A multi-proxy record is presented for approximately the last 4500 cal a BP from Lake Shkodra, Albania/Montenegro. Lithological analyses, C/N ratio and δ13C of the organic and inorganic carbon component suggest that organic matter and bulk carbonate are predominantly authigenic. The δ18O record of bulk carbonate indicates the presence of two prominent wet periods: one at ca. 4300 cal a BP and one at ca. 2500–2000 cal a BP. The latter phase is also found in southern Spain and Central Italy, and represents a prominent event in the western and central Mediterranean. In the last 2000 years, four relatively wet intervals occurred between ca. 1800 and 1500 cal a BP (150–450 AD), 1350–1250 (600–700 AD), 1100–800 (850–1150 AD), and at ca. 90 cal a BP (1860 AD). Between ca. 4100 and 2500 cal a BP δ18O values are relatively high, with three prominent peaks indicating drier conditions at ca. 4100–4000 cal a BP, ca. 3500 and at ca. 3300 cal a BP. Four additional drier events are identified at 1850 (ca. 100 AD), 1400 (ca. 550 AD), 1150 (800 AD) and ca.750 cal a BP (1200 AD). The pollen record does not show changes in accordance with these episodes owing to the poor sensitivity of vegetation in this area, which is dominated by an orographic rainfall effect and where changes in altitudinal vegetation belts do not affect the pollen rain in the lake catchment. However, since ca. 900 cal a BP a significant decrease in the percentage arboreal pollen and in pollen concentrations suggest major deforestation produced by human activities. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.