Union Académique Internationale

Possum Pincé receives the Kwang-Soo Lim Prize

Back to news

During the last General Assembly of the UAI, President Klaus Herbers announced the names of the winners of the two Early Career Researcher Awards of the UAI. The Kwang-Soo Lim Prize, so named because of the support of this patron, was awarded to Possum Pincé for her project entitled "Rapid climate changes during the Mesolithic: impact on man and environment in the southern part of the NW European plain".

Archaeological data are a powerful tool for a better understanding of the long-term relationships between climate change, ecosystem response and human adaptive behaviour. “Climate change archaeology” has the potential to significantly advance the current understanding of the key processes that were involved in the responses of ecosystems to climate change and the different strategies employed by humans to adapt to those responses.

Against the background of the current global warming, the Early Holocene, starting around 11 650 cal BP and corresponding to the Mesolithic, is a very interesting time period, particularly in relation to the North Atlantic region. The temperature rose at a mean rate of ca. 0.17°C per decade, which is close to the current warming rate, making the Mesolithic an important, though cooler palaeoanalogue for the present-day climate warming. The results of my previous project, focusing on the period prior to this warming, the Final Palaeolithic of the Late Glacial (ca. 14 650-11 650 cal BP), have indicated that there was a strong decline in population in the sandy region of N-Belgium during the last cold stage (Younger Dryas, ca. 12 800 – 11 650 cal BP), followed by a final recolonization during the Mesolithic. The Mesolithic hunter-gatherers that recolonized the sandy region of N-Belgium faced environmental changes, e.g. glacier melting, rapid sea level rise, the migration or extinction of specific plants and animals, increased drought and forest fires and lowering of ground-water levels. Many of these resonate well with what we are facing nowadays.

However, archaeologists so far have paid little attention to these relatively short and abrupt climate events, assuming that they only affected societies superficially as they lasted for a relatively short time in archaeological terms. Yet, a completely different picture emerges when one looks at similar RCC-events (Rapid Climate Change-events) that occurred in historical periods, e.g. during the late Roman period, the Carolingiaperiod and the Little Ice Age. Thanks to a variety of written and iconographic sources, it is well known that these historical cooling events had a major impact on the societies at that time. The severe and long winters, which characterized these events, had a catastrophic impact that greatly affected human and animal mortality rates, crop failure, food shortage, etc. and as such played a key role in documented famines, revolts and economic crises. In absence of such written sources, the consequences of RCC-events for prehistoric societies are much more difficult to evaluate.

The aim of this project is to study the effects (or lack thereof) of the Mesolithic cooling events on hunter-gatherers and their environment (vegetation, hydrology, geomorphology) in the Belgian and S-Dutch sand belt region.

Related Documents

  • Foto_PossumPince.jpg