Archaeological Review from Cambridge - 32.2: On the Edge of the Anthropocene? Modern Climate Change and the Practice of Archaeology


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  • ItemOpen Access
    Climate change adaptation, development and archaeology in the Amazon
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Comberti, Claudia; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret; Thornton, Thomas F.; Bennett, Aoife; Bernstein, Meredith Root
    Mainstream conservation and management of ecosystems often follow the philosophy that humans need to be excluded from the natural world in order to protect it. While this may be justified in certain isolated cases, ‘fortress-style conservation’ is often problematic. Countless examples exist of native peoples being removed from their homelands in the name of conservation, often from places they have inhabited and influenced for hundreds of years. Ancient landscapes shaped by long-term interactions between humans and their environments show the potent role past human societies have played in shaping the current natural world including cultivation and enhancement of critical ecosystem services. This article explores some of these ancient landscapes, specifically the eathworks in the Lanos de Moxos region of northeastern Bolivia, and asseses their potential as an adaptation and agricultural development strategy in response to anticipated climate change in this part of the Amazon.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Vulnerability of Indigenous heritage sites to changing sea levels: Piloting a GIS-based approach in the Illawarra, New South Wales, Australia
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Knott, Samuel; Szabo, Katherine; Ridges, Mal; Fullager, Richard; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret; Knott, Samuel
    Climate change and sea level rise are expected to exacerbate existing coastal hazards such as erosion and inundation. As a result many coastal heritage sites around the world are expected to be put at potential risk of damage or destruction. The likely susceptibility of Australia’s Indigenous coastal heritage sites to these hazards is widely recognised but the sensitivity has not been quantified or analysed in detail. In order to assess the sensitivity of Indigenous coastal heritage sites, coastal indices of sensitivity and vulnerability were adapted to be used in a heritage context with a pilot study undertaken focused on the coastal Illawarra region of southern New South Wales, Australia. Desk based regional models were produced within the ArcGIS program for coastal shorelines in the region with underlying landform sensitivity used as a proxy for heritage site sensitivity. The relative effectiveness of the desk based modelling approach was also examined by ground-truthing of a number of sites analysed in the coastal site sensitivity index. Desk based regional modelling is shown to be a useful tool for planning and conservation management, particularly in directing resources to sites of the highest risk, and informing the direction of more in depth studies into the hazards faced by coastal Indigenous heritage sites.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Resiliency and loss: A case study of two clusters of high elevation ice patches in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, USA
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Reckin, Rachel; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
    Archaeologists worldwide know very little about the immense ecosystem changes already underway in the mountains and the threats that anthropogenic climate change poses to high elevation cultural resources. So how do we proceed? What do we prioritize? Is high elevation ice resilient to these changing climates, and if so, how much? How much time do we have before mid-latitude high elevation ice disappears entirely? This paper comments on the impacts of climate change to high elevation cultural resources, particularly ice patches, whose presence as a constant source of water is vital to the general appeal of high elevations for human occupation. Beyond their ecological importance, ice patches can also preserve ancient organic artifacts and paleobiological material for over 10,000 years. And they are melting rapidly thanks to anthropogenic climate change. This paper offers a case study of two groups of archaeologically productive high elevation ice patches from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, analyzing their resiliency in the face of warming temperatures and changing climates. Ultimately, I conclude that high elevation patches of ice and snow may be losing their resiliency to warmer temperatures as their ancient ice melts, making them ever more vulnerable to climate change. Ice patch researchers are in a race against time to identify productive ice patches and recover any fragile artifacts or paleobiological material they may contain before they melt completely. For many of these patches, this would be their first complete melt since the early Holocene.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Parkaeology and climate change: Assessing the vulnerability of archaeological resources at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Alaska
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Rankin, Caitlin; Mog, Christy; Jones, Shawn; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret; National Park Service
    The United States National Park Service (NPS) recognizes that cultural resources are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts because such resources are fixed on the landscape, cannot be replaced, and, if lost, lost permanently. To reduce the threat of climate change on cultural resources, Goal 7 in the Climate Change Response Strategy requests individual national parks to develop, prioritize and implement management strategies to preserve cultural resources vulnerable to climate change impacts. The NPS’s response strategy for climate change impacts includes four pillars: the science pillar identifies and tracks impacts of climate change on cultural heritage; the adaptation pillar develops management strategies to the threats identified in the science pillar; the mitigation pillar incorporates cultural heritage into energy efficient planning; and the communication pillar develops multiple communication pathways concerning information from the other three pillars. We present new research integrating three of the four pillars; science, adaptation, and communication; to identify climate change threats to cultural resource, assess the potential impact of threats, and prioritize management strategies within the US federal land management area of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (KLGO), southeast Alaska. At KLGO, climate change threats include fluvial channel instability along glacier-fed rivers, increasing potential of glacial lake outburst floods and changing preservation conditions in alpine environments. Each cultural resource is threatened in different ways, requiring management strategies to be resource-specific. Current adaptation strategies include monitoring, documentation, and interpretation.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Toxic landscape: Excavating a polluted world
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Stewart, Haeden; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
    Studies of the heritage industry, museology and archaeology and nationalism have highlighted vital ways in which the objects archaeologists study—far from being inert representations of the past—are lively, political, and potent in the present. This paper proposes that in order to investigate the long-term impacts of humans on the environment we as archaeologists must extend this reflexive turn to questions of ecological harm and pollution. First, archaeologists need to approach forms of human-derived pollutants as a type of artifact to attend to both the conditions of their production as well as the social effects of ecological degradation in the past. Second, archaeologists need to investigate the ongoing nature of this ecological degradation and its effects in the present. Drawing from my excavations of an early twentieth-century industrial site in Western Canada, I investigate how the rise of industrial-scale production in Edmonton, Alberta, remade the urban landscape by providing new consumer goods and manufacturing jobs, as well as—due to rampant pollution—remaking the environment and the ways in which the local population interacted with it. At the same time, I outline how the remains of this industry impacts the present as a form of pollution that affects local water quality and soil chemistry. Through these effects, industrial artifacts continue to actively transform the ecological relationships of humans and non-humans alike. In so doing, this project demonstrates the value of archaeology as a discipline whose focus on long temporalities and materiality provide unique insight into one of the most pressing contemporary political issues, ecological devastation and its social impact.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Modern climate change and contemporary environmental issues
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Vestergaard, Christina; Riede, Felix; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
    In light of the current discussion regarding the Anthropocene, this paper explores this new geological epoch from an archaeological – and specifically a field-archaeological – point of view. The Anthropocene has been proposed as an epoch in which humans have become the dominating force shaping global geological and ecological dynamics. At present, a lively debate runs as to the very validity and the time of onset of this ‘Age of Humans’. One of the most convincing starting points is the ‘Great Acceleration’ of the gargantuan capitalism-driven rise in fossil fuel extraction and chemical signature of human activity that began around 1950. This paper presents results of archaeological fieldwork at the former brown coal mining site of Søby in central Denmark. This field campaign was specifically designed to capture the coupled geological, ecological and cultural entanglements of the Anthropocene. Our approach combines contemporary archaeology, environmental archaeology and heritage studies resulting in a framing of Søby, its history and environs as ‘environmental dark heritage’. Furthermore, this archaeological fieldwork fed into a subsequent exhibition in the newly-opened Moesgård Museum. This exhibition challenged people to interact with the ‘mild apocalypse’ in their Anthropocene backyard. The Søby locale, we argue, presents a local microcosm of a potential global future of unintended environmental and social consequences, economic overexploitation and humanly induced catastrophe.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Forthcoming volumes, subscription information, available back issues
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
  • ItemOpen Access
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Meharry, JEva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
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    The Origin of Inequality. Origini 3, edited by Andrea Cardarelli, Alberto Cazzella and Marcella Frangipane
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Barker, Graeme; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
    The article reviews The Origins of Inequality, a collection of essays brought together by Andrea Cardarelli, Alberto Cazzella and Marcella Frangipane following a series of seminars on this theme at the University of Roma La Sapienza. The volume was formally presented at the university in May 2017 as the focus of a discussion of its theme by a philosopher (Giacomo Marramao), economic historian (Monika Poettinger), cultural anthropologist (Alessandro Lupo) and archaeologist (Graeme Barker). The review is an edited version of Graeme Barker’s contribution, which he structured in terms of the book‘s evidence of how the research agenda has developed in the 20 years since Gary Feinman summarised it in his final chapter in the book he edited with Douglas Price, The Foundations of Social Inequality (New York: Plenum Press, 1995).
  • ItemOpen Access
    Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America's Culture, by Chip Colwell
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Green, Chris; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
  • ItemOpen Access
    Contents - ARC 32.2: On the Edge of the Anthropocene? Modern Climate Change and the Practice of Archaeology
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Archaeology of South Asia from the Indus to Asoka, c.6500, by Robin Coningham and Ruth Young
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Smith, Monica L; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
    The book review evaluates the book The Archaeology of South Asia from the Indus to Asoka, c. 6500 BCE-200 CE by Robin Coningham and Ruth Young. The volume emphasizes the regional diversity of South Asian archaeological cultures and proposes a long historical continuity between the Bronze Age Indus culture (in present-day Pakistan and western India) and the Early Historic cities of the Indian peninsular subcontinent.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Antiquities: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Maxwell L. Anderson
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Vigar, Robert J; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
    A review of Antiquities: What Everyone Needs to Know By Maxwell L. Anderson
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    Material Culture in Russia and the USSR: Things, Values, Identities, edited by Graham H. Roberts
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Comer, Margaret; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
    This book review provides a critical overview of a recent edited volume that focuses on different aspects and forms of material culture in the USSR and contemporary Russia. With authors drawn from Russia, Eastern and Western Europe, and North America, the case studies focus on a wide range of objects, buildings, places, and phenomena that together further illuminate a unique sociocultural phenomenon and its current-day legacies.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Climate archaeology: New paradigms for changing times
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Lafrenz Samuels, Kathryn; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
    This article provides a commentary responding to the papers collected together for the special issue Modern Climate Change and the Practice of Archaeology. Responding to the challenges of climate change and global environmental change requires new paradigms for archaeological practice, which the papers in this volume address through discussions on emerging areas of archaeological research, and strategies for heritage management and ethical engagement.
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    Towards a new social contract for archaeology and climate change adaptation
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Jackson, Rowan; Dugmore, Andrew; Riede, Felix; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
    Anthropogenic climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing society in the twenty-first century. Climate impacts present wicked and messy challenges that require a cross-disciplinary understanding of social and biophysical change (Tengö et al. 2010). There is a growing body of evidence that climate change will have impacts on food production (Barrett 2010), global health (Watts et al. 2015, 2017), the frequency of hazardous events (IPCC 2014), resource conflict (Barnett and Adger 2007) and the displacement of people (Adger et al. 2013a; Bettini 2013, 2017). Curiously, archaeology, a subject with a long history of studying human-environment interactions, plays a very limited role in contemporary debates about appropriate responses to climate challenges (Costanzo et al. 2007; Dearing et al. 2006; Van de Noort 2013). This paper develops recent calls for archaeology to more actively participate in contemporary climate-adaptation research, public education and community empowerment (Riede 2014a; Riede et al. 2016a; Van de Noort 2013). Firstly, we outline the ways in which long-term perspectives of human interactions with changing climates (and thus archaeology) can contribute to global change research (GCR). Secondly, we outline the idea of a ‘social contract’ in archaeology as a way to enhance GCR. This ‘social contract’ would: (i) encourage interdisciplinary publications that synthesize archaeological research focusing on evidence of the long-term impacts of climate change on human societies; (ii) encourage museums to engage the public with thematic exhibitions that outline impacts of climate change on cultures in the past in ways that make explicit connections to contemporary debates; and, (iii) encourage transdisciplinary projects that better engage the physical sciences with the social sciences and the humanities, as well as with the academy and civil society.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Climate change, heritage policy and practice in England: Risks and opportunities
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Fluck, Hannah; Wiggins, Meredith; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
    Our climate is changing. Although the implications for both the physical remains and the intangible nature of the historic environment have been widely examined, the impact upon the ways in which we, as practitioners, currently conserve heritage, and how and whether practice and policy should be reconsidered, has perhaps been less so. The physical remains of England’s past are protected via four mechanisms: designation, development management (planning), agri-environment schemes and ownership. Climate change will affect all of these, as well as present new challenges that may require novel approaches to heritage management. Building upon previous research undertaken by Historic England, the public body that looks after England’s heritage, this paper looks at how three of the main cross-cutting climate change issues (loss, maladaptation and resilience) could affect heritage protection in England.
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    Culture on the move: Towards an inclusive framework for cultural heritage considerations in climate-related migration, displacement and relocation policies
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Herrmann, Victoria S; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
    The paper offers a foundation upon which to build a better approach to integrate archeology and cultural heritage into the policy dialogue for climate related migration, both internally to the United States and internationally. First, the paper provides a survey of the pillars of climate change policy, mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage, and how cultural heritage, archeology, and historic preservation are addressed within these three areas. It then delves further into the active role the cultural heritage community has fostered within the United States and internationally to better inform climate policy and action. It does so in part by synthesizing the work of the Pocantico Working Group on Climate Migration and Cultural Heritage, an international network of cultural leaders, archeologists, and scholars. Finally, the paper presents next steps into effectively incorporating cultural considerations into policy and legal options for addressing internal migration and relocation in the context of climate change. It is the intent of this brief piece to offer a groundwork reading of current frameworks for cultural heritage and climate change policy upon which future scholars can and should build towards finding effective ways of including heritage in climate action at the national and international levels. At its core, climate change is the modern story of the human journey. It is a story about the looming reality of losing the very things that connect us to our past and the tangible and intangible cultural heritage assets that construct the contours of our identities today.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Scotland's eroding heritage: A collaborative response to the impact of climate change
    (Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 2017-11-20) Graham, Ellie; Hambly, Joanna; Dawson, Tom; Meharry, J. Eva; Haboucha, Rebecca; Comer, Margaret
    Scotland’s coastline contains a wealth of archaeological sites, thousands of which are being impacted by coastal erosion, accelerated by climate change. A series of government-sponsored Coastal Zone Assessment Surveys (CZAS) took the first steps in targeting vulnerable areas and recorded not only the heritage assets but also the vulnerability of the coast edge; assessing the geology, geomorphology and erosion risk. Covering 40% of the Scottish coastline, these surveys recorded 12,000 heritage sites. A prioritisation process by SCAPE took account of each site’s value, vulnerability and condition, refining this dataset and classifying nearly 1,000 sites as requiring attention. Recognising that site condition can change rapidly in the dynamic coastal zone, SCAPE initiated the Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk Project (SCHARP) in 2012. Employing a citizen science approach to recording and monitoring the resource, they worked with members of the local community to update and enhance the prioritised CZAS dataset. Monitoring alone does not save sites, so the project has also worked with community groups to undertake action at locally-valued sites. As preservation in situ is impractical or impossible in many coastal locations, the main aim has been to rescue as much information as possible from these sites. A variety of strategies, from innovative digital recording and excavation to relocating and reconstructing sites have been deployed. This paper will highlight methods used to record and prioritise action at the diverse range of Scottish coastal heritage. It will use SCHARP as a case study to describe a methodology monitoring and protecting the resource and present examples of fragile intertidal sites vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.