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Identifying Constraints: Ancient protein characterisation to Reveal past Human Subsistence adaptations to climate change

Project description

A closer look at responses to climate change in antiquity

Ancient adaptations to increasing temperatures and water scarcity could be a source of inspiration to solve today’s climate crisis. Specifically, the emergence of animal domestication in the Southern Levant is a good reference point for studying changes in subsistence strategies. Funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, the ICARHUS project will combine archaeology and biological sciences to investigate past Levantine societies' adaptation to climatic pressures. The project will use the new field of palaeoproteomics to enhance the available protein reference sequences, identify subsistence strategy shifts along four Jordanian archaeological sites and recover information regarding sex-driven husbandry practices in caprine herds.


Facing the constraints imposed due to climate change is a challenge past human societies had to take into consideration, similar to how current societies are facing global changes in resource availability and climate change. By looking into the past and how ancient societies adapted to temperature increase and water availability decrease could help us to innovatively deal with the current climate crisis. In the Levant, where cattle, pigs, sheep and goat have been domesticated, ecological constraints are one of the major reasons for observed changes in subsistence strategies. Traditionally, comparative anatomy of fauna remains is the methodology of choice when aiming to reconstruct past subsistence strategies. But in arid environments, archaeological bones and teeth degrades rapidly, leading to highly fragmented and poorly preserved remains, thus largely restricting faunal spectra reconstruction. This project offers a glimpse at past Levantine societies adaptation to climatic pressures by using the new and exciting field of palaeoproteomics. The fellowship will concentrate on three defined scientific objectives: 1. enhance the available protein reference sequences, crucially lacking Near-Eastern wild ungulates species; 2. identify subsistence strategy shifts along four Jordanian archaeological sites, each containing well-established stratigraphies, using ancient proteins based species identification; and 3. recover information regarding sex-driven husbandry practices in caprine herds using the new method of enamel proteome sexing. The combination of archaeology and biological sciences within the frame of ICARHUS will give the opportunity to get a glimpse into past human societies agro-cultural behaviour using methodological developments of use beyond the field of bio-archaeological sciences.

Funding Scheme



Net EU contribution
€ 230 774,40
1165 Kobenhavn

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Danmark Hovedstaden Byen København
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data