The Archaeological Climate: New Materialisms and Ontologies of the Anthropocene

Author(s): Andrew Bauer

Year: 2015


Archaeologists have long documented how humans have historically responded to climate changes. With broad scholarly debate over the adoption of the "Anthropocene" to describe the current period of Earth history, they are also contributing to evaluations of how land-use practices historically influenced Earth's climate, arguably since at least the mid-Holocene. While archaeological approaches to past climate changes have much to contribute to the Anthropocene debate, they often uncritically leave intact modernist ontological binaries of nature and society that are foundational to most historiographic framings of the Anthropocene. In one case, society responds to a recalcitrant Nature; in the other, it produces it. In this paper, I explore how new materialisms further push archaeology to reconceptualize human-environment interactions by accounting for the "vitality" (sensu Bennett 2010) of nonhumans in helping to constitute environmental conditions and social collectives. How, for example, do the temporal boundaries of the Anthropocene and notions of historical agency and determinacy change if one shows that nonhuman environmental constituents have always been entangled in human actions and rarely guaranteed to be in full conformity with human desire, design, or intention? I address this and related questions through several archaeological case studies, including mid-Holocene socio-environmental transformations in South India.

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Cite this Record

The Archaeological Climate: New Materialisms and Ontologies of the Anthropocene. Andrew Bauer. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396838)


Geographic Keywords
South Asia

Spatial Coverage

min long: 59.678; min lat: 4.916 ; max long: 92.197; max lat: 37.3 ;