The discovery of sensitive paleoenvironmental proxies contained within fossilized rock hyrax middens from the margin of the central Namib Desert, Africa, is providing unprecedented insight into the region's environmental history. High-resolution stable carbon and nitrogen isotope records spanning 0–11,700 cal (calibrated) yr B.P. indicate phases of relatively humid conditions from 8700–7500, 6900–6700, 5600–4900, and 4200–3500 cal yr B.P., with a period of marked aridity occurring from 3500 until ca. 300 cal yr B.P. Transitions between these phases appear to have occurred very rapidly, often within <200 years. Of particular importance are: (1) the observed relationship between regional aridification and the decline in Northern Hemisphere insolation across the Holocene, and (2) the significance of suborbital scale variations in climate that covary strongly with fluctuations in solar forcing. Together, these elements call for a fundamental reexamination of the role of orbital forcing on tropical African systems, and a reconsideration of what factors drive climate change in the region. The quality and resolution of these data far surpass any other evidence available from the region, and the continued development of this unique archive promises to revolutionize paleoenvironmental studies in southern Africa.

You do not currently have access to this article.