The Interaction between Political and Ecological Frontiers

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

This session seeks to explore archaeological perspectives on the relationship between ecological and political frontiers. Sometimes at least, ecological and political gradients may be largely coterminous. Prominent examples might include the pastoralist polities of the Eurasian steppe such as the Xiongnu and the Scythians, and their more agrarian neighbors to the south. In other cases, political and ecological borders may often be starkly at odds with each other; the Inka Empire, for instance, successfully extended itself across the highly divergent ecozones of the Andes. Yet, even where political frontiers follow ecological boundaries, they only ever do so for a time. The pastoralist-agricultural boundaries of Eurasia were sharp political borders until they weren’t – and eventually polities emerged that transcended them. The point then is not to see ecological lines as determining their political counterparts, but rather to recognize that although ecological and political borderlands are always interacting, this occurs in complex, and often unpredictable ways. Papers are therefore sought which explore such dynamic interactions between ecological and political frontiers, explicitly set within their historical contexts. The session is intended to be global in scope, and aims to include case studies of polities that vary in both scale and organizational character.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-8 of 8)

  • Documents (8)

  • The Black Sea as a Fluid Frontier: Connectivity, Integration, and Disarticulation from the Fourth to First Millennium BCE (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexander Bauer. Owen Doonan.

    Recent years have witnessed increasing scholarly attention to the Black Sea, a region often considered peripheral to better known "cores" of cultural activity, such as the Mediterranean, Europe, the Near East, and even the Caucasus. Challenging conventional views of the Black Sea as largely disarticulated prior to the arrival of Greek colonists in the 7th Century BCE, this paper argues that ongoing, informal networks of interaction existed across the region during the previous millennia,...

  • British Peasant Ideologies and Technological Approaches to Marginal Caribbean Landscapes (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only John Chenoweth. Mark Salvatore. Laura Bossio.

    British colonial ideology originated, in part, from a view of the proper relationship between people, land, and government that was rooted in the ecology of Britain itself. This view was informed in the Caribbean by Barbadian and other large-scale sugar planting colonies, but the British Virgin Islands are ecologically and politically distinct. This paper employs high-resolution satellite imagery and GIS modeling to explore what happens when a British "peasant" ideology is laid onto a very...

  • Frontiers in Center Places (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Valerie Bondura.

    Borders often imply two-dimensional lines on a map, a naturalized "over here" and "over there". This is reified in places where political boundaries appear to follow ecological ones. But the nature of these lines, even apparently clear environmental ones, is always arbitrary, and the recognition of these lines is always dependent on subject position. The word "frontier" highlights this politics of definition and recognition; frontiers are defined in history and anthropology as the edges of...

  • "The horrors of a wilderness with the beauties of a fertile nature are blended in our prospects at this place": Seneca Ecologies and Colonial Military Expeditions in 17th and 18th Century New York (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Peregrine Gerard-Little.

    The shifting settlement pattern of Haudenosaunee groups in what is today central New York state was intertwined with the political order on which the League of the Haudenosaunee was based. These entangled political and ecological practices produced a landscape of significant places and a unique ecology, which impressed European missionaries, travelers, and soldiers exploring this frontier. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries French and later American frontier military efforts were...

  • Landscape Modification and Social Change as Resistence among the Ifugao on the Borderlands of Spanish Philippines (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mikhail Echavarri. Stephen Acabado.

    Dominant historical narratives suggest that groups located on the periphery of colonial empires and states received minimal influence from the latter. However, recent studies that focused on borderlands indicate substantial culture change and ecological manipulation that contributed to successful resistance against conquest. The Ifugao Archaeological Project (IAP) investigated the colonial borderland of Spanish Philippines, focusing on the role of the adoption of wet-rice cultivation and...

  • Political and Economic patchworks in Viking Age Iceland (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only John Steinberg.

    The 9th century Norse settlement of Iceland resulted in a system of semi-territorial petty chiefdoms, with local and island-wide regular assemblies. The volcanic island was divided up into four quarters, each with three or four local assemblies. Farmers had to pledge their allegiance to one of the chiefs within their quarter, creating a patchwork of alliances. Farms themselves may also have been cobbled together from non-contiguous blocks which allowed access to different environmental...

  • Reconsidering the Connections between Ecological Change and Political Change in Colonial California (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lee Panich.

    California is geographically separated from the rest of North America by high mountain ranges and extensive deserts, but paradoxically the region's Mediterranean climate may have facilitated the imposition of Euroamerican colonial rule in the late 18th century. In particular, many scholars suggest that ecological changes accelerated political changes in the missionized portion of California's coastal strip. There, the rapid spread of invasive plant and animal species had far-reaching effects on...

  • Refuge, Frontier, No Man's Land: The Changing Nature of the Andean Cloud Forests (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Darryl Wilkinson.

    This paper will consider the Amaybamba Valley of southern Peru as an ecological and political frontier zone, from the late prehistoric era until the early colonial period. The Amaybamba region is a part of the cloud forest zone of the eastern Andean slopes, and is thus located where the highlands rapidly shift into the warm tropical lowlands of Amazonia. It is a region that has a complex and highly variable history, one reflecting its environmental characteristics, but often in unpredictable...