological changes in Cappadocia over the last two millennia. Pollen and charcoal data indicate four principal land-use phases: (i) an early Byzantine agrarian landscape characterized by cereals and tree crops, and marking the later part of the so-called Beysehir Occupation phase; (ii) a period of landscape abandonment and the establishment of secondary woodland from AD 670 to 950 coinciding with the Arab invasions of Anatolia and marking the transition from late Antiquity to the middle Byzantine period; (iii) the re-establishment of cereal-based agriculture and pastoralism from c. AD 950, with this cultural landscape being maintained through the Byzantine 'Golden Age', the Seljuk and Ottoman Empires; and (iv) agricultural intensification during the late Ottoman era and the Turkish Republic (AD 1830 to present). Charcoal fluxes indicate that prior to the twentieth century, landscape burning was most frequent at times of diminished human impact when fuel biomass increased. Pollen and historical data show remarkably close agreement in terms of the timing of landscape change, and the former suggest that rural cultural traditions were able to survive largely intact through short-lived periods of sociopolitical dislocation such as the sixth century Justinian plague and the thirteenth century Mongol invasions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1229-1245
Number of pages17
JournalThe Holocene
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2008


  • charcoal
  • pollen
  • Nar Golu
  • late Holocene
  • vegetation change
  • landscape change
  • Turkey
  • Cappadocia
  • historical evidence
  • stable isotopes
  • climate change


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