Archaeologists at the vanguard of environmental and climate research
26 February 2017
The history of people and landscapes, whether natural or cultural, is fundamentally connected. Answering key historical questions about this relation will allow us to approach our most important environmental issues in novel ways. Today in the open access journal PLOS ONE archaeologists present a list of 50 priority issues for historical ecology.
We tend to think of the overuse of natural resources, climatic instability, and large-scale human land use as quintessentially modern day problems. Yet a group of researchers led by archaeologists and calling themselves historical ecologists have recently come together to determine what we need to know about past human-environmental relationships to build a more sustainable future. These historical ecologists crowd-sourced hundreds of research questions from scholars around the world that, when answered, will reveal key information about how people have hade impact on and responded to changing environments over the course of thousands of years. Workshops were held at Uppsala University (Sweden) and Simon Fraser University (Canada) to discuss submissions from scholars and identify the 50 questions that are most in need of answering. The list of 50 priority issues for historical ecology will be published Friday in the open access journal PLOS ONE.
This research brings a novel approach to tackling the big problems our societies face when it comes to human-environmental relations. Historical ecologists are a diverse community of scholars dedicated to bridging the gap between the natural and social sciences because as first author Chelsey Geralda Armstrong, a PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University explains “issues like climate change are not just ecological problems – they are social ones.” Adds co-author Anna Shoemaker, also a PhD at Uppsala University “The 50 questions in this paper make no distinction between the history of people and landscapes, or natural and cultural, the two are fundamentally connected.”
The focus on learning from the past is also critical as “worldwide and through time, humans have adapted to environmental stresses and climatic shifts. Although it’s easy to assume that people tend to disastrously impact environmental health”, says Armstrong, “through studying the archaeological record and working with Indigenous collaborators, we see many examples of ancient societies that have successfully responded to environmental instability by conscientiously managing their resources and behaving in ways that promote resilient and biodiverse habitats.”
The paper also makes clear that another reason history matters is that to be able to predict the effects of contemporary human activity, to create accurate models for future climate change for example, we need to know how modern landscapes have been shaped by the actions of people in the past. Says Shoemaker “humans have been modifying their environments for a long time. We need to take into account how the landscapes we live in today are the result of millennia of people doing things like burning vegetation, herding animals and farming when we make decisions about how to preserve, restore, or remodel environments. Historical ecology research is all about generating that data so we can figure out how best to manage our world.”
Another clear concern for these researchers is how academics can better integrate Western science with traditional and Indigenous knowledge bases. “Local and Indigenous communities that have tended to be marginalized from environmental management decisions have much to offer,” says Armstrong, adding that “issues like climate change need to be approached with diverse knowledge sets, and take into account multiple perspectives”. Armstrong stresses that greater attempts at meaningful and respectful collaboration with Indigenous and local communities are seriously needed, revealing that “the questions submitted from researchers about how resource managers can best engage with Indigenous and/or local communities were consistently flagged as some of the most important.”
Article: Anthropological Contributions to Historical Ecology: 50 Questions, Infinite Prospects. Chelsey Geralda Armstrong, Anna C. Shoemaker, Iain McKechnie, Anneli Ekblom, Péter Szabó, Paul J. Lane, Alex C. McAlvay, Oliver J. Boles, Sarah Walshaw, Nik Petek, Kevin S. Gibbons, Erendira Quintana Morales, Eugene N. Anderson, Aleksandra Ibragimow, Grzegorz Podruczny, Jana C. Vamosi, Tony Marks-Block, Joyce K. LeCompte, Sākihitowin Awâsis, Carly Nabess, Paul Sinclair, Carole L. Crumley. PLOS ONE. DOI 10.137/journal.pone.0171883
New light cast on Scandinavia’s most important Bronze Age site
09 oktober 2018
Håga, Scandinavia's most significant Bronze Age site, is relatively unknown. But in a new book, archaeologists at Uppsala University have brought together what is known and placed Håga in a larger context.
New study shows virus traces in historical skeletal material
06 september 2018
A new international study shows the importance of studying historical skeletal material to increase knowledge about how viruses develop.
Large-scale whaling in north Scandinavia may date back to 6th century
13 juni 2018
The intensive whaling that has pushed many species to the brink of extinction today may be several centuries older than previously assumed. This view is held by archaeologists from Uppsala and York whose findings are presented in the European Jour...
Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson to receive King’s Medal
08 juni 2018
H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf has decided to award Uppsala University’s Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson and Johan Svedjedal, Professor of Literature, H.M. The King’s Medal.
This year’s Distinguished Teaching Award winners chosen
04 juni 2018
The 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award winners at Uppsala University teach subjects related to art history, informatics and media, pharmaceutical biosciences and information technology. The free Distinguished Teaching Award was presented to Senior ...
Human diversity as a research area
29 maj 2018
Human diversity abounds in language, culture and biology. An understanding of this diversity is central to a lot of research, but it is important to address the ethical issues raised by this research. The Human Diversity Research Network takes an ...
Shared meals important for wellbeing
29 maj 2018
How, where and when we eat are key issues for human health and wellbeing. A multidisciplinary research network at Uppsala University aims to deepen knowledge about the significance of meals.
Is citizenship necessary for being part of a democracy?
26 april 2018
Nowadays, civil rights are usually connected with citizenship of a country. But how do growing globalisation and more mobility affect this?
Mobilising for research on higher education
26 april 2018
Remarkably little research is conducted on higher education in Sweden, but a large share of existing research on the subject is at Uppsala University. Through a research network for research on higher education, researchers are now mobilising to d...
Two Uppsala researchers elected at American Academy
25 april 2018
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences recently elected new members. Two Uppsala researchers were elected as international honorary members.
The Well-Laden Ship: Viking exhibition soon to reach America
11 april 2018
In late April, a ship will reach New York bringing the exhibition “The Vikings Begin” which will embark on a two-year tour of the US. On display will be a selection of 1,300-year-old items from the pre-Viking Age. Usually in storage at Gustavianum...
Art historian receives award from Vitterhetsakademien
09 april 2018
Every year, Vitterhetsakademien (The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities) confers prizes for outstanding scholarly achievements. PhD Hedvig Mårdh at Uppsala University was one of the 2017 prizewinners.
New Oscar Prize winners announced
21 december 2017
Uppsala University’s Oscar Prize for young researchers has been awarded to Eric Cullhed, Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Linguistics and Philology and Oskar Karlsson, Doctor of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences.
New thesis on 21st-century Swedish crime fiction: A Market of Murders
20 december 2017
Why have Swedish detective stories become so immensely popular in our century? What murder motives and weapons are most common in the genre, and why? And is it true that Swedish crime fiction is characterised by social criticism? A new thesis from...
Collaboration for new knowledge in culture and society
09 december 2017
Uppsala University is aiming to develop new research collaborations spanning different research subjects. The newly created Centre for Integrated Research on Culture and Society at the Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences will fac...
Ola Larsmo and Quentin Skinner new honorary doctors
16 oktober 2017
Author Ola Larsmo and Professor Quentin Skinner, University of London, have been appointed new honorary doctors at Uppsala University’s Faculty of Arts.
Equal Opportunities Award goes to Anita Hussénius
12 oktober 2017
Anita Hussénius, head of the Centre for Gender Research, has received the 2016 Equal Opportunities Award for her gender-equal and inclusive leadership.
Exhibition: Viking Age patterns may be Kufic script
03 oktober 2017
What was previously thought to be typical Viking Age, silver patterns on woven silk bands, could in fact be geometric Kufic characters. As part of an exhibition at the Enköping Museum, ongoing research is presented where a textile archaeological a...
First genetic proof that women were Viking warriors
08 september 2017
New DNA evidence uncovered by researchers at Uppsala University and Stockholm University shows that there were in fact female Viking warriors. The remains of an iconic Swedish Viking Age grave now reveal that war was not an activity exclusive to m...
Gustavian style – a Swedish style?
05 juni 2017
Why has the neoclassical Gustavian style become so prominent in the Swedish self-image? A new dissertation from Uppsala University shows how researchers in art history, along with museums, commercial enterprises and the monarchy, have contributed ...