Climate History of Anatolia Project

Location: various

Years: 2000-2002, 2010-2011

Director: Neil Roberts

Participants: Warren Eastwood, Matt Jones, Sevinç Kapan, Mustafa Karabiyikoğlu, Anne Mather, Ayhan Ilgar (2001), Catherine Kuzucuoğlu (2001), Damase Mouralis (2001), Özgür Sakitas (2001), Ebru Sezen (2001), Sukru Yurtsever (2001), Ann England (2002), Jackie Homan (2002), Gwyn Jones (2002), Inga Rodenberg (2002), Mark Shortland (2002), Şükran Şahbudak (2002), Hakan Yiğitbaşıoğlu (2002), Sam Allcock, Gwyn Jones, Ryan Jones, Fabien Arnaud, Emmanuel Malet, Ersin Ateş, Ceran Şekeryapan, Jonathan Dean, Çetin Şenkul, Melanie Leng, Gregory Busby, Samantha Allcock, Michele Massa

Funding: BIAA, MTA General Directorate, National Geographic Society, University of Plymouth, NERC grant


A three-year research project was initiated in 2000 with the goal of producing a well-dated regional history of climate change in Anatolia, which could contribute to the larger debate about the relationship between climate variations and cultural change.  The collaborative project was undertaken by the MTA Institute (Turkey’s Geological Survey) and the CNRS Physical Geography Laboratory at Meudon.  The first season saw a preliminary survey undertaken of 24 lakes in central, northwest, and southwest Anatolia. 

Of these, two lakes were selected to be the subject of intensive investigation during the project’s second season: Nar gölü in Cappadocia and Burdur gölü in southwest Turkey, which were studied in July 2001.  The former is a crater lake; the lake bed was surveyed from an inflatable boat, and a Livingstone corer was used to core its bottom sediments.  A 360cm long sequence of cores was obtained, representing a span of approximately 1700 years.  At Burdur, the deep lake basin was also cored (using a Kullenberg gravity core) at about 60m depth.  Some of the beds of shoreline or deltaic sands had been tectonically deformed, and these were recorded and sampled.  Gölhisar and Gölçuk lakes were also studied, and sediment core samples were collected from each.  The sediment samples were sent to the UK for lab analysis, and by analyzing the pollen, minerals, and climate and volcanic events they hoped to better understand the vegetation and land use history.

Between 7 July and 13 August 2002 work was continued at Burdur and Nar lakes, and initiated at lake Yeniçağa, a freshwater lake in Bolu Province.  The overarching goal remained the collection of high-resolution cores and other samples in order to reconstruct past climate fluctuations then compare them to cultural change in the region.  At Burdur, seismic and bathymetric surveys of the lake were carried out, and nearby areas were mapped using GIS technology, looking particularly at land use and geomorphology.  Evidence pointed to a minimum 10m fluctuation in the lake levels during historic periods.  At Yeniçağa, a transect of four cores (each one covering the last few millennia) was obtained, and at Nar lake a Mackereth corer was utilised to obtain cores.  In total, over 80km of seismic line was shot and over 35m of sediment cores gathered.  Samples were also obtained for radiocarbon, optic, and sedimentological analysis. 

After conducting lab studies for the data,the three-year programme was largely successful in providing new information about the region’s histories of vegetation, climate, and wildlife for approximately 20,000 years.  The data from Nar gölü provided information at a high time resolution for the last 1,725 years.  It was particularly significant that parts of their sediments were annually laminated (or varved), which is only rarely found in Anatolia.  Eski Acigöl lake’s sediments had laminations before approximately 4500BC, but information from the fifth millennium BC to the early first millennium BC was still missing.  In 2010, therefore, work on the lakes was reinitiated, in the hopes of extending the coring to obtain a longer laminated record that provided information for later prehistoric, early historic, and Classical periods.  It was calculated that the cores at Nar lake would need to be approximately 10m long in order to reach back to the fifth millennium BC; difficulties notwithstanding, they cored 22.5m below the lake bed.  Second and third cores were taken parallel to the first, in case any information was missing, making a total of 55m of sediment core.  These were split open and recorded between 20 and 25 September, revealing laminations and changes in the stratigraphy through time.  Beyond this, water samples were taken at different depths with interesting results about previous lake levels and salinity.

Lab analysis continued to be conducted on the sediment cores with very positive results.  A master sequence of cores was created and then analysed at Aberystwyth University, after which core sub-sampling was undertaken, amounting to some 3,000 samples from over 500 sampling depths.  These results revealed a number of important stratigraphic changes and other valuable information, including a change in sediment at what appeared to be the beginning of the Holocene.  In June and September 2011 two short seasons of fieldwork were conducted.  In June they collected measurements and water samples at various depths as part of their attempt to monitor the lake’s responses to seasonal changes.  In September, the archaeological and historical records of human settlement were studied in an attempt to better understand the relations between climate and culture.


Anatolian Archaeology 7: 24-25; 8: 28-29; 16: 4-6

Heritage Turkey 1: 3-5


England, A., Eastwood, W.J., Roberts, C.N., Turner, R., Haldon, J.F. 2008: ‘Historical landscape change in Cappadocia (central Turkey): a palaeoecological investigation of annually-laminated sediments from Nar lake’ The Holocene 18:1229-45

Jones, M.D., Roberts, C.N., Leng, M.J. 2007: Quantifying climatic change through the LGIT based on lake isotope palaeohydrology from central Turkey’ Quaternary Research 67/3: 463-73

Jones, M.D., Roberts, N., Leng, M.J., Türkeş, M. 2006: ‘A high-resolution late Holocene lake isotope record from Turkey and links to North Atlantic and monsoon climate’ Geology 34/5: 361-64

Roberts, N. et al. 2001: ‘The tempo of Holocene climatic change in the eastern Mediterranean region: new high-resolution crater-lake sediment data from central Turkey’ The Holocene 11: 721-36

Turner, R., Roberts, N., Jones, M.D. 2008: ‘Climatic pacing of Mediterranean fire histories from lake sedimentary microcharcoal’ Global and Planetary Change 63: 317-24

Woodbridge, J., Roberts, N., Cox, E.J. 2010: ‘Morphology and ecology of a new centric diatom from Cappadocia (central Turkey)’ Diatom Research 25:195-212

Eastwood , W.J., Leng, M.J., Roberts, N., Davis, B. 2007: ‘Holocene climate change in the eastern Mediterranean region: a comparison of stable isotope and and pollen data from Lake Gölhisar, southwest Turkey’ Journal of Quaternary Science 22:327-41

Eastwood, W.J., Gümüşcü, O., Yiğitbaşıoğlu, H., Haldon, J.F., England, A. 2009: ‘Integrating palaeoecological and archaeo-historical records: land use and landscape change in Cappadocia (central Turkey) since late antiquity’ in T. Vorderstrasse, J. Roodenberg (eds), Archaeology of the Countryside in Medieval Anatolia (PIHANS 113). Leiden: 45-69

Woodbridge, J., Roberts, N. 2011: ‘Late Holocene climate of the eastern Mediterranean inferred from diatom analysis of annually-laminated lake sediments’ Quaternary Science Reviews [doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.08.013]

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