Summary and conclusions

Two case histories of survival of human societies in an arid region have been discussed. In both, creativity and invention enabled survival when climate conditions were moderate. Yet, when extreme negative climate changes occurred, human innovation was not sufficient to enable survival.

At ancient Arad during the Early Bronze Period (third millennium BCE) the city flourished due to the application of artificial recharge of a shallow local perched water table. At Jericho the transition from a socio-economic system of hunters and gatherers to that of farmers was enabled by the technical innovation of irrigation. In both cases, as in many other cases of settlements in arid regions, the reliance of human society on the natural system was dependent on the physical properties of the natural system for storing and delivering water. Because this was marginal at Arad, it did not survive when severe negative climate changes took place. On the other hand the ancient settlement of Jericho was able to withstand many climate changes because its supply of water for irrigation derives from a spring fed by a limestone aquifer drawing from a large area of the eastern Judean Mountains.

In general, the ability of a society to withstand the impact of climate change and its consequences depends on the total resilience of its sub-systems, both societal and natural. Yet, the magnitude of the impact and its duration play the decisive role.

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