Baikal Archaeology Project

About the Project

Paleoenvironment Module

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Project Description

This module addresses questions regarding the environmental context in which regional Neolithic culture change and human behaviour at Lake Baikal are embedded. To do this, Climate and Landscape Modelling are emphasized.

The models provide a dynamic paleoenvironmental context to analyze spatial and temporal patterns in subsistence, diet and mobility, social organization, demographic trends and all other meaningful cultural variables. The models also allow for predictions regarding the distributions and abundances of plant and animal communities (terrestrial and aquatic) relevant to Cis-Baikal prehistoric hunter-gatherers as implied by the archaeological information.

Consequently, we will be able to assess how regional resources were actually used by pre-and post-hiatus people and to what extent and how the differential cultural patterns observed in the archaeological record were driven by ecological or cultural factors, or both

(1) Climate Modeling

Holocene environmental change in the Lake Baikal region is being evaluated through the integration of global, regional and local climatic datasets. First, numerical simulations of global Holocene climatic conditions are being performed at 250-year intervals between 3000 and 9000 years BP.

These models serve as a launching point for the assessment of Lake Baikal Neolithic paleoenvironments at even finer spatial scales using high resolution regional models whose boundary condition datasets may be taken directly from the global model. Microregional models for the three critical study areas (Angara, upper Lena and the Ol'khon area on Lake Baikal) will be developed.

Two different kinds of field data, lacustrine and terrestrial, are being used to test the validity of the simulated models. These proxy data will also provide site specific controls for the period and localities in question. Together with the numerical models, these data allow us to build even more detailed models of the climatic and environmental conditions existing throughout the Holocene and subsistence resources that might have been available in the Baikal region.

(2) Landscape Simulation

The next step is modelling changes in the biophysical landscape that took place during the pre- and post-hiatus times. This is being accomplished using a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) approach in which we proceed through a series of steps beginning with the description of the present physical landscape, followed by a recreation of some physical landscape characteristics as they would have been during the past. We are using steps of approximately 250 years to correspond to paleo-climatological data. The main elements to be considered are the land surface morphology and hydrologic features, and the plant and animal communities. The research will require both resource satellite data and digital elevation data for laboratory analyses combined with field data for confirmation of laboratory results.

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