LoNAP514 (Fig. S1) was sampled from a flowstone. It is 86 mm thick and composed of compact columnar calcite (Fig. S1). The age-depth model for LoNAP514 (Supplementary Information, Fig. S2) is based on 15 U/Th ages (Table S1) and covers the 11.0±0.3 to 6.6±0.2 ka time span; the mean age uncertainty is 140 yr. Ages are given in thousands of years (ka) with respect to the year of measurement (2020), and reported in BCE when discussed along with the archaeological information.
The speleothem stable carbon and oxygen isotope composition (δ13C and δ18O, Table S2) time series hava a decadal resolution. They are positively correlated (r=0.69) and show very similar centennial to multi-centennial patterns (Fig. 2 and Supplementary Information).
(Figure 2 approximately here)
This indicates a common first-order driver for their coupled variability over these time scales. Assuming quasi-isotopic equilibrium calcite precipitation (Supplementary Information) and given minimal early-mid Holocene temperature changes inside the cave, the LoNAP514 δ18O is a proxy for drip-water δ18O, which reflects local meteoric precipitation δ18O (δ18Op). δ18Op results from changes in moisture source location and isotopic composition, condensation temperature and seasonality. At present, Northern FC δ18Op is strongly influenced by the amount effect (-2.3‰/100 mm) , thus we interpret centennial-scale variations in the δ18O as primarily recording rainfall fluctuations, with lower/higher δ18O ratios occurring during wetter/drier periods respectively. This interpretation is consistent with speleothem δ18O records from central to eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and the Arabian Peninsula [e.g. 40-45]. For LoNAP514, it is also supported by the positive covariance with the δ13C time series. In fact, the range of δ13C values (-9.80‰ to -4.81‰) is indicative of a prevalent input of organic, 13C-depleted CO2 from the overlying soil, and is typical of a predominantly C3 vegetation, which was likely present in the cave catchment over the period of LoNAP514 deposition (Supplementary Information). In these settings, δ13C variations arise from fluctuating soil biological activity, in turn related to temperature and moisture availability, with the latter likely predominating for LoNAP514 due to relatively stable Holocene temperatures. Higher rainfall amounts (lower δ18Op) foster soil metabolism and vegetation development, leading to lower δ13C. Under drier conditions (higher δ18Op), the biogenic CO2 supply is reduced, causing higher δ13C. The hydrological sensitivity of both δ18O and δ13C is further increased during drier periods by evaporation at the topsoil, in the epikarst, and degassing at the site of stalagmite deposition. These processes cause preferential loss of lighter C and O isotopes, leading to stronger covariation and increased isotope ratios in speleothem calcite. This is particularly apparent in our record between 9.0 and 8.4 ka and between 7.6 and 7.2 ka, where the isotope series show highest values and the lowest difference between normalized values (Fig. 2). The largest discrepancy between the two series is observed between 10.8 and 9.4 ka, corresponding to the most negative and least variable δ18O values. This interval is near-synchronous with depleted δ18O values observed in the planktonic foraminifera (Globigerinoides ruber) record from marine cores LC21 and SL21 from the central Aegean Sea, which reflect the inflow of fresh (isotopically depleted) surface waters from the Nile River due to an enhanced African monsoon recharging the upper Nile catchment . Such freshwater influx corresponds to a calculated decrease of ~1.3‰ in local surface seawater δ18O . Given that the Eastern Mediterranean is one of the main sources of precipitation for our study area[35,38], this depletion was likely transmitted to our oxygen record via the source effect. The latter likely buffered centennial-scale variability due to the rainfall amount effect over this interval, and might result in an internal variability (or absence of it) that is not linked to the amount of precipitation. Therefore, we consider the δ13C as a more robust and direct proxy for moisture changes at the cave site.
The regional significance of the LoNAP514 δ13C hydroclimatic record is attested by a comparison with lacustrine carbonate δ18O changes from the FC and Anatolia [49-54] (Fig. 3).
(Figure 3 approximately here)
Eastern Mediterranean/Anatolian lacustrine δ18O is mostly driven by the precipitation/evaporation ratio and, similarly to speleothems, lower/higher δ18O ratios usually indicate higher/lower precipitation . Within the combined uncertainties, and accounting for diverse time-resolution, a very similar multi-centennial pattern is apparent, especially within the 10.0–8.0 ka interval (Fig. 3). Between 9.7±0.2 and 9.0±0.1 ka, all records coherently express wetter conditions. This is followed by an abrupt reduction of precipitation between 9.0 and 8.5±0.1 ka, and by a wetter interval between 8.5 and 8.0±0.2 ka (Fig. 3). The high temporal resolution of the LoNAP514 δ13C also reveals superimposed, lower-amplitude, centennial-scale moisture fluctuations. Reduced precipitation occurred between 9.3±0.2 ka and 9.1±0.1 ka, at 8.9±0.1 ka, between 8.1±0.2 ka and 7.9±0.2 ka, and at 7.1±0.2 ka. Considering the associated age uncertainties, the first and the third of these events are consistent, in terms of both duration and timing, with the 9.3 and 8.2 ka climatic anomalies described above. However, they are not particularly prominent (Fig. 3). This suggests that the downstream atmospheric changes related to these RCCs had only a limited impact on local precipitation, and that there are other drivers for the observed climatic variability.
Teleconnections and mechanisms of hydroclimate variability
The LoNAP514 precipitation record closely mimics centennial-scale fluctuations in the non-sea-salt potassium (nssK+) record from the Greenland GISP2 ice core , with higher precipitation at the cave site corresponding to increases in nssK+ content (Fig. 4). Such increases have been correlated to enhanced dust transport from Asia, related to an intensified Siberian High (SH) in winter/spring . This implies a strong teleconnection between the intensity of the SH and precipitation in the northern FC during the early to mid-Holocene. Currently, seasonal and inter-annual rainfall variability in the FC is explained mostly by changes in the intensity, frequency and orientation of eastern Mediterranean storm tracks and by changes in the supply of water vapor from southern sources . Thus, to understand the mechanisms modulating precipitation patterns in our record, we need to consider the influence of the SH on both Mediterranean and southern synoptic conditions.
Current observations and modelling show that a strengthening of the SH increases the frequency and intensity of cold northerly air outbreaks that are channeled through gaps in the mountain ranges along the north-eastern Mediterranean borderlands. These northerly fluxes deliver cold/dry air masses to the warm/moist Aegean Sea sector, promoting intense evaporation and creating or intensifying local cyclogenesis. This causes extreme precipitation events in the Levant, exceptional snowfall around the Aegean region, and flash floods in the Middle . Cluster analyses of eastern Mediterranean cyclones also shows that the intensification of the SH influences storm-track trajectories. In particular, a blocking configuration over central Asia and eastern Europe favors a direct eastward route toward southern Anatolia and the northern FC, instead of the usual north-eastward trajectories to the north of the Black Sea . Looking at the paleo-record, the centennial to multi-centennial influence of the SH-induced cold outbreaks on Eastern Mediterranean conditions can be demonstrated by the consistent timing between increases in the GISP nsK+ content and sea-surface temperature (SST) cooling events in the Aegean Sea[22,48]. Specifically, changes in the abundance of the cold-water dinocyst Spiniferites elongatus from core SL21 have been used to identify relative winter SST changes through the early to middle Holocene in the central Aegean. The LoNAP514 precipitation record shows strong similarities with the S. elongatus record, with colder winter conditions in the Aegean corresponding to higher precipitation (Fig. 4). Ref.  modelled the effect of northerly outbreaks in the Aegean on the local hydroclimatic cycle and found that their increased frequency and intensity cause strong evaporation in the eastern Aegean, enhancing the atmospheric moisture content over the sea. When these moist air masses subsequently make landfall and are cooled and/or uplifted, their relative humidity increases and precipitation may develop, leading to cooler and wetter conditions over the Levant. Despite our site being located further from the Mediterranean coast than the Levant, the similarity with the Aegean record suggests that a critical component for the increase in precipitation in the northern FC during intervals of enhanced SH is the effect of cold northerly outbreaks in promoting eastern Mediterranean evaporation and cyclogenesis. In particular, an intensified cyclonic circulation increases the advection of moist air towards the north/northeast, whereas the westward expansion of the SH causes a southward shift in storm tracks. These combined effects likely increased the amount of winter precipitation in the northern FC during early Holocene intervals of intensified SH, especially between 9.7 and 9.0 ka and between 8.5 and 8.0 ka.
Regarding the influence of the SH on southerly vapor supply and synoptic conditions, it has been found that the increase of SH strength is one of the dynamic factors generating Active Red Sea Troughs (ARST)  ARST development results from the interaction between a lower-tropospheric inflow of warm, moist air of tropical origin extending northward from the southern Red Sea toward the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, and a mid-tropospheric southward inflow of cold and dry air from Eurasian mid-latitudes .Such conditions are associated with unstable stratification and a high concentration of vapor sourced from the Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea reaching the FC. This favors the development of highly energetic mesoscale convective systems, which can produce intense precipitation and flooding, especially at the fringe of high-relief regions, such as along the SW Zagros flanks . Regional climate models simulate convective precipitation maxima in transitional months, especially in April-May, when enough energy is present to trigger local convection, but before the summer season, when high pressure related to the descending branch of the Hadley Cell begins to dominate the area . The position of the Hadley Cell is directly related to the seasonal movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) that also determines the onset, duration and termination of the Indian summer monsoon (ISM) . In the last 150 years, the date of ISM onset has varied between May 11 (1918) and June 18 (1972). ISM onset is modulated by large-scale forcing, such as the land-sea thermal contrast between the Eurasian landmass and the Indian Ocean. A delayed onset is usually associated with colder spring conditions over the Tibetan Plateau and negative SST anomalies in the tropical and subtropical oceans during the season prior to the monsoon onset (i.e., March–May) [64,65]. Winter-spring temperatures over central and East Asia are negatively correlated with the strength of the SH[31,66], and a relationship have been found between a stronger SH and negative SST anomalies in the Indian Ocean. Furthermore, at present, the intensity of the SH and the strength of the Hadley circulation exhibit a significant negative correlation both for their inter-annual variability and for their secular trend . Therefore, we propose that, across the 9.7–9.0 and the 8.5–8.0 ka intervals, the strengthening of the SH was responsible for increased evaporation and advection from southerly source, and for increased convective instability related to the formation of a more frequent/stronger ARST. At the same time, a stronger SH also caused a delayed onset of the ISM due to negative temperature anomalies that persisted longer in spring over the Eurasian land masses and in the sub-tropical oceans. The two combined effects boosted the occurrence of convective precipitation, and allowed their development to persist well within May, causing a net increase in spring precipitation over the FC. After 8.0 yr BP, the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets were reduced and the SH weakened, leading to reduced convective instability across the Middle East, and to warmer spring conditions across Eurasia, preventing the delayed onset of the ISM and reducing the length of the wet season in the FC.
(Figure 4 approximately here)
In the last decade, a wealth of data from surveys and excavations in the FC have deepened the knowledge on regional Neolithic and early Chalcolithic cultural traits and settlement patterns (i.e., size, distribution and duration of occupation), and of their interrelationships with landscape and environmental resources [3,68,69]. Updated summaries of the latest regional evidence anchored to a comprehensive radiocarbon-dated framework are now available [3,29], and allow a robust comparison with the hydroclimatic variability revealed by the LoNAP514 record. Therefore, inferences can be made regarding relationships between settlements and the key factor for their survival by way of water resources, whose availability is linked to precipitation patterns. During the latest stage of the Early (Pre-Pottery) Neolithic (PPN), populations in the region took full advantage of a rich environment, pursuing a flexible mix of subsistence strategies. These included hunting and foraging of wild game and plants, as well as herding a small number of species, especially goats , and cultivating a range of pulse and cereal crops in fields on the surrounding plains . Sites are widespread in both the plains and the foothills; they are usually small (less than 1 ha) and often appear to be only seasonally occupied . Over this period, the LoNAP514 record shows relatively wet conditions (Fig. 4) that would have allowed the first forms of rain-fed and/or décrue cultivation during the rainy season . The initial phase of the Pottery Neolithic in the northern FC (IPN, 7.0–8.7 ka; 9000–8700 BCE) [29 and references therein] witnessed a contraction of the inhabited sites, with most of the settlements located in the upper part of the valleys, and above of the present-day 220 mm isohyet. All these sites fall close to major and perennial watercourses . This contraction corresponds precisely to the marked reduction in precipitation apparent from the LoNAP514 record (Fig. 4), suggesting that climatic factors hampered the expansion of settlements in the IPN and influenced their location. The early Pottery Neolithic (EPN, 8.7–8.3 ka, 6700 to 6250 BCE)  saw the full uptake of pottery techniques . During the EPN, settlements were remarkably short-lived and had a highly mobile nature, and the number of settlements increased, thus suggesting a noticeable demographic growth. A gradual spread from the upper part of the valleys to more downvalley locations is apparent. Sites still appear to cluster around watercourses, either permanent or seasonally active, whereas no EPN sites have been found on the semi-arid steppe separating them. In particular, a detailed analysis of settlement distribution shows that they were located mostly within 100–200 m of a watercourse. Over this period, the LoNAP514 record shows the transition from drier conditions (up to 8.5 ka, 6500 BCE) towards a marked increase in precipitation characterized, according to our interpretation, by a longer rainy season with a potential increase in extreme convective events. This scenario fits well with the archaeological evidence: in the initial phase of the EPN, the adoption of more durable pottery containers likely facilitated the collection of surpluses over longer times, giving a net advantage under drier conditions and allowing the inferred demographic rise. Subsequently, wetter climate conditions supported the growth and the new spreading of human groups to locations that were abandoned during the IPN, and along (now) seasonal streams, that at the time were likely active for most of the year. However, due to the increased frequency of extreme precipitation events[60,61], sites were located at a certain distance from the rivers, preventing the risk of settlement flooding but close enough to exploit inundated land for seasonal cultivation. The period between 8.3 and 7.3 ka corresponds to the Pre-Halaf (PH; 6250–6000 BCE) and (Early to Later) Halaf cultural phases (EH, 6000–5700 BCE; LH 5700–5300, Fig. 4) . During the PH, site distribution still resembled that of the preceding EPN, with small sites (1-2 ha) concentrated along rivers and streams. Further, the LoNAP514 record does not highlight significant changes leading up to 8.0 ka. Subsequently, with the onset of the Halaf phase at ~6000 BCE (i.e., from ~8 ka) settlements expanded, and some communities dispersed into the steppe. This colonization is part of a multifaceted package of economic, technological, and cultural innovations and adaptations (e.g., full adoption of administrative systems and an intensified reliance on secondary products) that profoundly transformed the Late Neolithic societies and increased their complexity . Throughout the EH, people appear to move around the landscape dynamically, founding new settlements, relocating to others, and abandoning them easily [29, 72]. Furthermore, these communities also adopted flexible subsistence strategies relying on a combination of agriculture and herding a range of domesticated plants and animals, but also on hunting and foraging of wild species. In all likelihood, this residential and subsistence flexibility made the best of challenging environments, such as those of the semi-arid steppe . The subsequent LH witnessed a surge in the number of sites, and their continuous spreading into regions far from water resources. Settlement size and internal complexity appear to increase towards the end of the Halaf phase, with the largest sites (up to at least 10 ha) located near perennial water courses [29,71]. However, recent interpretations that take account of the dynamism of frequent relocation apparent for the northern FC suggest that the Halafian “mega-site” can be better explained as a small-scale settlement shifting over favourable spots in the local landscape across several generations . According to our record, the EH and LH phases occurred in the context of the change in precipitation amount and style towards more arid and unstable climatic conditions between 8.0 and 7.7 ka (6000 to 5700 BCE), and in the subsequent unstable period up to 7.3 ka (5300 BCE), respectively (Fig. 4). This coincidence suggests that many of the transformations observed in the archaeological record across this period may have been expedited by climatic stress but were mostly triggered by technological and cultural innovations. This dynamic response to changing background climatic conditions is even more apparent in the subsequent Early Chalcolithic phase, from ~5300 BCE (~7.3 ka): in this time span, villages evolved towards increased complexity; the same applies to their social organization. Furthermore, the total number of sites appears to increase markedly during the Early Chalcolithic . Interestingly, the shift from the late Neolithic to the Chalcolithic, marked in our record by a quite drastic precipitation reduction (Fig. 4), appears also characterized by a change in the use of water resources, with many sites located close to perennial springs in the Zagros Mountain piedmont zone. This suggests that the climatic deterioration fostered the use of previously poorly exploited resources well before the onset of irrigated cultivation in the Bronze Age.
In summary, the integration of high-resolution climate records with robust, contextualised archaeological data is a crucial strategy for better understanding both the climatic variability itself and its potential societal consequences. Our inference regarding the influence of the SH on precipitation amount and seasonality in the FC brings clarity to a rich collection of climate proxy records in the region that indicate significant variability, but lack a clear temporal coherency with - or an univocal expression of - the major Early Holocene RCCs (the 9.3 and the 8.2 ka events). In fact, our record does not support a direct influence of Early Holocene RCCs on the process of Neolithization and its cultural dispersal. Although it is still debated whether or not Neolithic cultural changes were forced directly by climatic variability, we show robust chronological agreement between changes in precipitation pattern and the alternation of local cultural phases, suggesting that hydroclimate variability influenced the way in which Neolithic population exploited the surrounding environment. This is particularly significant in terms of settlement strategies and use of water resources. In this view, climate variability, leading to increased stress or amelioration of background environmental conditions, appears to accelerate and force existing cultural and subsistence dynamics, which were however not directly attributed to the climatic change itself [9,73]. Climate variability thus acts as a stimulus that continuously interacted with technological and cultural adaptations of complex societies , fostering the evolution of new and multifaceted adaptive strategies that progressively increased the resilience of ancient populations and modified the way they interacted with their environment.