Anthropology

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An Archaeologist Writes against the Anthropocene

Much of what archaeologists do is study how humans adapt to the environment. After Gordon Willey’s (1953) groundbreaking investigation into the entire history of occupation of a small valley in Peru, understanding how humans lived in and modified their environment became commonplace. Indeed, the “New Archeology” that took the American academy by storm in the 1960s and strove to make the discipline more scientific made human-environment interactions and the understanding of human-environmental relations one of its central goals…

Water and the Preclassic Maya at El Tintal, Petén, Guatemala

As part of the 1931 Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Uaxactun expedition, geologist C.W. Cooke (1931: 286) noted, “If the bajos were restored to their former condition, the Petén would be a region of many beautiful lakes. Travel in it would be easy, for one could go from place to place by boat, with only short journeys overland, from one lake to another, across country that offers little impediment to travel at any season.” These bajos mentioned by Cooke, low-lying swampy areas prone to flooding, are spread throughout most of the northern lowlands of Petén, Guatemala, characterizing the region with seasonal and perennial wetland systems.

Ethnography and Archaeology of Water in the Maya Lowlands

Procuring potable water is an important factor for daily life in the semitropics, especially for contemporary populations in rural Guatemala. Seasonal subsistence practices are crucial for survival, especially regarding agriculture, droughts, and flooding. This article focuses on the Salinas de los Nueve Cerros region in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala to highlight contemporary land-use practices among the Q’eqchi’ Maya, their adaptations to flooding, droughts, and uses of different water resources.

Libraries Burning

The impact of climate change on archaeological and heritage sites in the Arctic region is devastating. New techniques of research and analysis are providing increasingly rich data about the long history of humans in the environment. Just as the value of these sites is being recognized more fully, the sites themselves are being destroyed by thawing permafrost, rising sea levels, and increasingly violent storms. Nowhere is this being felt more intensely than in the Arctic, which is warming two to three times as fast as the rest of the planet (Hoag 2019).

Uncovering Amazonia

“Amazonia”—the word alone can conjure up a lot of images, some accurate and some wildly not. In truth, it has many definitions, ranging from a specific drainage basin to a tropical ecological world. For most of my childhood, such kinds of tropical “jungles” were places of peril to be avoided. The very word “Amazon” conjured up Joseph Conrad’s images from Heart of Darkness ([1899] 2015), albeit that book was about the Congo in Africa.

Multiple Ways of Understanding Peru’s Changing Climate

In this article, we consider how the perspectives and experiences of contemporary people facing climate change can enrich our archaeological interpretations of climate change in the past. In particular, we present an ethnographic study from highland Peru that highlights the complex and varied ways people are responding to environmental uncertainty, and explore how their perspectives and responses have led us to question and expand the narratives we construct about ancient people.

“The Soul to See”: Toward a Hoodoo Ethnography

In his book, How Racism Takes Place, George Lipsitz (2011: 5) contends that “race is produced by space,” and that “it takes places for racism to take place.” While Lipsitz focuses primarily on the intersection of race and space in urban settings, racialized spatial practices in rural environments can be just as devastating to communities of color, if not more so.

Rivers and Bones

The bones that lie below the ruins of a medieval fortress in Dmanisi, Georgia, tell a story about the exodus of early humans from Africa almost two million years ago. The remains of five early humans, known as Homo erectus, have been found at Dmanisi. This 1.78 million-year-old World Heritage site is located in the country of Georgia on a promontory above where the Masavera and Pinasauri Rivers converge.