Mobility as resilience capacity in northern Alpine Neolithic settlement communities

Heitz, Caroline; Hinz, Martin; Laabs, Julian; Hafner, Albert (2021). Mobility as resilience capacity in northern Alpine Neolithic settlement communities. Archaeological review from cambridge, 36(1), pp. 75-106. Victoire Press Ltd

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Resilience has recently become an insightful conceptual framework that helps scholars explore how communities respond to external shocks, such as environmental changes. In prehistoric archaeology, this notion has primarily been investigated using the Resilience Theory (RT) and the Adaptive Cycle model (AC), developed by Gunderson and Holling, which are applied to adaptive systems in order to understand the source and role of change. However, such systems-theoretical approaches, which derive from ecology and psychology, bear the danger of leading to a top-down application of deductive models when appropriated to the fragmented archaeological sources. In other words, the risk is to assume the RT and AC model first and then to fit archaeological data within those assumptions.
In this paper, we propose an alternative, inductive bottom-up approach in which we define resilience as a set of adaptive capacities grounded in social practices that enabled communities to cope with and respond to challenges. We use the Neolithic wetland sites from the Three-Lakes Region in the northern Alpine foreland of western Switzerland as a case study. These sites provide an abundance of archaeological and palaeoecological information, which can be used to examine the resilience of settlement communities to climate fluctuations. We will evaluate whether a causal relationship might have existed between climate changes in the period between 3600 and 3200 BCE and an observable decline of settlement activities on the shores of the large lakes. In addition to year-accurate reconstructions of settlement histories, we will apply statistical significance tests on archaeological and palaeoclimatic time series to question the correlation and causality between settlement activities and climate fluctuations. Besides the settlement frequency curve, we will use the radioactive beryllium-10 isotope (Be10) content in the GISP2 ice core from the Greenland Ice Sheet and the δ18O values of well-dated speleothems as proxies for temperature and precipitation, respectively. The inferred hypothesis, i.e. that periodically rising lake levels led to the flooding of former inhabitable spaces on the lakes’ shore zones and forced communities to relocate their settlements to the hinterland, will further be tested. Therefore, we apply multivariate statistics to pollen data to evaluate human influence on vegetation (land clearing) taken as settlement activity beyond the shores of large lakes. In addition, we examine the relevance of transformations in pottery styles as further indicators for spatial mobility.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of Archaeological Sciences > Pre- and Early History

UniBE Contributor:

Heitz, Caroline Franziska, Hinz, Martin, Laabs, Julian, Hafner, Albert


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




Victoire Press Ltd




Caroline Franziska Heitz

Date Deposited:

23 Jul 2021 08:29

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:51

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Archaeology, Climate Change, Community Resilience, Climate Change Adaptation, Resilience, Risk and Vulnerability, Neolithic Archaeology, Resilience (Sustainability), Risk and Vulnerability - Natural Hazards, Vulnerability, Social Practice, Neolithic Europe, Wetland Archaeology, Climate Change and Environmental Archaeology, Resilience Theory (in archaeology), Resilience (architecture)




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