I tried to find three articles which touched on a similar theme. Since my research will be looking at anthropogenic impact on local marine environments, specifically resource depression, I read one article that discussed contemporary archaeological perspectives on historical ecology and two articles which focused on the relations between archaeological fields and studies in global change.
Article 1: Anderson, A. (2009). Epilogue: Changing Archaeological Perspectives upon Historical Ecology in the Pacific Islands. Pacific Science, 63(4), 747-757.
Confession: this article is not from an anthropological journal however it explicitly discusses archaeological perspectives, it was published in the Pacific Science journal because it relates to multidisciplinary research. Anderson’s main argument is that the current perspectives and understandings in regards to anthropogenic impact on the Pacific environments are changing from the main viewpoints of the late twentieth century. Specifically, research focus was on the historical significance of humans shaping the island ecosystems, and now Anderson suggests the emphasis is shifting to other new topics. He describes how recent research approaches to historical ecology have become more complex because certain topics and issues which were grazed lightly before are being closely investigated now. Anderson makes this point clear in his discussion on the emerging interest in past natural disasters:
“Today, however, as environmental catastrophism gnaws at the foundations of philosophical uniformitarianism and confidence wanes in the efficacy of technological, not to mention financial, instruments for the alleviation of environmental disaster, the time is ripe for serious consideration of these.” (Anderson, 2009: 750).
Although not explicitly stated, I believe a number of other issues are gaining interest for researchers as a result of contemporary environmental concerns such as sea level rise, climate change, or overexploitation of resources. The three new thematic emphases in the Pacific are: biological invasions, landscape history, and behavioural ecology. The skeleton of the article was thus shaped around these emerging topics of interest and Anderson appeared to be speaking directly to archaeologists and researchers of related fields. Throughout the article Anderson mentioned recent findings which have contrasted past generalized notions or flat out rejected specific hypotheses. By highlighting these instances, he acknowledged a rise of divergence and disagreements aimed at established and widespread generalizations.
I found this article to be informative and useful for my current and future work. Since my research focus is on resource depression and anthropogenic impact on the environment, it is beneficial for me to understand how archaeological perspectives have changed in recent years. I would like to know where research emphasis is situated in the field and how it may influence the placement of my own work. While knowing that archaeological perspectives have recently changed was valuable, it was also a relief to be reassured that earlier emphases still remain important. I was worried that Anderson was going to suggest that certain topical areas I plan to touch on are no longer of interest or significance. Basically he argued that the nature of archaeological perspectives and approaches of contemporary researchers will provide us with a richer and more complex understanding of historical ecology in the Pacific. Yet on a final note, I would have preferred some further discussion or personal input from Anderson on any relations between current research emphases in historical ecology and concerns of modern anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic impact on island and coastal environments. Fortunately in the next two articles I get what I asked for.
Article 2: Hardesty, D. L. (2007). Perspectives on Global‐Change Archaeology. American Anthropologist, 109(1), 1-7.
I would like to begin this part by stating that I was excited to find this article because I have had trouble trying to explain to others, and conceptualize to myself, how my research in historical ecology and resource depression can specifically relate or apply historical knowledge to contemporary issues. In a number of case studies and syntheses I have read lately I often come across brief statements like: “archaeological/zooarchaeological research can provide us with historical knowledge that may be applied to contemporary environmental problems”. However this is mainly where that discussion ends, there is no explanation of how these connections can be made or any detailed examples given. I am left to just believe the authors or look elsewhere for the answers. This is why this article (and the third article) caught my eye, because its entirety focused on this notion.
What is “global-change archaeology”? After a quick google scholar check I realized Hardesty may be the only researcher combining these two terms, nevertheless the concept is pretty self explanatory. The emerging field does exactly what I have mentioned earlier, it “appl[ies] historical knowledge of past human–environmental interactions to the understanding of contemporary environmental problems and management and planning for future sustainability” (Hardesty, 2007: 1). Although Hardesty incorporated his interpretations of various theoretical influences, he did not provide his own arguments. The main argument I could pull out of the article was for the importance of global-change archaeology which was explicitly stated by being given its own heading: “Why Global-Change Archaeology?”. However this argument did not resonate throughout the other parts of the article and was simply confined to its own small section. Even at the end of the article when Hardesty could have reminded the reader once again of the importance of the field, he chose to discuss the field’s directions instead.
There was little to no fluidity among the various headings, information was sectioned and placed under such topical divisions without smooth transitioning. On the other hand, the information was situated strategically so that the reader first understands what ‘global-change archaeology’ is, what it contributes, and where it stands in relation to other fields such as environmental archaeology and political ecology. Then there was a brief discussion on methodology and its interdisciplinary nature, and finally a discussion on the theoretical relations focusing on agency and history. There was no personal engagement in the article and the author’s voice was rather objective. I believe the reason for this was because of the location of the article in the journal. It was the first article of the issue and thus acted as an introduction for the subsequent papers. Hardesty drew upon examples from case studies in the same issue to support and form his piece. I thought this strategy was effective to encourage the reader to continue reading about global-change archaeology or related research.
After reading through the first couple of pages I realized that the narrative style was incredibly descriptive, and the majority of the article was dry. Do not get me wrong, it was informative and I did learn a lot. Because this piece was rather descriptive I believe Hardesty wanted to take a neutral position to gain as large of an audience as possible. Especially since the issues are global and the field is interdisciplinary, Hardesty’s intentions were first and foremost to educate. For this reason I enjoyed the article, its strength was its content. However for someone who has no interest or use for the goals of global-change archaeology, the structure and narrative style would likely have bored them.
Article 3: Amorosi, T., Woollett, J., Perdikaris, S., & McGovern, T. (1996). Regional zooarchaeology and global change: Problems and potentials. World Archaeology, 28(1), 126-157.
This article discussed the research approach of applying data from regional zooarchaeology to global change investigations. It focused on the problems zooarchaeologists face in multiple stages of the research process and whether their data can be of productive use to researchers involved in global change programs. My first thoughts were that this article was going to be structured as such: the status of zooarchaeology, issues in research that may limit the adequacy of zooarchaeological data for global change investigations, possible solutions to problems and a silver lining. However I was interested to see that the introduction was relatively brief and the remainder of the article’s discussions intertwined problems and solutions together while being separated by specific topics such as sample size or quantification issues. The negative aspect of this article was in fact the negative aspect of the structure, specifically the headings. To clarify, the headings signified ‘problems’ and not one stated something like ‘solutions’ or ‘potentials’. So if someone were to lightly skim this article they may think the authors were criticizing zooarchaeological contributions to global change research. ‘Potentials’ is in the title so I think one of the concluding sections should have had a more optimistic heading.
The authors incorporated selected examples from two geographical regions into their article, yet instead of placing them under their own isolated headings, they were integrated into the topical discussions which I found refreshing. Normally when an author states: “we will discuss these issues then present some case studies or examples”, I am accustomed to reading the descriptions of said case studies one at a time then learning of their significance either at the end of each narration or in the discussion section of the article. In that situation I often skip much of the descriptive background of the case studies and skim for the significance. However the authors of this article selected and presented the importance of these examples throughout their discussions and with minimum background noise. I found that this structure helped their argument and the fluidity of their narrative.
The narrative style was partly subjective, the authors belong to a research group which is affiliated with the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization so they took a hopeful position for the incorporation of zooarchaeological data into regional perspectives on environmental change. They also included numerous personal opinions and judgements throughout the article, such as arguments for better approaches and methods. Like mentioned in the Hardesty article, the field of research in global change is multidisciplinary, so although this article is primarily intended for zooarchaeologists it can speak to researchers of related fields focusing on the same questions. The authors wanted to advocate for the incorporation of zooarchaeological data so they took an honest approach and described in detail the current problems but also the potential usefulness of the field.
I found this article incredibly valuable not only for my research but on a personal level as well. As I have stated earlier, I am interested in how historical knowledge in my field can assist with contemporary issues, therefore while Hardesty article spoke about global change and archaeology, this paper went a step further specifically to zooarchaeology and showed me exactly where my research interests can go.