Water management, soil conservation, sustainable animal husbandry ...because such socio-environmental challenges have been faced throughout history, lessons from the past can often inform modern policy. In this book, case studies from a wide range of times and places reveal how archaeology can contribute to a better understanding of humans? relation to the environment. The Archaeology of Environmental Change shows that the challenges facing humanity today, in terms of causing and reacting to environmental change, can be better approached through an attempt to understand how societies in the past dealt with similar circumstances. The contributors draw on archaeological research in multiple regions North America, Mesoamerica, Europe, the Near East, and Africafrom time periods spanning the Holocene, and from environments ranging from tropical forest to desert. Through such examples as environmental degradation in Transjordan, wildlife management in East Africa, and soil conservation among the ancient Maya, they demonstrate the negative effects humans have had on their environments and how societies in the past dealt with these same problems.
All call into question and ultimately refute popular notions of a simple cause-and-effect relationship between people and their environment, and reject the notion of people as either hapless victims of unstoppable forces or inevitable destroyers of natural harmony. These contributions show that by examining long-term trajectories of socio-natural relationships we can better define concepts such as sustainability, land degradation, and conservation, nd that gaining a more accurate and complete understanding of these connections is essential for evaluating current theories and models of environmental degradation and conservation. Their insights demonstrate that to understand the present environment and to manage landscapes for the future, we must consider the historical record of the total sweep of anthropogenic environmental change.
Christopher T. Fisher is an associate professor of anthropology at Colorado State University and co-editor of Seeking a Richer Harvest: The Archaeology of Subsistence Intensification, Innovation, and Change. J. Brett Hill is a visiting assistant professor in the Sociology/Anthropology department at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. He has conducted numerous studies using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to evaluate how environment structured the economic and social opportunities available to ancient farmers and herders, and how people degraded their environment. Gary M. Feinman is the curator of Mesoamerican anthropology at the Field Museum and is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, most recently Images of the Past, 5th edition, coauthored with T. Douglas Price.