Predicting the loss of organic archaeological deposits at a regional scale in Greenland.
ABSTRACT: Across the Arctic, microbial degradation is actively destroying irreplaceable cultural and environmental records that have been preserved within archaeological deposits for millennia. Because it is not possible to survey the many sites in this remote part of the world, new methods are urgently needed to detect and assess the potential degradation. Here, we investigate organic deposits at seven archaeological sites located along the dominating west-east climatic gradient in West Greenland. We show that, regardless of age, depositional history and environmental conditions, all organic deposits are highly vulnerable to degradation. A state-of-the-art model that simulates the effect of future climate change on degradation indicates that 30-70% of the archaeological fraction of organic carbon (OC) could disappear within the next 80 years. This range reflects the variation within the climatic gradient and the future climate scenario applied (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5). All archaeological deposits are expected to experience a substantial loss, but the most rapid degradation seems to occur in the continental inland areas of the region, dominated by dry and warm summers. This suggests that organic remains from the Norse Viking Age settlers are especially under threat in the coming years.
Project description:The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average with overlooked consequences for the preservation of the rich cultural and environmental records that have been stored for millennia in archaeological deposits. In this article, we investigate the oxic degradation of different types of organic archaeological deposits located in different climatic zones in West and South Greenland. The rate of degradation is investigated based on measurements of O2 consumption, CO2 production and heat production at different temperatures and water contents. Overall, there is good consistency between the three methods. However, at one site the, O2 consumption is markedly higher than the CO2 production, highlighting the importance of combining several measures when assessing the vulnerability of organic deposits. The archaeological deposits are highly vulnerable to degradation regardless of age, depositional and environmental conditions. Degradation rates of the deposits are more sensitive to increasing temperatures than natural soils and the process is accompanied by a high microbial heat production that correlates significantly with their total carbon content. We conclude that organic archaeology in the Arctic is facing a critical challenge that requires international action.
Project description:Climate change is expected to accelerate the microbial degradation of the many extraordinary well-preserved organic archaeological deposits found in the Arctic. This could potentially lead to a major loss of wooden artefacts that are still buried within the region. Here, we carry out the first large-scale investigation of wood degradation within archaeological deposits in the Arctic. This is done based on wooden samples from 11 archaeological sites that are located along a climatic gradient in Western Greenland. Our results show that Ascomycota fungi are causing extensive soft rot decay at all sites regardless of climate and local environment, but the group is diverse and many of the species were only found once. Cadophora species known to cause soft rot in polar environments were the most abundant Ascomycota found and their occurrence in native wood samples underlines that they are present locally. Basidiomycota fungi were also present at all sites. In the majority of samples, however, these aggressive and potentially very damaging wood degraders have caused limited decay so far, probably due to unfavorable growth conditions. The presence of these wood degrading fungi suggests that archaeological wooden artefacts may become further endangered if climate change leads to more favorable growth conditions.
Project description:West Greenland has had multiple episodes of human colonization and cultural transitions over the past 4,500 y. However, the explanations for these large-scale human migrations are varied, including climatic factors, resistance to adaptation, economic marginalization, mercantile exploration, and hostile neighborhood interactions. Evaluating the potential role of climate change is complicated by the lack of quantitative paleoclimate reconstructions near settlement areas and by the relative stability of Holocene temperature derived from ice cores atop the Greenland ice sheet. Here we present high-resolution records of temperature over the past 5,600 y based on alkenone unsaturation in sediments of two lakes in West Greenland. We find that major temperature changes in the past 4,500 y occurred abruptly (within decades), and were coeval in timing with the archaeological records of settlement and abandonment of the Saqqaq, Dorset, and Norse cultures, which suggests that abrupt temperature changes profoundly impacted human civilization in the region. Temperature variations in West Greenland display an antiphased relationship to temperature changes in Ireland over centennial to millennial timescales, resembling the interannual to multidecadal temperature seesaw associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation.
Project description:delta(18)O values of mollusks recovered from near-shore marine cores in northwest Iceland quantify significant variation in seasonal temperature over the period from approximately 360 B.C. to approximately A.D. 1660. Twenty-six aragonitic bivalve specimens were selected to represent intervals of climatic interest by using core sedimentological characteristics. Carbonate powder was sequentially micromilled from shell surfaces concordant with growth banding and analyzed for stable oxygen (delta(18)O) and carbon (delta(13)C) isotope values. Because delta(18)O values record subseasonal temperature variation over the lifetime of the bivalves, these data provide the first 2,000-year secular record of North Atlantic seasonality from ca. 360 cal yr B.C. to cal yr A.D. 1660. Notable cold periods (360 B.C. to 240 B.C.; A.D. 410; and A.D. 1380 to 1420) and warm periods (230 B.C. to A.D. 140 and A.D. 640 to 760) are resolved in terms of contrast between summer and winter temperatures and seasonal temperature variability. Literature from the Viking Age (ca. 790 to 1070) during the establishment of Norse colonies (and later) in Iceland and Greenland permits comparisons between the delta(18)O temperature record and historical records, thereby demonstrating the impact of seasonal climatic extremes on the establishment, development, and, in some cases, collapse of societies in the North Atlantic.
Project description:Levänluhta is a unique archaeological site with the remains of nearly a hundred Iron Age individuals found from a water burial in Ostrobothnia, Finland. The strongest climatic downturn of the Common Era, resembling the great Fimbulvinter in Norse mythology, hit these people during the 6th century AD. This study establishes chronological, dietary, and livelihood synthesis on this population based on stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic and radiocarbon analyses on human remains, supported by multidisciplinary evidence. Extraordinarily broad stable isotopic distribution is observed, indicating three subgroups with distinct dietary habits spanning four centuries. This emphasizes the versatile livelihoods practiced at this boundary of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems. While the impact of the prolonged cold darkness of the 6th century was devastating for European communities relying on cultivation, the broad range of livelihoods provided resilience for the Levänluhta people to overcome the abrupt climatic decline.
Project description:The peach fruit fly Bactrocera zonata (Saunders) (Diptera: Tephritidae) is an important invasive species causing substantial losses to the horticulture industry worldwide. Despite the severe economic impact caused by this pest in its native and invaded range, information on its potential range expansion under changing climate remains largely unknown. In this study, we employed maximum entropy (MaxEnt) modeling approach to predict the global potential climatic suitability of B. zonata under current climate and four Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) for the year 2050. Outputs from MaxEnt were merged with Spatial Production Allocation Model. A natural dispersal model using Gaussian dispersal kernel was developed. The Areas Under Curves generated by MaxEnt were greater than 0.92 for both current and future climate change scenarios, indicating satisfactory performances of the models. Mean temperature of the coldest quarter, precipitation of driest month and temperature seasonality significantly influenced the potential establishment of B. zonata. The models indicated high climatic suitability in tropical and subtropical areas in Asia and Africa, where the species has already been recorded. Suitable areas were predicted in West, East and Central Africa and to a lesser extent in Central and South America. Future climatic scenarios models, RCP 4.5 and 8.5 show significant potential range expansion of B. zonata in Western Sahara, while RCP 4.5 highlighted expansion in Southern Africa. Contrarily, RCP 2.6 showed considerable decrease in B. zonata range expansion in Central, East and West Africa. There was increased climatic suitability of B. zonata in Egypt and Middle East under RCP 6.0. The dispersal model revealed that B. zonata could spread widely within its vicinity with decreasing infestation rates away from the source points. Our findings can help to guide biosecurity agencies in decision-making and serve as an early warning tool to safeguard against the pest invasion into unaffected areas.
Project description:The extent of population structure within Ireland is largely unknown, as is the impact of historical migrations. Here we illustrate fine-scale genetic structure across Ireland that follows geographic boundaries and present evidence of admixture events into Ireland. Utilising the 'Irish DNA Atlas', a cohort (n?=?194) of Irish individuals with four generations of ancestry linked to specific regions in Ireland, in combination with 2,039 individuals from the Peoples of the British Isles dataset, we show that the Irish population can be divided in 10 distinct geographically stratified genetic clusters; seven of 'Gaelic' Irish ancestry, and three of shared Irish-British ancestry. In addition we observe a major genetic barrier to the north of Ireland in Ulster. Using a reference of 6,760 European individuals and two ancient Irish genomes, we demonstrate high levels of North-West French-like and West Norwegian-like ancestry within Ireland. We show that that our 'Gaelic' Irish clusters present homogenous levels of ancient Irish ancestries. We additionally detect admixture events that provide evidence of Norse-Viking gene flow into Ireland, and reflect the Ulster Plantations. Our work informs both on Irish history, as well as the study of Mendelian and complex disease genetics involving populations of Irish ancestry.
Project description:Exploring the role of changing climates in human evolution is currently impeded by a scarcity of climatic information at the same temporal scale as the human behaviors documented in archaeological sites. This is mainly caused by high uncertainties in the chronometric dates used to correlate long-term climatic records with archaeological deposits. One solution is to generate climatic data directly from archaeological materials representing human behavior. Here we use oxygen isotope measurements of Bos/Bison tooth enamel to reconstruct summer and winter temperatures in the Late Pleistocene when Neandertals were using the site of La Ferrassie. Our results indicate that, despite the generally cold conditions of the broader period and despite direct evidence for cold features in certain sediments at the site, Neandertals used the site predominantly when climatic conditions were mild, similar to conditions in modern day France. We suggest that due to millennial scale climate variability, the periods of human activity and their climatic characteristics may not be representative of average conditions inferred from chronological correlations with long-term climatic records. These results highlight the importance of using direct routes, such as the high-resolution archives in tooth enamel from anthropogenically accumulated faunal assemblages, to establish climatic conditions at a human scale.
Project description:The failure of Viking Lander thermal volatilization (TV) (without or with thermal degradation)-gas chromatography (GC)-MS experiments to detect organics suggests chemical rather than biological interpretations for the reactivity of the martian soil. Here, we report that TV-GC-MS may be blind to low levels of organics on Mars. A comparison between TV-GC-MS and total organics has been conducted for a variety of Mars analog soils. In the Antarctic Dry Valleys and the Atacama and Libyan Deserts we find 10-90 mug of refractory or graphitic carbon per gram of soil, which would have been undetectable by the Viking TV-GC-MS. In iron-containing soils (jarosites from Rio Tinto and Panoche Valley) and the Mars simulant (palogonite), oxidation of the organic material to carbon dioxide (CO(2)) by iron oxides and/or their salts drastically attenuates the detection of organics. The release of 50-700 ppm of CO(2) by TV-GC-MS in the Viking analysis may indicate that an oxidation of organic material took place. Therefore, the martian surface could have several orders of magnitude more organics than the stated Viking detection limit. Because of the simplicity of sample handling, TV-GC-MS is still considered the standard method for organic detection on future Mars missions. We suggest that the design of future organic instruments for Mars should include other methods to be able to detect extinct and/or extant life.
Project description:Despite a growing body of evidence concerning accelerated organic degradation at archaeological sites, there have been few follow-up investigations to examine the status of the remaining archaeological materials in the ground. To address the question of archaeo-organic preservation, we revisited the Swedish, Mesolithic key-site Ageröd and could show that the bone material had been subjected to an accelerated deterioration during the last 75 years, which had destroyed the bones in the areas where they had previously been best preserved. To understand why this has happened and to quantify and qualify the extent of the organic degradation, we here analyse the soil chemistry, bone histology, collagen preservation and palaeobotany at the site. Our results show that the soil at Ageröd is losing, or has already lost, its preservative and buffering qualities, and that pH-values in the still wet areas of the site have dropped to levels where no bone preservation is possible. Our results suggest that this acidification process is enhanced by the release of sulphuric acid as pyrite in the bones oxidizes. While we are still able to find well-preserved palaeobotanical remains, they are also starting to corrode through re-introduced oxygen into the archaeological layers. While some areas of the site have been more protected through redeposited soil on top of the archaeological layers, all areas of Ageröd are rapidly deteriorating. Lastly, while it is still possible to perform molecular analyses on the best-preserved bones from the most protected areas, this opportunity will likely be lost within a few decades. In conclusion, we find that if we, as a society, wish to keep this valuable climatic, environmental and cultural archive, both at Ageröd and elsewhere, the time to act is now and if we wait we will soon be in a situation where this record will be irretrievably lost forever.