Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Adam W. Schneider

Dr. Schneider is an archaeologist and paleoclimatologist, whose research focuses on assessing the influences of environmental and cultural factors upon the decline and/or political collapse of past societies in the Near East, with a particular emphasis on the Tigris-Euphrates watershed region (colloquially known as “Greater Mesopotamia”). At CIRES, he is working with other scholars in the Environmental Observations, Modeling and Forecasting and Sold Earth Sciences divisions to develop a database system that will bring together environmental, archaeological, and historical data to assist in assessing the relative impact of specific causal factors in instances of political collapse. One of this project’s main objectives is to create a regional Mid-Late Holocene paleoclimate “mosaic” from numerous proxy records for local conditions in different parts of Greater Mesopotamia. Given that we now know that the hydroclimatological regimes of this climatically-sensitive region were varied and complex, the generation of a mosaic, based upon a series of multiple local proxies rather than one or two, would considerably improve existing models for sociopolitical impacts of drought, water scarcity, and climatic instability upon past societies situated in the Tigris-Euphrates watershed area. This mosaic approach will synthesize a variety of existing modern climate statistics and paleoclimate proxy data from sources throughout Greater Mesopotamia, the Near East, and the wider Mediterranean Basin, along with new stable isotope proxies for local conditions obtained from the analysis of archaeological samples of bone, tooth enamel, and other materials. In addition to this Holocene climate mosaic, the other primary goal of this project is to develop a database of the various cultural and natural factors that have been pointed to as causes of known instances of social disruption, crisis, or outright collapse among pre-industrial societies situated in Greater Mesopotamia. Together, these two twin databases will provide a platform that will facilitate the comparative analysis of the various environmental and social factors that influenced the political collapse of past societies.  This will enable the identification of clusters of coupled factors that consistently appear together across multiple case studies, and thus allow future research to zero in on what effects the articulation of these factors may have been not only in past cases, but also how these clusters may help us to refine existing models for the social, economic, and political impacts of present-day climate change in this volatile and geopolitically important region.