The environmental history of Classical and Hellenistic Greece: the contribution of environmental archaeology

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This article provides an overview of the environmental history of Classical and Hellenistic Greece with particular reference to material evidence, outlining current trends in work on the relationships between humans and the flora, fauna, and climate of Greece from the fifth to first centuries BCE. Whereas scholars of more modern periods have embraced environmental history, historians of ancient Greece have been slow to do so. Most research on environmental history in the premodern Greek world has focused on prehistoric periods, with only a narrow set of topics relating to Classical and Hellenistic periods discussed, such as deforestation, erosion, and agriculture. In recent decades, however, the increased prominence of subdisciplines dealing with the study of organic archaeological material, such as palaeobotany and zooarchaeology, as well as advances in the archaeological sciences, especially in techniques like stable isotope analysis, has yielded much of interest for historians. I suggest in particular that historians more familiar with written sources or nonorganic archaeological remains can play a crucial rule in contextualizing this evidence by integrating it into their studies of social, economic, and political history. This is especially the case with climate change, evidence of which in the ancient Greek world is rapidly accumulating but with which ancient historians have only begun to contend.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12392
Number of pages12
JournalHistory Compass
Issue number10
Early online date9 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


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