Applied Archaeology in the Americas: Evaluating Archaeological Solutions to the Impacts of Global Environmental Change
Jago Cooper and Lindsay Duncan
This chapter considers the role of archaeology in creating solutions for coping with the impacts of global environmental change, illustrated by cases from Latin America. Past examples of the practical application of pre-Columbian innovations and techniques are considered, and the key themes of social practice and community engagement discussed. These principles are then applied to the islands of the Caribbean where archaeology can play an important role in accessing and illuminating pre-Columbian lifeways in the region. The comparative resilience of past and present lifeways to the hazards created by extreme weather events, precipitation variability, and sea level changes are discussed, and the role of archaeology as a means of engaging the public, stimulating discussion, and informing debate is considered.
John A. Ware
The direct historical approach investigates the past by working backward in time from the known ethnographic present to the unknown pre-colonial past. The approach assumes historical connection between past and present and promises to yield insights into the contingent facts of particular culture histories. Popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, especially in the Pueblo Southwest, the direct historical approach was abandoned partly because of its early reliance on Native oral traditions. In recent years, revival of the approach has been hampered by assumptions about colonial impacts and historical disjunctions. This chapter argues that the demise of the direct historical approach was premature and that its revival is essential to a comprehensive understanding of both pre-colonial past and ethnographic present.
Timothy A. Kohler
Echoes of all the major approaches to applying evolutionary theory and method to the archaeological record can be found in the Southwest. Prior to about 1980, cultural evolutionary approaches were quite common; after that time, until the mid-1990s, selectionism was the dominant approach. More recently, human behavioral ecology and, to a smaller degree, dual inheritance theory have oriented most evolutionary research, while at the same time, research that draws on the theories and methods of complex adaptive systems has become more prominent. All of these approaches are likely to contribute to solving the grand challenges facing archaeology in the Southwest.
Jason E. Laffoon
This article discusses the applications of isotope analyses to insular Caribbean contexts, with a special emphasis on the uses of strontium and oxygen isotope analyses to investigate the movement of humans, animals, and materials from the archaeological record. The first applications of these approaches to Caribbean materials are very recent, but their results indicate both the enormous potential of these techniques and some of their limitations. The discussion considers the future course of this research topic in the Caribbean, with some suggestions for how to further develop these approaches and ways in which they might contribute to archaeological discourses on mobility and diet within the circum-Caribbean.
William J. Pestle
This article presents an overview of the history of Caribbean archaeological carbon and nitrogen stable isotope studies, a history that is paradoxically notable both for the precociousness of its first appearance and the subsequent dearth of large and meaningful studies. It provides a synopsis of the methodological underpinnings of paleodietary reconstruction by stable isotope analysis and discusses some of the unique challenges encountered in the use of this technique in Caribbean contexts. After reviewing some of the more meaningful studies of Caribbean archaeological materials, the article concludes with some thoughts on future prospects for the use of C and N stable isotope analysis for paleodietary reconstruction in archaeological research in the Caribbean Basin.
Susan D. deFrance
The zooarchaeological record of the Caribbean is one of the most interesting in the world, owing to the combination of unique culture histories along with the high natural, biological, and environmental diversities. This article reviews some recent examples of faunal research regarding past lifeways in the region and offers suggestions for how future studies can build upon existing knowledge. The case studies selected span the geographic variability of the Caribbean islands and exemplify recent trends in faunal studies. The discussion addresses two overlapping themes that crosscut time periods and the geographic variability of the islands. The first topic is diet and cultural trajectories. In the last 10 years, zooarchaeological studies of Caribbean assemblages have increasingly examined the social relationship of diet and animal use to cultural developments. The second topic considers the use of zooarchaeological data for understanding biogeography and human impacts on fauna.