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 contributors to The Archaeology of Environmental Change
provide a series of compelling case studies across time and space that demonstrate unequivocally how a deep-time historical perspective can improve our
prospects for a sustainable world.
—Journal of Ecological Anthropology
This is a book certainly recommended to archaeologists and anthropologists, but it is also the rare, serious archaeological publication that merits far wider consumption—including by government policy makers and environmental scientists.
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
Africa—from 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—and 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.