Archaeological Contributions to Climate Change Research: The Archaeological Record as a Paleoclimatic and Paleoenvironmental Archive

Posted: 8 Oct 2012

Date Written: October 2012

Abstract

Recent decades have seen a resurgence of interest in human ecodynamics—the relationship among climate, environment, and culture. Most published research concentrates on the potential causal role of climate and environment in culture change. We approach the issue from the other side: The archaeological record often incorporates important, sometimes unique, proxy records of climate, of environment, and of change in both. We detail four case studies, from South America, Southwest Asia, North America, and the Shetland Islands. In each case, the paleoclimatic and/or paleoenvironmental data resulted from multidisciplinary archaeological projects whose major objective was to understand past human behavior. Nevertheless, in each case, the projects generated important information about the natural world in the past. Often, these data play a role in modeling future climatic and environmental change of potential significance to humans. We note a growing use of archaeological proxy data by climate scientists and predict an increase in this trend on the basis of recent history.

Suggested Citation

Sandweiss, Daniel H. and Kelley, Alice R., Archaeological Contributions to Climate Change Research: The Archaeological Record as a Paleoclimatic and Paleoenvironmental Archive (October 2012). Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 41, pp. 371-391, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2158275 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-anthro-092611-145941

Daniel H. Sandweiss (Contact Author)

University of Maine ( email )

Orono, ME 04469
United States

Alice R. Kelley

University of Maine ( email )

Orono, ME 04469
United States

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