The 178th RIHN seminar

Date: November 19th, 2019 (Tuesday) 15:30 - 17:00
Place: Lecture Hall, RIHN ( → Access)
Title: Making Archaeology Relevant Today: Three Strategies
Lecturer: Timothy Kohler (RIHN Invited Scholar / Professor, Department of Anthropology, Washington State University)

I review three studies (one published a couple years ago, the other two in press) that provide templates for strategies by which archaeologists can strive to make their research more relevant to today’s problems. The first study couples paleoclimatic reconstructions for the US Southwest with projected conditions for the same area in the future. We show that the conditions that provoked (or at least accompanied) the 12th-century collapse of the Chacoan system, and the 13th-century depopulation by farmers of the entire northern Southwest, will soon become the norm in the Southwest unless we choose to drastically curtail our GHG emissions. The second study is world-wide in scope. We establish the concept of a human temperature niche, and show that human preferences for temperature have been remarkably stable and focused for at least 6000 years. Then we show how the places on earth that satisfy our preferred temperature are projected to move more over the next 60 years (depending on our realized GHG emissions) than they have in the last 6000 years, with predictable consequences for migration probabilities. Finally, the third study is more theoretical in nature, and shows how considering socio-environmental feedbacks enables a fuller understanding of why some some systems (and some cultural practices) spread and endure better than others, helping to develop a framework that embraces Darwinian evolutionary principles, but goes beyond them in important ways. All three studies find commonalities between ancient, present, and predicted circumstances that establish the relevance of archaeology for thinking about the future.

*GHG = greenhouse gas

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