Organized Panel Session
Historians and archaeologists interested in past climate change and its possible effects upon human society have until recently been frustrated by the lack of high-resolution paleoclimatological data. Recently, however, such data has become available, making it possible for the first time to discuss the climate-history relationship in detail. In particular, oxygen isotope ratios of tree-ring cellulose are now producing reliable reconstructions of variations of past summer precipitation at an annual time resolution for the Asia monsoon region, including Japan, over the past several millennia.
For the past three thousand years, Japanese society has depended upon rice paddy cultivation, a form of agriculture that is highly susceptible to cool summer temperatures, floods, and droughts. Our hope is to show how residents of the Japanese archipelago adapted to climatic variation by comparing archaeological and historical evidence with the new high-resolution paleoclimatological data.
In this panel, we first present up-to-date paleoclimatological data and describe characteristic relationships between climate and sociopolitical events and trends. We then discuss how prehistoric climate variations might have influenced people’s lives in Japan and how we can investigate the climate-society relationship by archaeological methods. Finally, we illustrate concrete examples of climatic impacts on medieval society in Japan using a digitalized paleographic database from the Kamakura era.