Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Cliodynamic archaeology: Computational approaches to Final Palaeolithic/earliest Mesolithic archaeology and climate change

Project description

A novel methodology for human climatic adaptation study

Climate change, migration and adaptation are all challenges that demand immediate global solutions. The Late Pleistocene/early Holocene - also a period of turbulent climate change - in Europe represents an ideal natural laboratory for the investigation of human reactions to such challenges. Studies that understand the changes documented in archaeology using epistemologically robust and methodologically transparent approaches remain rare, however. The EU-funded CLIOARCH project proposes a novel Open Science approach to interrogate the relationship between past humans and their environment. It will draw on cultural evolutionary theory and a range of computational methods adapted from ecology to produce a pioneer methodology for the study of climate change impacts in deep history. This transparent and quantitative methodology, together with the findings it will produce, will boost the role of archaeological research in contemporary debates on climate change.


Late Pleistocene/early Holocene Europe is said to be the ideal laboratory for the investigation of human responses to rapidly changing climates and environments, migration and adaptation. Yet, pinpointing precisely how and why contemporaneous Final Palaeolithic/earliest Mesolithic (15,000-11,000 years BP) foragers migrated, and which environmental or other factors they adapted to – or failed to – has remained remarkably elusive. At the core of ClioArch is the radical but, in light of research-historical insights, necessary hypothesis that the current archaeological cultural taxonomy for this iconic period of European prehistory is epistemologically flawed and that operationalisations and interpretations based on this traditional taxonomy – especially those that seek to relate observed changes in material culture and land-use to contemporaneous climatic and environmental changes – are therefore problematic. Hence, novel approaches to crafting the taxonomic building blocks are required, as are novel analyses of human|environment relations in this period. ClioArch’s premier ambition is to provide operational cultural taxonomies for the Final Palaeolithic/earliest Mesolithic of Europe and to couple these with interdisciplinary cultural evolutionary, quantitative ecological methods and field archaeological investigations beyond the state-of-the-art, so as to better capture such adaptations – almost certainly with major implications for the standard culture-historical narrative relating to this period. In so doing, the project will pioneer a fully transparent and replicable – and eminently transferable – methodology for the study of the impacts of climate change and extreme environmental events in deep history. In turn, such a quantitative understanding of past adaptive dynamics will position archaeology more centrally in contemporary debates about climate change, environmental catastrophe and their cultural dimensions.


Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 907 638,00
8000 Aarhus C

See on map

Danmark Midtjylland Østjylland
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 907 638,00

Beneficiaries (1)