Central Mongolian lake sediments reveal new insights on climate change and equestrian empires in the Eastern Steppes

Struck, Julian; Bliedtner, Marcel; Strobel, Paul; Taylor, William; Biskop, Sophie; Plessen, Birgit; Klaes, Björn; Bittner, Lucas; Jamsranjav, Bayarsaikhan; Salazar, Gary; Szidat, Sönke; Brenning, Alexander; Bazarradnaa, Enkhtuya; Glaser, Bruno; Zech, Michael; Zech, Roland (2022). Central Mongolian lake sediments reveal new insights on climate change and equestrian empires in the Eastern Steppes. Scientific reports, 12(1), p. 2829. Springer Nature 10.1038/s41598-022-06659-w

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The repeated expansion of East Asian steppe cultures was a key driver of Eurasian history, forging new social, economic, and biological links across the continent. Climate has been suggested as important driver of these poorly understood cultural expansions, but paleoclimate records from the Mongolian Plateau often suffer from poor age control or ambiguous proxy interpretation. Here, we use a combination of geochemical analyses and comprehensive radiocarbon dating to establish the first robust and detailed record of paleohydrological conditions for Lake Telmen, Mongolia, covering the past ~ 4000 years. Our record shows that humid conditions coincided with solar minima, and hydrological modeling confirms the high sensitivity of the lake to paleoclimate changes. Careful comparisons with archaeological and historical records suggest that in the vast semi-arid grasslands of eastern Eurasia, solar minima led to reduced temperatures, less evaporation, and high biomass production, expanding the power base for pastoral economies and horse cavalry. Our findings suggest a crucial link between temperature dynamics in the Eastern Steppe and key social developments, such as the emergence of pastoral empires, and fuel concerns that global warming enhances water scarcity in the semi-arid regions of interior Eurasia.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences (DCBP)

UniBE Contributor:

Salazar Quintero, Gary Abdiel, Szidat, Sönke


500 Science > 540 Chemistry




Springer Nature




Sönke Szidat

Date Deposited:

25 Feb 2022 14:22

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 16:09

Publisher DOI:


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