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A Tale of Two Cities: The Role of Cultural Factors in Determining Resilience to Climate Change

Author(s): Adam Schneider

Year: 2016

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In recent decades, there has been an increasing interest at both the scholarly and public level in the relationship between social transformation and climate change in the past, and especially in the potential role of climate change as a cause of societal collapse. However, this focus has also raised some concerns that too much emphasis is being placed upon environmental factors in some archaeological collapse models, and consequently that important social factors are not being adequately taken into account.

In order to highlight how cultural factors affect the impacts of climate change upon past societies, in this paper I will consider how drought affected two cities: Nineveh (in northern Iraq) and Sijilmasa (in southeastern Morocco). I will argue that although both cities were situated in arid environments, their relative resilience to drought can be attributed primarily to a complex of unique historical factors. Consequently, this “tale of two cities” demonstrates the need to ensure that the role of cultural factors in determining the relative impact of climatic fluctuations upon past societies is not underemphasized in our explanations for collapse.

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A Tale of Two Cities: The Role of Cultural Factors in Determining Resilience to Climate Change. Adam Schneider. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403913)


Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America