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Children swinging on the pond’s banyan tree. Image courtesy of the author.

The Gift of Water

India today faces a wide variety of issues related to water management. These include flooding during the several-month monsoon season, a lack of water during the dry season, depletion of groundwater stores, and unreliable water pipelines bringing water into cities…

Sunrise at El Mirador, Guatemala. This was one of the largest cities in the Americas about 2000 years ago. Now it's located in one of the largest "virgin" forests in Central America. Image courtesy of the author.

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…

Detail from a panoramic photograph of Nacimiento. Photograph courtesy of C. R. Chiriboga.

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.

A modern groundwater well in an ancient depression. Q'eqchi' farmers are taking advantage of ancient landscape practices for their own subsistence. Image courtesy of Alexander Rivas.

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.

Crew excavating eroding house at Walakpa in 2017. Image courtesy of the Walakpa Archaeological Salvage Project.

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).

Garry Sibosado, Aalingoon (Rainbow Serpent), 2018, ochre pigment on engraved pearl shell, detail. Courtesy the artist.

Desert River Sea is a Vibrant, Compelling Tour of the Kimberley

For the past century, the curator has been the deciding factor in what is shown by museums and galleries, reassuring audiences of the importance of what they are seeing. While acknowledging other commercial and audience drivers, the centrality of curatorial decision-making has been sacrosanct.

But when the curatorial team from the Art Gallery of Western Australia embarked on an epic quest to document the art of the Kimberley region in the state’s north west, they abandoned this idea of a single authorial voice in favor of a new model of partnership and exchange.

Aerial shot of the sun reflecting off the Amazon.

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.

Archaeological site of Aukispukio in a now uninhabited area of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range.

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.