Ecological Approaches Provide a Strong Assessment

Excerpt from Assessment :

According to Fitzpatrick & Keegan (2010), "This use of historical ecology to study "the complex, historical interactions between human populations and the ecosystems they have inhabited" (Kirch 1997a, p.2; see also Crumley (ed.) 1994), has been applied in other parts of the world to observe anthropogenic changes through time. Archaeologists, influenced by a wide array of scientific fields, have taken a keen interest in understanding how humans adapted, influenced, modified, and impacted their environment. This is a difficult endeavor, however, because "environments change and the magnitude of change are never constant" (O'Brien 2001, pp. 29-30). (Fitzpatrick, Keegan, pg. 30, 2007)

Fitzpatrick & Keegan point to the uses of historical ecology to investigate the interrelationships between humans and the biosphere. The importance of noting environmental changes as separate from human involvement may be erroneous. Environmental changes are hinted by proponents of historical ecology to have been initiated by humans through their interaction with the environment. The negative aspect of historical ecology, through the interaction, the killing of other species for survival, and the depletion of life sustaining natural resources such as trees and plants, archaeological findings have determine human's early complex interrelationship with the biosphere.

According to Bird et al. (2002), "The relative importance of various types of shellfish in contemporary Meriam diets is not reflected in either the contemporary accumulations of shell or in the proportional representation of shells in the prehistoric assemblage. Overall, the results of our analysis show that the variability in both contemporary and prehistoric Meriam shell assemblages is consistent with the hypothesis that foragers in the past selected a similar range of prey types and field processed them in a manner that increase the rate at which edible flesh could be delivered to a central locale." (Bird et al., pg. 467, 2002)

According to Winterhalder (2002), "Human behavioral ecology (HBE) is a subfield of the social sciences in general and anthropology in particular. It is a sibling approach to cultural, political, historical, and other varieties of human ecology, with which, like all good sets of siblings, it shares a certain amount of likeness from disciplinary contiguity, habit and sympathy, as well as the occasional episode of misunderstanding, fractiousness and critical, inter-sibling rivalry. In its broadest manifestation, HBE represents an attempt to understand diversity in human behavior on an inter -- and intrasocietal basis as the product of common, species-wide adaptive goals which must be realized in diverse, socio-environmental circumstances." (Winterhalder, 2002)

Human Behavioral Ecology (Winterhalder, 2002) is a looser framework of the study correlating to historic ecology. By combining the fields within the social sciences, the human behavioral ecology approach is able to analyze human interactions with ecological environments in a comprehensive manner. The archaeological measures are not necessarily employed as a means to test the accuracy of findings, however.

According to Winterhalder (2002), "HBE draws selectively from neo-Darwinism and its cultural-evolutionary analogs, from micro-economics, and from elements of formal decision and game theory. Thus, the approach adopts aspects of methodological individualism and reductionism, drawing on such premises as rationality, optimization, and evolutionarily stable strategies, along with analytical concepts such as marginal value and opportunity costs. Scholars adopting this approach generally are committed to the use of simple, formal models as heuristic devices for generating testable hypothesis from the more general propositions found in theory." (Winterhalder, 2002)

According to Anderson (2009), "In considering how archaeological perspectives upon historical ecology are changing it is instructive to glance at Historical Ecology in the Pacific Islands (Kirch and Hunt 1997), which collated papers from a session of the 17th Pacific Science Congress in 1991. The main sessional themes that emerged from the contributions were natural vs. anthropogenic change, anthropogenic impacts on island ecosystems, environmental evidence of human colonization, reciprocal impacts of environmental change and human society, and fragility vs. resilience of island ecosystems." (Anderson, 2009)


Anderson, a. 2009, Epilogue: Changing Archaeological Perspectives upon Historical Ecology in the Pacific Islands1, University Press of Hawaii.

Balee W. (1998), Historical Ecology: Premises and Postulates -- Chapter 1.

Bird DW., Richardson JL., Veth PM., Barham AJ. (2002) Explaining Shellfish Variability in Middens on the Meriam Islands, Torres Strait, Australia. Journal of Archaeological Science, 29, 457-469

Erlandson, Rick (2010) Archaeology Meets Marine Ecology: The Antiquity of…

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