Engaging with the Public and the Past: The Archaeological Legacy of Brian Fagan

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Throughout his career, archaeologist Brian Fagan has consistently marshaled an unparalleled amount of cross cultural comparative data to address social phenomena with roots that stretch deep into our human past. As one of the country's best known authors of popular archaeology, Brian's scholarship on a wide range of anthropological themes is exemplified in dozens of widely-read books. As an influential public intellectual, Brian has led the charge in making anthropology accessible to students, scholars and the public alike. In the spirit of his lifelong contributions to the discipline --and with an eye towards public engagement, papers in this symposium employ cross cultural data from archaeological hot-spots worldwide to address and problematize the nature of prehistoric human-environment interactions. In doing so, we acknowledge Brian's legacy of research on the environment and its role in shaping society--both ancient and modern, as well as inform on the history of human vulnerability in prehistoric populations across the globe.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-9 of 9)

  • Documents (9)

  • Brian Fagan, Climate Change and Us (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Andrew Moore.

    Brian Fagan has been a leader in illuminating the human past for students, and the public of all ages. From his writings and lectures thousands of people have come to understand how human societies have shaped the world in which we live. In recent years Fagan has built on these insights to bring a compelling message to his many audiences: that climate change has profoundly impacted human communities in the past and that it continues to do so in the present. He invites them to ponder these...

  • Climates of History in Ancient China: Lessons from Deep-Time and Cross-Cultural Perspectives (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Arlene Rosen.

    In recent decades, studies of climate change and its impact on past societies have been colored by a veneer of political agenda and oversimplification of how ancient societies might have actually responded to changes in their environments. Although many of these climatic changes would have profoundly impacted economic systems of past societies, these social and economic systems have often demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of such changes. Other times, abrupt environmental changes...

  • The comparative archaeology of the Channel Islands (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Chris Scarre.

    Brian Fagan’s long fascination with the sea and sailing gives special resonance to his studies of coastal communities and human adaptation. In Before California he studied the Chumash peoples and the prehistoric settlement of the Channel Islands of the Santa Barbara Channel. In recognition of Brian’s evocation of broad-scale cross-cultural comparisons, the postglacial communities of the Californian Channel Islands are here contrasted with patterns of settlement and social change in the Channel...

  • Crosscultural Archaeology and the Role of the Tropics in Informing the Present (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Vernon Scarborough.

    The ancient Maya and Khmer developed in semitropical environmental settings, both having not dissimilar chronologies. Tropical ecological rhythms dictated their respective dispersed land-use patterning. To cope with seasonal abundant precipitation followed by 4-5 months of drought-like conditions, the Maya accepted cropping designs based on the limitations of extended ground storage while the Khmer located resources to elevated reaches of stilted housing; approaches conditioned by accelerated...

  • Farmers’ Responses to Resource Stress and Climate Change in the Prehistoric US Southwest (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Scott Ingram. Karen Schollmeyer.

    Researchers in the semi-arid US Southwest have long linked abandonment, mobility, and other high-visibility culture changes to climate change, particularly shifts in precipitation patterns. Early researchers used synchronicity to infer causal relationships between cultural changes and climatic shifts. Recent work indicates a more complicated pattern in which some climatic shifts are contemporaneous with periods of population movement and upheaval, while other equally severe shifts are not...

  • Floods, Famines, and Fagan: Recent Research on El Niño in the Age of Andean States and Empires (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Daniel Sandweiss.

    In 1997-98, the first mega-Niño of the internet age devastated vast regions of the equatorial Pacific basin and altered weather throughout the globe; El Niño became a household term. Within two years, Brian Fagan had published "Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Niño and the Fate of Civilizations", calling global attention to potential impacts of the phenomenon in prehistory. The Peruvian coast is ground-zero for El Niño, and Fagan included a chapter on Peru in his book. Over the last 15 years,...

  • Gift of the Nile? Climate Change and the Origins and Interconnections of Egyptian Civilization within Northeast Africa (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Stuart Smith.

    The Greek historian Herodotus, cribbing from Hecataeus of Miletus, famously wrote, "Any sensible person sees at once… that the Egypt to which the Greeks sail is land acquired by the Egyptians and a gift of the river…." Scholars today see the same basic landscape as Herodotus did before them in Egypt and northern Sudan, a narrow strip of green fed by the Nile and surrounded by an absolute desert. This distinctive ecology thus continues to play a central role in models for the origins of the...

  • Past and Present Human Response to Drought in the American West (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Douglas Kennett.

    Multi-year droughts in the American west have major impacts on water resources and agricultural systems that sustain growing populations. Environmental engineering projects (e.g., California Aqueduct or Hoover Dam) were designed within the context of instrumental climate records and historical knowledge of the last century. Archaeological and climatological records now provide a longer-term perspective on the severity and longevity of droughts and the impact of these droughts on human...

  • Shifting Human-Environmental Interactions in the Late Prehistoric Periods of Southern Caucasia (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ian Lindsay.

    The Caucasus Mountain range is an exceptionally dynamic landscape whose diverse topographic, tectonic, hydrological, climatic, and pedological dimensions provided the backdrop to equally vibrant social transitions from the Neolithic through the Iron Age. The past two decades of intensive excavations and radiocarbon dates in the South Caucasus (particularly Armenia and Georgia) have resulted in important refinements to material culture sequences from the first farmers to the earliest political...