A multi-proxy shallow marine record for Mid-to-Late Holocene climate variability, Thera eruptions and cultural change in the Eastern Mediterranean

Simona Avnaim-Katav, Ahuva Almogi-Labin, Aya Schneider-Mor, Onn Crouvi, Aaron A. Burke, Konstantine V. Kremenetski, Glen M. MacDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The River Nile catchment is considered the major source of nutrient-rich freshwater and sediment draining into the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Thus, exceptional high-resolution record from the Nile Littoral Cell likely traces changes in the Nile outflows related to climatic changes driven by the monsoonal system. This study used multi-proxy analyses combining sedimentological, geochemical and organic stable isotope data along with foraminiferal data in a southeastern Levantine inner shelf sedimentary sequence to understand Mid - to Late Holocene northeast African climate variability. The palynological record is used to reconstruct local scale changes in the regional vegetation related to the Mediterranean climate system. The analyzed records reveal multi-decadal to centennial pacing of paleoceanographic and paleoclimatic changes, with most prominent events recorded at 4.28, ∼3.6 and at 2.9 kyr BP. These transitional periods characterized by simultaneous high δ15N values and low total organic carbon (TOC) suggest drier climatic conditions, decrease in Nile discharge, leading to lower nutrient supply. A stable and arid climate during Mid-Late Holocene (∼4.5–3.6 cal kyr BP) associated with a weaker monsoon system as well as with a weaker Mediterranean climate system is indicated based on high and constant sedimentation rates (∼400 cm kyr−1), along with relatively stable values and only occasional weak fluctuations documented in all of the proxies. This climatic pattern is punctuated by a peak in maximum aridity at 4.28 kyr BP evidenced by low TOC value and low arboreal pollen (AP) and Artemisia/Chenopodiaceae (A/C) pollen ratios and the sharp decline in the abundance of benthic foraminifera Cribroelphidium poeyanum and Valvulineria bradyana. This change corresponds with the well-studied 4.2 kyr BP drought event in the Middle East, Mesopotamia and south Asia. During the late Holocene (∼3.6–2.8 cal. Kyr BP) the climate became unstable characterized by shifts between relatively wetter and drier conditions as evident in considerable fluctuations in all proxies. Maximum positive excursions of TOC values, C/N ratio along with high dominance of opportunistic foraminiferal species (e.g., Ammonia tepida) indicate northeast African wetter conditions and increased Nile discharge at 3.5, 3.3, 3.2 and 3.0 kyr BP. The distinct and abrupt transition from a stable to an unstable climate regime around 3.6 kyr BP may have been influenced by the Thera volcanic eruption. Thus, the sedimentary record investigated in this study may provide evidence for the impacts of this well-known volcanic eruption not just on the climate regime in the Levant but also on the ancient Near East and Egypt.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-148
Number of pages16
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Benthic foraminifera
  • Mid-to Late Holocene
  • Organic geochemistry
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Pollen
  • Sedimentation
  • Southeastern Mediterranean shelf
  • Thera eruption


Dive into the research topics of 'A multi-proxy shallow marine record for Mid-to-Late Holocene climate variability, Thera eruptions and cultural change in the Eastern Mediterranean'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this