Kama Early Iron Age

Climate and other environmental changes trigger cultural transformation together with political and socio-economical causes. This human-environment interplay is particularly strong at environmental limits of human existence, characterized by harsh climate conditions. An exceptional example of human-environment interactions is provided by the Early Iron Age (EIA) societies in the boreal zone of the mid-Kama region of the European pre-Urals between 8th century BCE and 5th-6th century AD. Archaeologists suggest two hypotheses explaining the development of the EIA populations here: (i) amelioration of environmental conditions within the Roman climatic optimum led to a rapid development of the economy and population of the EIA cultures in the mid-Kama region after the 3rd century BCE leading to a transformation of the Ananyino to Glyadenovo culture; (ii) climate cooling starting in the 4th-5th century AD led to a lower biological productivity, provoking competition for meadows and arable land and finally an exodus from the territory of the mid-Kama, leading to the appearance of two new cultures: Lomovatovo and Nevolino. I aim to test these hypotheses using palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. In order to reach this aim, I plan to reconstruct plant and land use of the EIA societies inhabiting mid-Kama region and their impact on the vegetation and landscape. The research will be carried out using on-site and off-site radiocarbon-dated archives. The multi-proxy analysis will combine traditional (palynology, loss-on-ignition, archaeobotany, anthracology, wood anatomy studies) and innovative methods (non-pollen palynomorph analysis, macrocharcoal analysis, isotope studies). Based on pollen data, land cover reconstructions will be carried out using current models REVEALS, LOVE and the Multiple Scenario Approach. In addition, the best modern analogue technique will be applied to estimate climate and forest cover change. The obtained data will be evaluated with respect to the research hypotheses. By the end of the project, we will have reconstructed the plant and land use of the EIA cultures over time, evaluated human-environment interactions and the role of climate change in human migration processes. The results will contribute to our understanding of the subsistence economy of EIA populations in the boreal zone and their impact on the environment.


Shumilovskikh L.S., Schmidt M., Pereskokov M., Sannikov P. (2020) Postglacial history of East European boreal forests in the mid-Kama region, pre-Urals, Russia. Boreas, 49, 526-543. DOI: 10.1111/bor.12436.


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft: project 462653676