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Dating Climatic Episodes Of The Holocene

Wayne M. Wendland, Reid A. Bryson

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Monitoring evidence indicates that the Holocene embraced a sequence of rather discrete climatic episodes. The transitions between these environmental episodes apparently were abrupt and globally synchronous. This paper reports on statistical analyses of radiocarbon dates associated with environmental change and cultural change.Over 800 14C dates associated with pollen maxima and minima, sea level maxima and minima, and top and bottom surfaces of peat beds were simultaneously analyzed to identify times of globally synchronous environmental discontinuities.Some 3700 14C dates associated with 155 cultural continua of the world were collectively analyzed to identify worldwide synchroneities in appearance and termination of the cultures.Significant globally synchronous discontinuities were identified in each independent analysis. The dates of environmental and cultural discontinuities are rather similar, particularly during the recent half of the Holocene. The fact that the cultural discontinuities mostly follow rather closely those of the paleobotanical record suggests that there has been a distinct climatic impact on the cultural history of man.