Multispecies Archaeology

Author(s): Suzanne Pilaar Birch

Year: 2015


This paper discusses ecological novelty in the archaeological record from a multispecies perspective. Pivotal research topics in archaeology have long simplified these novelties into transitions that emphasize the uniqueness of the human species. Though views have evolved from completely anthropocentric perspectives in archaeology and natural history in the 19th and 20th centuries, there is still a pervasive sense of progressivism when we center our points of inquiry on human originality. To some extent, the very debate surrounding the creation of the "Anthropocene" belies a paradigm wherein humanity is gaining importance as a central object of inquiry. In the parallel—but in practice, often separate—field of paleoecology, scientists have worked to understand a "natural" past, often to the point of excluding the role of the human, or viewing it as a disruptive element. These disparate foci create and reinforce an artificial boundary between humans and the natural world of which they are an integral part. A multispecies archaeology can really be viewed as archaeo-ecology, which understands the past through networks and interactions rather than stochastic events and places. As "multispecies ethnography" gains ground in anthropology, this paper questions what a wider consideration of life might play within archaeology.

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Cite this Record

Multispecies Archaeology. Suzanne Pilaar Birch. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397590)

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