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Sustainable Lifeways

Sustainable Lifeways: Cultural Persistence in an Ever-Changing Environment

Naomi F. Miller
Katherine M. Moore
Kathleen Ryan
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Sustainable Lifeways
    Book Description:

    Sustainable Lifeways addresses forces of conservatism and innovation in societies dependent on the exploitation of aquatic and other wild resources, agriculture, and specialized pastoralism. The volume gathers specialists working in four areas of the world with significant archaeological and paleoenvironmental databases: West Asia, the American Southwest, East Africa, and Andean South America, and contributing to research in three broad time scales: long term (spanning millennia), medium term (archaeological time, spanning centuries or a few thousand years), and recent (ethnohistoric or ethnographic, spanning years or decades). By bringing an archaeological eye to an examination of human response to unpredictable environmental conditions, informed by an understanding of contemporary traditional peoples, the contributors to this volume develop a more detailed picture of how societies perceive environmental risk, how they alter their behavior in the face of changing conditions, and under what challenges the most rapid and far-reaching changes in adaptation have taken place. Sustainable Lifeways enhances our understanding of both the forces of conservatism and innovation which may have been in play in major transitions in the past, such as the development of complex society, and the expansions of early empires. Studies present examples of cattle herders in East Africa, hunter-gatherers and pastoralists in the Levant, South American fisher/farmers, and farmer/hunters of the U.S. Southwest.

    eISBN: 978-1-934536-32-2
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Figures
    (pp. VII-X)
  4. Tables
    (pp. XI-XII)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. XIII-XVI)
  6. Foreword Penn Museum International Research Conferences
    (pp. XVII-XVIII)

    For more than a century, a core mission of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has been to foster research that leads to new understandings about human culture. For much of the 20th century, this research took the form of worldwide expeditions that brought back both raw data and artifacts whose analysis continues to shed light on early complex societies of the New and Old worlds. The civilizations of pharaonic Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, China, Mexico, and Central America are represented in galleries that display only the most remarkable of Penn Museum’s vast holding of artifacts. These...

  7. Preface
    (pp. XIX-xx)
    Naomi F. Miller, Katherine M. Moore and Kathleen Ryan
  8. Introduction: Sustainable Lifeways
    (pp. 1-12)

    All organisms and species respond to unpredictable variability in their environment. For individual humans and for the societies in which they live, cultural responses to environmental risk are embedded in technology, practice, and ideology. By their collective actions, societies can mitigate or exacerbate immediate and long-term risk in their environment. In addition, all societies, ancient and modern, have to deal with risk on several time scales. The most limited temporal scales concern annual and interannual variability in weather, pests, and other short-term risks. Over decades and longer (referred to here as medium scale), changes in climate, soil conditions, and vegetation...

  9. 1 ʺLiving with a Moving Targetʺ: Long-term Climatic Variability and Environmental Risk in Dryland Regions
    (pp. 13-38)

    People, both individually and collectively, prefer the natural world around them to be stable over time periods longer than the march of the seasons. A property owner with a sea view is surprised that the shoreline does not always stay in its appointed position, but moves alarmingly closer due to coastal erosion. An Andean Indian farmer tills fields ever higher up the slopes of the volcano notwithstanding the risk of life-threatening explosive eruption. Nature has a dangerous habit of being volatile and dynamic. This is manifested particularly clearly in the world’s drylands, whose climates are notoriously variable from one year...

  10. 2 Prehistoric Pastoralists and Social Responses to Climatic Risk in East Africa
    (pp. 39-74)

    Holocene climate change has long been thought to have played a major role in societal transformations such as the beginnings of food production and the decline of ancient cities and polities. Temporally and spatially large-scale climatic change, such as the desertification of the Sahara, may admit a limited range of human responses. The effects of more common smaller scale variability, though, have been much debated. Some scholars emphasize catastrophic societal declines in the face of climatic fluctuations, but others stress the extent to which climatic variability has stimulated successful technological and cultural innovation and resilience (Fagan 2004; Hassan 2002; McIntosh,...

  11. 3 Spreading Risk in Risky Environments: An East African Example
    (pp. 75-105)

    East African pastoralism has been characterized mainly by the ability of successive or continuing groups of people to adapt to, and survive in, an unpredictable but potentially productive environment. This has been made possible by the adoption/development of a diversity of adaptations: environmental, biological, behavioral, social and/or political. A hallmark of success has been flexibility. Some examples can be seen in opportunistic use of pastures and water sources; ability to opt in and out of a pastoral lifestyle as the need arises; biological adaptations of people to diet and nutritional seasonal stress and of animals to heat stress and low...

  12. 4 Risk and Resilience among Contemporary Pastoralists in Southwestern Iran
    (pp. 106-127)

    The Qashqa’i tribal confederacy emerged in the middle 1700s as a prominent sociopolitical group in southwestern Iran, and the nomadic pastoralists affiliated with it have always faced risks stemming from their physical, political, economic, and social environments.¹ Comparisons with nomadic pastoralists in the wider region (Turkey, other parts of Iran, Afghanistan, and central Eurasia) over the past centuries indicate common features in their ecological, technological, political, economic, social, and cultural adaptations to similar semiarid, steppe, and high-altitude zones. Archaeologists suggest the presence of similar kinds of adaptations for the region for a longer period, including many millennia, on the basis...

  13. 5 Change and Stability in an Uncertain Environment: Foraging Strategies in the Levant from the Early Natufian through the Beginning of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
    (pp. 128-149)

    Climate change is much in the public mind today as we emerge from the early debates of “is it a real phenomenon?” to queries about “what is causing it, humans or nature?” and finally most recently “how should our modern society respond to climate change?” At all stages of these debates researchers—both natural and social scientists—have pointed to the past to emphasize instances in which climate change has impacted previous societies. In order to make the point that global warming is a very real and even urgent issue today, the case for the impact of climate change on...

  14. 6 Explaining the Structure and Timing of Formation of Pueblo I Villages in the Northern U.S. Southwest
    (pp. 150-179)

    Human interactions with the environment structure society in many different ways. Longstanding cultural practices likewise have a structuring effect on the environment. On appropriate time scales, then, practices affect societies through a feedback mechanism provided by the environment (Odling-Smee, Laland, and Feldman 1996). Climate change provides exogenous signals that may affect these interactions because of responses in either the society or the environment. Human population movements and sociopolitical strife play the roles of sometimes endogenous, sometimes exogenous, factors that on small spatial scales may seem inexplicable but which on longer temporal and wider spatial scales may have understandable rhythms (Turchin...

  15. 7 Mitigating Environmental Risk in the U.S. Southwest
    (pp. 180-211)

    It is a challenging task to contribute something new to the literature on risk and subsistence in the U.S. Southwest. For the past 25 or 30 years Southwestern archaeologists have modeled, investigated, and published on this topic in entire volumes devoted to the issue (e.g., Gumerman 1988; Tainter and Tainter 1996) and in individual books and articles (e.g., Anschuetz 2006; Braun and Plog 1982; Ford 1992; Minnis 1985; Rautman 1993). In reviewing this literature, however, one area that appears to be in need of further consideration is the link between specific risks regarding agricultural production and specific strategies to mitigate...

  16. 8 Farmersʹ Experience and Knowledge: Utilizing Soil Diversity to Mitigate Rainfall Variability on the Taraco Peninsula, Bolivia
    (pp. 212-243)

    As many chapters in this volume demonstrate, unpredictable rainfall is a common reality for farmers worldwide, past and present. During my ethnographic study of farming practices among indigenous Aymara communities on the Taraco Peninsula, Bolivia, I had many conversations about rain. When I arrived in October 2003, the farmers said the planting season was delayed because the rains had not yet come. When the rain finally fell in November, they complained that it was too much. Despite anxiety voiced about too much or too little rain, I found that the Taraco farmers have practices that mitigate risks presented by variability...

  17. 9 Grace Under Pressure: Responses to Changing Environments by Herders and Fishers in the Formative Lake Titicaca Basin, Bolivia
    (pp. 244-272)

    This chapter describes long-term adaptation to dramatically fluctuating landscapes in the basin of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. Fine-grained zooarchaeological analysis is used to track shifting reliance on a key, but risky, resource: fish. From the first known occupation of the region, around 1500 BC, lacustrine resources including fish, birds, and lake-edge plants were important to residents. Yet the combined effects of the topography, climate, and vegetation around this high altitude lake produce noticeable changes in the position of the shoreline over just a few years. Continuous occupation over lengthy periods during which the lake virtually dried up show the deep-seated resiliency...

  18. 10 Periodic Volcanism, Persistent Landscapes, and the Archaeofaunal Record in the Jama Valley of Western Ecuador
    (pp. 273-309)

    The northern Andes of Ecuador and southern Colombia is one of the world’s most volcanically active regions. Extensive lowlands that lie directly to the west of the Andean chain were home to the early appearance and prolonged development of complex, agriculturally based human occupation. Although extending up to hundreds of linear kilometers beyond their nearest volcanic source, vast portions of these lowland habitats were subject to periodically severe environmental disturbance and protracted tephra fallout that emanated from at least three major eruptions since the 1st millennium BC (Isaacson and Zeidler 1999; Zeidler and Isaacson 2003).

    Archaeological evidence suggests that human...

  19. 11 Managing Predictable Unpredictability: Agricultural Sustainability at Gordion, Turkey
    (pp. 310-324)

    Farming is a notoriously risky occupation, and is particularly so when climate conditions are very variable. The agropastoral economy that developed in west Asia about 10,000 years ago was one solution. It integrated a subsistence base of domesticated plants and animals: wheat, barley, pulses, sheep, goat, cattle, and pig. Depending on local conditions, this flexible system tolerated varying degrees of sedentism or mobility by allowing people to combine multiple strategies in exploiting a diverse group of taxa. By the time of the early civilizations (3rd millennium BC, the Early Bronze Age), technological advances, such as irrigation, and social developments, like...

  20. Index
    (pp. 325-329)