Stanford University

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Agricultural strategies and environmental change in the ancient eastern Mediterranean

Wednesday, Dec 4, 2019 12:00 PM
Archaeology Center
General Public
Archaeology Center

Identifying how societies make decisions about agricultural practices is important for understanding why some agricultural systems flourish over hundreds or thousands of years while others lead to environmental degradation and societal collapse. Archaeological data offer a unique long-term perspective on the sustainability of agriculture and how societies adapt to complex, intertwined changes in environment and economy on both local and regional scales. In this talk, I present recent work from an ancient urban center in central Anatolia (modern Turkey), where complex agricultural strategies were employed to adapt to coincident environmental and social change on both local and regional scales. I conclude that a nuanced understanding of political economy is necessary to elucidate agricultural decision making and helps to predict patterns of anthropogenic environmental change.

John M. Marston is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at Boston University, where he directs the Environmental Archaeology Laboratory. He studies the long-term sustainability of agriculture and land use, with a focus on ancient societies of the Mediterranean and western and central Asia. Currently at Stanford as a Visiting Scholar, he will be a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, in the spring.

Marston’s recent research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, American Research Institute in Turkey, and American Philosophical Society. He is the author of Agricultural Sustainability and Environmental Change at Ancient Gordion (U Penn Museum Press, 2017), which was the recipient of the 2019 James R. Wiseman Book Award from the Archaeological Institute of America. His current field projects include work at multiple urban centers in Turkey (Kerkenes and Gordion) and Israel (Tel Shimron), as well as recent work in central Asia (Khorezm Ancient Agriculture Project, Uzbekistan).

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