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Central Mongolian lake sediments reveal new insights on climate change and equestrian empires in the Eastern Steppes

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Bayarsaikhan,  Jamsranjav
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

Zech,  Roland
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Struck, J., Bliedtner, M., Strobel, P., Taylor, W., Biskop, S., Plessen, B., et al. (2022). Central Mongolian lake sediments reveal new insights on climate change and equestrian empires in the Eastern Steppes. Scientific Reports, 12(1): 2829. doi:10.1038/s41598-022-06659-w.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-10F8-C
Abstract
The repeated expansion of East Asian steppe cultures was a key driver of Eurasian history, forging new social, economic, and biological links across the continent. Climate has been suggested as important driver of these poorly understood cultural expansions, but paleoclimate records from the Mongolian Plateau often suffer from poor age control or ambiguous proxy interpretation. Here, we use a combination of geochemical analyses and comprehensive radiocarbon dating to establish the first robust and detailed record of paleohydrological conditions for Lake Telmen, Mongolia, covering the past ~ 4000 years. Our record shows that humid conditions coincided with solar minima, and hydrological modeling confirms the high sensitivity of the lake to paleoclimate changes. Careful comparisons with archaeological and historical records suggest that in the vast semi-arid grasslands of eastern Eurasia, solar minima led to reduced temperatures, less evaporation, and high biomass production, expanding the power base for pastoral economies and horse cavalry. Our findings suggest a crucial link between temperature dynamics in the Eastern Steppe and key social developments, such as the emergence of pastoral empires, and fuel concerns that global warming enhances water scarcity in the semi-arid regions of interior Eurasia.