Archaeology, climate, and global change in the age of humans

Human societies face significant challenges, ranging from climate change to food security, biodiversity declines and extinction, and political instability. In response, scientists, policy makers, and the general public are seeking new interdisciplinary or trans-disciplinary approaches to evaluate and identify meaningful solutions to these global challenges. 

Under-recognized among these challenges is the disappearing record of past environmental change, which can be key to surviving the future. Historical sciences such as archaeology access the past to provide long-term perspectives on past human ecodynamics: the interaction between human social and cultural systems and climate and environment. Such studies shed light on how we arrived at the present day and help us search for sustainable trajectories toward the future. 

In this paper, Torben C. Rick and  Daniel H. Sandweiss highlight contributions by archaeology—the study of the human past—to interdisciplinary research programs designed to evaluate current social and environmental challenges and contribute to solutions for the future. The past is a multimillennial experiment in human ecodynamics, and, together with our transdisciplinary colleagues, archaeology is well positioned to uncover the lessons of that experiment.

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