The Princeton-Isparta-Max Planck Meander Valley Project

In close collaboration with partners from Turkey and Germany, the CCHRI has begun a new field research program to study the social-ecological dynamics of the Meander valley during the last two thousand years. The Meander - in Turkish, Büyük Menderes - is the longest river of Western Anatolia. Its valley consists of a large variety of landscapes, from mountainous highlands to a large alluvial delta. With several important cities, it was one of the core regions of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Anatolia. Our project sets out to test a number of hypotheses about the ways in which Anatolian societies responded to climatic, political and religious-cultural changes from Antiquity to the early modern period. In the first phase, we are focusing on acquiring high-resolution paleoenvironmental records from different parts of the valley, making it into the best-studied region in Turkey when it comes to the landscape change in historical times. The leader of the fieldwork, geochemical and pollen analyses for this phase is Prof. Çetin Şenkul (Süleyman Demirel University, Isparta, Turkey), working in close collaboration with the Palaeo-Science & History Research Group led by Dr Adam Izdebski (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena). For soil analysis we collaborate with colleagues at Tulane University (New Orleans). In the project's second phase, we will undertake primary research of textual and archaeological sources, with the aim of creating a holistic model of how politics, culture, religion, warfare, climate and environment interacted in this highly diverse and unstable historical-ecological setting.