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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Historical Evidence for Climate Instability and Environmental Catastrophes in Northern Syria and the Jazira: The Chronicle of Michael the Syrian

Magnus Widell

Environment and History 13(2007): 47-70

Significant cataclysms occurred frequently throughout the history of northern Syria and the Jazira, and had severe short- and long-term implications on the region's economy and the social structure. This paper uses the Chronicle of Michael the Syrian, a Patriarch of Antioch in the late twelfth century a.d., as a representation of environmental and climatic catastrophes taking place in northern Syria and the Jazira in the third and early second Millennium b.c. The proportions, general frequency and the clustering tendency of the different disasters in the Chronicle are treated in detail, as well as their general economic, environmental and social significance. The article argues that diversified subsistence and a high degree of flexibility were essential for ancient Mesopotamian societies to absorb the many risks that life in this marginal semiarid environment involved.

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