Deep Pasts – Deep Futures. A Palaeoenvironmental Humanities Perspective from the Stone Age to the Human Age

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Coagulating around the notion of the Anthropocene – the proposed geological epoch of the ‘Human Age’ where anthropogenic control of and impact on nature has taken on a magnitude comparable to geological forces – many traditional humanities disciplines are re discovering the environment as worthy of study. The emerging environmental humani­ties are dismantling the founding divisions of academic practice that have been confining the study of ‘nature’ to the natural sciences and the study of ‘culture’ to the humanities. In­deed, one of the environmental humanities’ most central contributions has been addressing the question of ethical involvement when it comes to environmental research that has rele­vance in contemporary climate change debates. With its long­standing multidisciplinary affiliations and its many outstanding case studies of how the climates of the deep past have affected contemporaneous communities and how these communities have shaped their en­virons at various scales, archaeology is well positioned to make a contribution here. Yet, the discipline has been marginal in these emerging debates. I attempt in this keynote paper to bring together thoughts about the national framing of archaeological practice, archae­ological interpretation and heritage management in Europe with preoccupations about past societal collapse under the umbrella of environmental ethical concerns. I argue that archaeologists should involve themselves in the wider environmental humanities project – and attempt to show how – but caution that due diligence is needed when operating in such a politically charged debate.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Swedish Archaeology
Volume26
Pages (from-to)11-28
ISSN1102-7355
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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