An Introduction to the Socio-ecological Entanglement in Tropical Societies (SETS) Project

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

The ultimate goal of the Socio-ecological Entanglement in Tropical Societies project (SETS) is to promote the cross-cultural, transdisciplinary examination of the tropical experience, past and present, as a means to explore resilience and vulnerability to changing socio-ecological circumstances. This session presents the results of the initial phase of the research program, which focused on the comparative assessment of data quality and quantity across five principal foci (water management, agriculture, settlement, epicentral capitals, and integrative mechanisms), spanning eight geo-political "divisions" (Belize, South India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Java, and both north and south Vietnam). Our detailed literature reviews and comprehensive site visitations – which have so far concentrated on the Classical, or "Charter States" of the various sub-regions of interest – have also allowed us to generate some preliminary insights into the adaptive capacity of tropical, agrarian-based, dispersed urbanism, with particular reference to key land-use, climatic, economic, and geo-political transitions.

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  • Documents (7)

  • Beyond the Bayon and Ta Phrom: Modeling Demography and Population Health at Angkor, Capital of Medieval Cambodia (802 – 1431 CE) (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sophie Goldberg.

    Angkor, the capital of the Khmer empire, is famous for being the largest "dispersed," or "low-density," city in antiquity, with an estimated population of 750,000 people. Attracting and maintaining a large support population of agriculturalists to Angkor was paramount for Khmer rulers in order for them to amass the spiritual and physical capital needed to compete against their rivals in this society’s merit-based, temple economy. In the on-going conversation surrounding Angkor’s domestic...

  • A Comparative Approach to Deciphering Past Agricultural Strategies in the Tropics: The Shared Trends of Resiliency, Vulnerability, and Complexity (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Scott Macrae.

    Tropical environments are defined by a shared suite of climatic and environmental variables. These unifying characteristics led past archaeologists to delineate these regions as incapable of fostering state level civilizations. These interpretations presumed a lack of resources required to support agricultural production at the level obligatory for the urban centers that define states. Modern studies in tropical ecology question this perspective by identifying a high degree of localized resource...

  • Investigating the Religious Landscape of Epicenters in Pre-Industrial Tropical States (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Natalie Baron. Gyles Iannone.

    The landscape of an epicenter has been built and modified to suit the needs of the people, both non-elite and elite. Epicenters consist of administrative, ceremonial, and residential features within a central precinct, often encircled by a moat or wall. Rulers of early tropical states would use religious propaganda to promote their power and legitimacy, which in turn created the purposeful and sacred design of the epicenter. By using the comparative method, this paper will examine the...

  • Investigating the Socio-Ecological Entanglement of Integrative Mechanisms among the Charter States of South and Southeast Asia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kendall Hills.

    The prime objective of the Socio-Ecological Entanglement in Tropical Societies (SETS) project is to produce a comparative study of socio-ecological dynamics in a variety of low-density tropical urban civilizations through cross-cultural and trans-disciplinary investigations. This paper highlights the contribution of the SETS’s integrative mechanisms sub-project, whose primary goals are to examine, evaluate, and compare the integrative mechanisms evident within a sample of charter states in South...

  • The Socio-Ecological Entanglement of Water and Resilience in Past and Present Tropical Societies (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Leah Marajh.

    Urban resilience and sustainability have gained increasing prominence in the literature as concerns regarding water resources and climate change continue to grow. Cities, particularly those in the midst of extreme urban development, are facing a wider range of stresses that call for greater enhancement of resilience techniques. This paper highlights the work of the Socio-Ecological Entanglement in Tropical Societies (SETS) project, whose goal is to investigate resilience and vulnerability within...

  • Socio-Ecology and the Sacred: A Comparative Study of Historic Natural Sites in Tropical Asia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Zankhna Mody.

    Within the complex socio-ecological systems of South and Southeast Asia, ancient sacred natural sites were created by and imbued with cultural and ideological values; these were seen as liminal spaces or threshold environments. In this context, sacred natural sites act as transitional landscapes between the human and non-human worlds in ancient and modern times. This sub-project involves examining the roles of sacred natural sites in each of these three early state formations from 800-1400 CE:...

  • Weathering the Tropics: The Problem of Archaeological Data Collection and Understanding Settlement Systems, Socio-Ecological Dynamics, Human-Thing Entanglements, and the Resiliency of Tropical Societies (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Pete Demarte. Samantha Walker. Dan Savage. Melissa Coria.

    The settlement sub-project of the Socio-Ecological Entanglement in Tropical Societies (SETS) investigations was executed by engaging a variety of data collection methods in order to assess the development and overall organization of settlements of support populations in a sample of pre-industrial tropical societies from South and Southeast Asia, and Mesoamerica. This presentation explores the diverse types, character, and quality of the data employed in the study, and underscores how, when...