Palaeoenvironmental and archaeological data from Arbon Bleiche, Lake Constance (Switzerland) give evidence of a rapid rise in lake-level dated by tree-ring and radiocarbon to 5320 cal. yr BP. This rise event was the latest in a series of three successive episodes of higher lake-level between 5550 and 5300 cal. yr BP coinciding with glacier advance and tree-limit decline in the Alps. This west-central European climate change may have favoured the quick burial and the preservation of the Alpine Iceman recently found in the Tyrolean Alps. It has possible equivalents in many records from various regions in both hemispheres dating to 5600–5000 cal. yr BP and corresponds to global cooling and contrasting patterns of hydrological changes. This major mid-Holocene climate event marks the Hypsithermal/Neoglaciation transition possibly resulting from a combination of different factors including orbital forcing, changes in ocean circulation and variations in solar activity. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.