Human-Environmental Dynamics on the Atlantic Coast of North America

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 81st Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL (2016)

The shorelines and estuaries of North America’s Atlantic coast have undergone significant environmental and cultural changes since the Last Glacial Maximum, including the inundation of thousands of square kilometers of land, major shifts in plant and animal distributions, the arrival of humans, and the proliferation and diversification of indigenous peoples. Subsequently, the arrival of Europeans and widespread urbanization and industrialization have caused significant environmental changes as well. With millions of people living along the Atlantic coast today, and many coastal ecosystems in states of crisis, archaeology provides a perspective spanning millennia of interactions between climate change, coastal ecosystems, and human societies. This symposium brings together scholars focused on the prehistoric Atlantic Coast and the Native American peoples who called it home for thousands of years. Ranging from the Canadian Maritime Provinces to the Florida Keys, the papers in this electronic symposium will focus on a range of issues significant to coastal archaeologists, including: sea level fluctuations and landscape change, the interaction between human culture/society and environment, the relevance of coastal archaeology to modern ecological issues, and future directions. These synthetic papers for each region will serve as a platform for discussion in the session at the meeting.

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  • Documents (4)

  • Human-Environmental Dynamics of the Georgia Coast (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Victor Thompson. John Turck.

    This paper synthesizes and evaluates settlement and subsistence patterns in relation to landscape change for the entire prehistoric period on the Georgia coast. The dynamic coastal processes of the region have altered the topography and distribution of resources, including those important to humans. These processes were neither uniform in space nor time, with variations leading to the creation of micro-habitats. We assess these habitats individually and as part of a complex whole, to better...

    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Betts. David Black. Brian Robinson. Arthur Spiess.

    The northern Gulf of Maine (GOM) and its watershed have attracted humans for the last 12,500 years (cal BP), and evidence of marine economies is well established in adjacent regions by ca. 8000 cal BP. Sea level rise (SLR) has obscured our understanding of early coastal adaptations, though underwater research and some near-shore sites are providing important insights. The earliest evidence from shell middens dates to ca. 5000 cal BP, and reveals that bivalve collecting and the seasonal...

  • Prehistoric Maritime Cultural Landscapes in the New York Bight (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Daria Merwin.

    The study of prehistoric maritime cultural landscapes (or seascapes) in the broadest sense seeks to explore the relationship between people and the water. If we are to reconstruct the nature of this relationship over time along the Atlantic coast of North America, however, we must account for environmental changes, particularly sea level rise and related shifts in ecological communities and habitats on the shore and at sea. This paper examines the coastal archaeology of the New York Bight (the...

  • Traditional Ecological Knowledge of Coral Reef Small Islands: A History of Human Adaptation in the Florida Keys (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Traci Ardren. Scott Fitzpatrick. Victor Thompson.

    The Florida Keys have been largely overlooked in models of social interactions within both Florida and the greater Caribbean. Environmentally and culturally distinctive, the more than 1700 islands that make up this coral reef archipelago are consistently viewed from the mainland in models of human-environmental dynamics over time. This paper synthesizes available archeological data on the prehistoric human occupation of the Florida Keys with attention to the island landscapes of these sites that...