Climate change, mobility and transformation. Human-environment interactions in (pre)historical societies of the Arctic

The focus of the project is based on human-environment interactions of (pre)historical societies in the Arctic. The primary question of the proposed research plan is aimed at how climatic conditions influenced humans and hence the use of their resources from 2500 B.C. to the present time.The extreme climatic conditions of the Arctic require continuous adaptation of human and animal survival strategies to nature. They can be documented in studies of climate and archaeology. These mostly small-scale and regionally based studies are complemented by one of the best climate archives in the world. Thanks to larger projects of the past decades, research data from all disciplines and time periods are available in published form. Nevertheless, there is a lack of overarching studies linking archaeological and climatic datasets to reveal human-environment interactions.

General map of the study area (zoom)Map: Mirco Brunner. Data: Natural Earth Data (, CAFF/ABDS GeoNetwork catalogue (, CARD 2.0 (


The aim is to develop models of mobility and transformation in the Arctic - based on the combination of natural science and archaeological data. The insights gained will be related to selected, social-anthropological case studies. Thus, the following archaeologically relevant aspects can be answered: Interaction and networks, mobility and migration as well as trade economy and political economy.

The project is implemented by means of a multi-methodological and interdisciplinary approach that correlates climatological and demographic proxies. For this purpose, anthropogenic legacies, radiocarbon dating as well as climate data from ice cores will be statistically evaluated quantitatively and qualitatively. Thus, it is possible to generate models of human-environment interactions. Thus the complex interactions between humans and the environment of the last 4500 years become clear. It can be worked out how humans used a habitat characterized by extreme conditions over thousands of years and how they themselves helped to shape it.

The results of this work will help to understand past processes and create a relation to current climate developments. The predicted climate warming will particularly affect the Arctic regions, whose populations will continue to be confronted with enormous economic and social changes. The large-scale destruction of previously well-preserved settlement sites and necropolises is already becoming apparent today and is likely to increase rapidly in the future. Therefore, sustainable research concepts are needed for the Arctic, which are available to the scientific community to meet these challenges.

Project in the SNSF grant database