Climate change and water management in the biblical city of Dan

David Kaniewski, Nick Marriner, David Ilan, Christophe Morhange, Yifat Thareani, Elise Van Campo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Global climate change has sharpened focus on the social and economic challenges associated with water deficits, particularly in regions where anthropogenic demands exceed supply. Thismodern condition was also experienced by the people of ancient western Asia, where chronic water shortages were accentuated by recurrent droughts. However, human societies may react to climate change, particularly desiccation, in different ways depending on specific local conditions. Focusing on the biblical site of Tel Dan (present-day Israel), we show the effects of severe precipitation decline in an environment that was well watered and fertile even in times of drought. Such local niches of prosperity became attractive targets for predationwhen food resources becamescarce in surrounding rain-fed areas.We propose that predation forced urban populations to either flee or adopt new subsistence strategies. Predation and abandonment, even if only partial, led to the poor maintenance of water networks in and around the city. Once stagnant water surrounded the area, water-borne disease proliferated. Our study shows how climate changes can disrupt social and political structures, cause water system management to collapse, and facilitate marshland expansion.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1700954
JournalScience advances
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright 2017 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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