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Humans are remarkably adaptable, and our ancestors have survived evolving challenges like the changing climate in the past. Now, research is providing insight into how people who lived over 5,000 years ago managed to adapt, Science Daily reported on March 25, 2021.

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Dr. Madelynn von Baeyer, now at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, University of Connecticut (UConn) Associate Professor of Anthropology Alexia Smith, and Prof. Sharon Steadman from The State University of New York College at Cortland recently published a paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports looking at how people living in what is now Turkey adapted agricultural practices to survive as conditions became more arid.

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The work was conducted as von Baeyer's doctoral research at Çadr Höyük, a site located in Turkey that is unique because it has been continuously occupied for thousands of years.

Von Baeyer explains the research process: "Archaeobotanical research has three, vastly different, main stages: data collection, identification, and data analysis. Data collection is in the field, on an archaeological dig, getting soil samples and extracting the seeds from the dirt; identification is in the lab, identifying all the plant remains you collected from the field; and data analysis to tell a full story. I love every step."

The focus was on a time period called the Late Chalcolithic, roughly 3700-3200 years before the common era (BCE). By referencing paleo-climatic data and Steadman's very detailed phasing at Çadır Höyük, the researchers were able to discern how lifestyles changed as the climate rapidly shifted in what is called the 5.2 kya event, an extended period of aridity and drought at the end of the fourth millennium BCE. With climate change, there are lots of strategies that can be used to adapt, says Smith, "They could have intensified, diversified, extensified, or abandoned the region entirely. In this case they extensified the area of land used and diversified the herds of animals they relied upon."

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Smith added "We know they were herding cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs, and we saw a shift to animals that are grazers. They all have a different diet, and by diversifying you are maximizing the range of potential calories that can eventually be consumed by humans."

By employing this mixed strategy, the people of Çadır Höyük were ensuring their survival as the climate became increasingly dry. Smith further added that at the same time they continued to grow wheat, barley, chickpeas, and lentils, among other crops for humans, while the animals grazed on crops not suitable for human consumption -- a strategy to maximize resources and resilience.


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