Integrating Geoarchaeology with Archaeology for Interdisciplinary Understanding of Societal–Environmental Relations
Karl W. Butzer
Despite an early growth of interest in archaeological problems by the science community, systematic application of earth science in a major field project during the 1920s was not directly followed up. But by 1960 environmental archaeology had become a focus of problem formulation, experimentation, and innovation, thanks to excavations led by both Classical and Anthropological archaeologists. Adequate professional training did not follow, given disciplinary hurdles and funding traps, so that geoarchaeology remained a multidisciplinary goal rather than an interdisciplinary commitment. This chapter lays out how the methods of geoarchaeology can be applied to retrieving pragmatic rather than deductive data on environmental history, which can contribute to understanding global and regional problems of degradation. This offers an avenue to monitoring human impacts and environmental change, critical for understanding landscape histories, as well as for contemporary or future issues of sustainability in coupled human–environmental systems.
This chapter presents the author's personal reflection on aspects of wetland archaeology that she has been involved with, and a brief glance to the future. She describes the origins and development of the Somerset Levels Project, which she co-directed with John Coles in the 1970s and 1980s. The demonstrable success of this project and the consequent establishment of the international network known as the Wetland Archaeology Research Project (WARP) helped bring wetland archaeology to a wider audience. The author emphasises some key themes and discusses some of her own work, on wooden figurines, on Doggerland – the lost land under the North Sea – and most recently on beavers, modest creatures that had a huge impact on the prehistoric environments of Europe. In conclusion, she looks to the future of wetland archaeology, stating that we need to ‘press on with research on the significance of wetlands for humans in the past, to contribute to current strategies for wetland preservation, and to develop a more stable relationship between people and water than exists at present’.
Robert Van de Noort
This chapter examines the future of wetland archaeology in the twenty-first century, focusing on the impact of climate change. It first describes the impact of climate change on wetlands using the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, and then considers the kinds of practical and political responses required from wetland archaeologists. Finally, the chapter discusses how we can develop an archaeological theory of wetlands that is fit for purpose in an era of climate change.