Contributions of Human Osteo-archaeology to the reconstruction of climatic shifts in medieval Romania

Annamaria DIANA


Huizinga (1996) used striking but quite realistic words to describe the Middle Ages: ‘When the world was half a thousand years younger all events had much sharper outlines than now [...] Sickness contrasted more strongly with health. The cutting cold and the dreaded darkness of winter were more concrete evils’.
This picture is particularly appropriate for depicting the ‘Little Ice Age’ (c. 14th – 19th centuries), a period which strongly contrasted with the previous ‘Medieval Warm Period’. It was a time of hardships for populations across Europe, tormented by climatic shifts, famine, epidemics and wars for many consecutive years, sometimes even decades, when seasons manifested their extremes in long, harsh winters, cool and wet summers, and cold peaks such as the so called Great Frost in 1709.
Scholars and scientists have used several tools for the reconstruction of past climates and the understanding of the complex human-environment relations. The most ‘traditional’ indicators are human instrumental and non-instrumental records, natural proxies, and archaeological sources. Where available, church archives, journals and chronicles written by travellers and diplomats are very useful sources of information before technological devices to measure temperature and precipitation were invented. However, in recent years more disciplines have joined this ever-growing inter-disciplinary network. In Romania, historical (Cernovodeanu and Binder 1993) and new climatologic (Geantă et al. 2012; Cristea et al. 2014) studies have shown that during the late medieval period a substantial climate change occurred in the Romanian Countries as in the more documented Western countries.


Little Ice Age

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