Climate History in Northeast Turkey Project

Location: Gümüşhane Province

Years: 2005-2009

Director: Warren J. Eastwood

Participants: Anne Mather, Andy Baker, Hakan Yiğitbaşioğlu, Catherine Jex, Erdem Bekaroğlu, Doğan Altındağ, Mine Çinaklı (2006), Liz Maher (2007)

Funding: BIAA, Philip Leverhulme Prize Fund, University of Birmingham, National Geographic Society, Royal Geographic Society, Tübitak, Ankara University


Many natural “archives” (such as tree-rings and speleothems, and fossils) make it possible to accurately reconstruct a regional climate history, which can then be useful for archaeologists and historians who examine the connection between climate and culture.  And so in 2005 a project was initiated to investigate northeast Turkey’s climate history, vegetation, and landscape change.  The fieldwork, undertaken between 10 and 30 July, relied on two different sources of information: speleothems with annual laminations, and pollen grains from various sources.  Whilst one team carried out work in 24 caves around Gümüşhane Province, sampling speleothems, the other team worked in the upper Uzungöl valley in Turkey’s Soğanlı Dağ region, recovering peat and sediment cores, conducting palaeoecological studies, and initiating a pollen monitoring programme.   Furthermore, remote sensing, GIS, and ground truthing methodologies were utilised in an attempt to get the information needed to geomorphologically map past and present landscape disturbances. 

In 2006, lake and peat work was again undertaken in the upper Uzungöl valley, with additional surface sediment samples collected for comparison with the 2005 samples.  The pollen monitoring system proved to be largely unsuitable for year-round work (only three traps had survived) and so pollen was gathered exclusively from the moss cushions of vegetation belts.  Geomorphological mapping was continued, with a particular focus on the fracture zone from the tragic landslide on 17 March 2005 at Kuzulu; the study of modern landslide activity was found to be particularly helpful in better understanding the processes of historical and palaeo-landslide features.  Samples were analysed following fieldwork.

In 2007 research into the Kuzulu landslide was supplemented with aerial photography and satellite image comparison work.  An investigation into the region’s many kinked tree trunks was also undertaken in an effort to understand how their shape was connected to previous landslides or other mass movements.  Samples continued to be subjected to various analyses, and datasets were interpreted. 

Research continued in 2008, and by the season’s end they had mapped the Kuzulu landslide features in their entirety (including the head scar and zone fracture, fluvialtile sediments, and down slope deposits) and continued to try to interpret them and understand implications for historical mass movements.  Analyses of modern cave climate data, particle size, pollen, testate amoeba, and other data continued to be conducted.  

2009 marked the last season, and was devoted to post-fieldwork study and analysis.  The annual monitoring of the Kuzulu landslide zone has revealed its headward retreat and the accumulation zone’s modification, due to stream erosion and debris flows.  It became clear that the landslide was not triggered by rainfall or seismic shaking, as some would have naturally assumed.  Team members also observed that despite a four-year interlude since the event, geomorphic systems were still very much in the recovery process.  Their work on the Kuzulu landslide raised fresh questions and provided insight into how to go about interpreting older events.  Peat, lake, and speleothem sample analysis was also continued.


Anatolian Archaeology 11: 6-8; 12: 3-5; 13: 5-7; 14: 4-5; 15: 3


Byfield, A & Özhatay, N. 1997: A Future for Turkey’s Peatlands: A Conversation Strategy for Turkey’s Peatland Heritage. Istanbul

Belongs to;
Combined Projects

View other research