Portrait of Harvey Weiss

Harvey Weiss

Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Anthropology and the Environment

The complex and dynamic relationship between societies and their environments over the course of the Holocene provides the background knowledge for understanding contemporary global change issues. Climate changes of the past, both abrupt and gradual, both short- and long-term, forced adaptive societal responses that shaped history and condition present-day mitigation and adaptation responses and responsibilities. The record of Holocene anthropogenic and natural environmental change is available through the historical and archaeological record, that is lengthiest and most detailed in west Asia, and especially Mesopotamia. Professor Weiss studies the Mesopotamian record, in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, using archaeological and palaeoclimate records that provide high-resolution data for agricultural regimes, regional settlement patterns, and abrupt high-magnitude climate changes. He founded the Yale University Tell Leilan Project in northeastern Syria in 1978, and has directed extensive excavations at that ancient site along with several seasons of Leilan Region Survey surface reconnaissance. This archaeological research, along with paleoclimate researches, has generated new data and perspectives for understanding Mesopotamian societies’ dynamic agro-production, settlement distributions, and politico-economic histories as cities, states and empires evolved and collapsed during the past ten thousand years. The effects of periodic regional and global megadought and coincident periods of widespread societal collapse have been identified and refined through Tell Leilan Project research. Adaptive societal responses to Holocene climate change is now a vibrant global research arena within which Tell Leilan Project data and analyses play a significant role in understanding the differences between natural and anthropogenic climate changes and their societal effects. At Yale, Professor Weiss teaches courses on long-term environmental history, the history and evolution of agriculture, and societal responses to climate change.


B.A., City College, C.U.N.Y.
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania