Tree, Wheat, Human? Tree Rings As Proxies For Prehistoric Economic Success

Hinz, Martin; Bleicher, Niels (5 September 2019). Tree, Wheat, Human? Tree Rings As Proxies For Prehistoric Economic Success (Unpublished). In: 25th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists. Bern. 04. - 07.09.2019.

It is well known that climate is not static and has changed in various degrees over the Holocene. It is also well established that plants, such as trees, but also crops, have reacted to certain climate changes. Influences on human societies are mediated through for example, poor harvests, which are not least triggered by negative climatic conditions. If we want to investigate the local effects of climatic changes on economic processes, what could be more obvious than to use the trees for this purpose, which were exposed to the same conditions? After all, the analysis of tree ring data forms the backbone of paleoclimatological assessments.
But are climate proxies like tree rings suitable gauges for economic success and viable indicators for an important source of social stress? And if so – on which spatial and temporal scale and for which societies? A simple transfer of tree rings to cereal harvests is not possible. Different species on given soils react differently to a variety of weather-parameters at different times of the year. In addition, archaeologically obtained tree ring curves are often of a significantly different quality (e.g. shorter) than those explicitly obtained for the purpose of climate reconstruction.
We evaluate published and new, unpublished studies on the problem of reconstructing cereal harvests from tree rings in different regions and epochs. We present inspiring approaches and some failed attempts and possible pitfalls. Important aspects are found in the phenomena of signal stability and microregional differences. We want to highlight new methodological developments in the utilization of tree ring data for ecological-economic reconstruction and discuss the possibilities with case studies.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of Archaeological Sciences > Pre- and Early History

UniBE Contributor:

Hinz, Martin


900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)




Martin Hinz

Date Deposited:

20 Apr 2020 16:44

Last Modified:

24 May 2023 14:27


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