Modern climate change and the practice of Archaeology

Margaret Comer co-edits climate change edition of Archaeology journal.

The editors and authors hope that the papers in this volume, far from being a finished product, will be a stepping stone to increased collaboration and dialogue between students, academics, local communities and practitioners worldwide about how best to harness archaeological data and methods to help communities adapt to the 'wicked' and serious threat climate change poses to each of us.

Margaret Comer

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has co-edited the latest edition of a prestigious Archaeology journal which has a special focus on climate change.

Margaret Comer is co-editor of Volume 32.2 of the Archaeological Review from Cambridge, entitled 'On the Edge of the Anthropocene? Modern Climate Change and the Practice of Archaeology'.

The journal was launched at a recent event at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. Dr Jago Cooper gave an introductory talk entitled 'Can Archaeology Save the World? Modern Climate Change and the Practice of Archaeology', which was live-streamed via Facebook Live. Dr Cooper is Curator of the Americas in the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the British Museum and is also well-known for the BBC 4 series Lost Kingdoms of South America.

Two Gates Cambridge Scholars contributed articles to the journal which includes case studies from all over the world, including Australia's New South Wales Coast and the Scottish coastline.

Victoria Herrmann [2014], who is doing a PhD in Polar Studies, wrote 'Culture on the Move: Towards an Inclusive Framework for Cultural Heritage Considerations in Climate-Related Migration, Displacement and Relocation Policies', which discusses the archaeological implications of climate change displacement. She asks: “When not just individuals but communities are displaced, how can their cultures be conserved and their traditional knowledge retained? And, equally important, how can cultural heritage be used to facilitate the emplacement of these communities to new sites?” The paper identifies how best practice in archaeology and heritage can be used in climate displacement and relocation efforts.

Rachel Reckin’s paper, 'Resiliency and Loss: A Case Study of Two Clusters of High Elevation Ice Patches in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, USA', discusses the impacts of climate change to high elevation cultural resources, particularly ice patches, and includes a case study of two groups of archaeologically productive high elevation ice patches from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, analysing their resiliency in the face of warming temperatures and changing climates.  Rachel [2014] is doing a PhD in Archaeology. She concludes: "High elevation patches of ice and snow may be losing their resiliency to warmer temperatures as their ancient ice melts, making them ever more vulnerable to climate change. Ice patch researchers are in a race against time to identify productive ice patches and recover any fragile artifacts or paleobiological material they may contain before they melt completely. For many of these patches, this would be their first complete melt since the early Holocene."

In addition to co-editing the edition with Eva Meharry and Rebecca Haboucha, Margaret Comer [2015], who is also doing a PhD in Archaeology, contributed a book review of Material Culture in Russia and the USSR, edited by Graham E. Roberts.

She says: “The editors and authors [of the journal] hope that the papers in this volume, far from being a finished product, will be a stepping stone to increased collaboration and dialogue between students, academics, local communities and practitioners worldwide about how best to harness archaeological data and methods to help communities adapt to the 'wicked' and serious threat climate change poses to each of us.”

Picture credit: Yellowstone Park, courtesy of Wikipedia.