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.
Applied Perspectives on Pre-Columbian Maya Water Management Systems: What Are the Insights for Water Security?
Christian Isendahl, Vernon L. Scarborough, Joel D. Gunn, Nicholas P. Dunning, Scott L. Fedick, Gyles Iannone, and Lisa J. Lucero
Water security is a fundamental global challenge for humanity. Suggesting that scholars, water management engineers, and policy-makers draw from a wide range of examples, this chapter argues that knowledge gained from archaeological research provides unique insights into the long-term function and efficacy of water management systems. This chapter presents six cases of water management systems in the pre-Columbian Maya lowlands, from the Yalahau, Puuc-Nohkakab, Petén Karst Plateau, and Belize River Valley subregions, that demonstrate significant variation; a product of the interplay between social, political, and economic factors and hydrological regimes. The analysis suggests four insights relevant for current water security concerns: (1) water management systems are characterized by a diversity of solutions, (2) water scarcity promotes increased management investments that result in long-term vulnerability, (3) water abundance does not require complex management systems but increases the risk for mismanagement, and (4) institutional and technological diversity provide flexibility and greater security.
This chapter explores how human and natural dynamics of landscape change may be portrayed and tested using both geoarchaeological and GIS-based modelling approaches. Comprehensive sets of well-dated and spatially related archaeological, geoarchaeological, and palaeoenvironmental data are essential prerequisites. In addition to providing visualizations of possible realities, geoarchaeological investigations can ground-truth GIS-based landscape–human interaction models. Together these techniques can both help visualize and interrogate many possible scenarios of change, and allow consideration of other cause–effect relationships of landscape change. More detailed understandings of long-term human and potential future impacts on landscapes should be achievable, especially when coupled with precise environmental and climatic data. Nonetheless, modelling is no substitute for good sequences of palaeoenvironmental data in well understood, culturally shaped landscapes, but it is a valuable tool for aiding interpretation. A number of examples of this kind of application from around the world are presented.