A street sign mostly submerged under water due to flooding as an image for Climate Change. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Archaeology Personal

Archaeology and Climate Change


Climate change is real. I can’t understand people that do not see that, but we’ll leave them aside for now. This blog is (partly) about Archaeology and here is my take: By examining how ancient civilizations navigated shifting environmental conditions, we glean insights that can illuminate a sustainable path forward. The question is how?

Archaeological Lessons in Resilience

Archaeological sites are records of adaptation, not just reminders of the past. The ingenuity of the farming practices used by the Ancestral Puebloans and the sophisticated water management systems developed by the ancient Maya civilisation both demonstrate the capacity of human creativity to adapt to ecological change. Such instances highlight the significance of resilience in coping with the unpredictability of the modern climate.

Mesopotamian offers a vivid historical example of climate’s profound impact. This region experienced drastic shifts in climate that directly influenced its society. The 3rd dynasty of Ur for example had massive problems due to salinization at end of the 3rd millennium BCE . The scarcity of resources exacerbated social tensions and contributed to adaptations in politics and the economy. This echoes the contemporary lesson that neglecting environmental constraints can have dire consequences.

Archaeology and Climate Change

I do not think Archaeology will solve the climate crisis, but we can learn from the past. For example can we learn from past societies that had to deal with heat already. Mudbrick houses developed over thousands of years and with good reason. Maybe it is time for a revival of that material? Urban planners may want to look at old city plans that have already been altered to shifting climate. Politicians should think about learning a lesson or two, because being unprepared has already brought civilizations down.

Lessons from ancient societies’ innovative resilience, combined with cautionary tales like Mesopotamia’s, highlight the importance of sustainable practices. As we consider the uncertain future of the climate, the echoes of antiquity remind us that the decisions we make today impact not just our own era. I am guessing that readers of this blog are already aware of the connection of Archaeology and climate change and I do not have to convince you, but maybe you can convince somebody else you know. Archaeology is usually well received and we might use our knowledge of the past to paint a picture for the future, albeit not a good one.

Cited Literature

Nissen, Hans J. 1999. Geschichte Altvorderasiens. Vol. 25. Oldenbourg Grundriss der Geschichte. München: R. Oldenbourg.


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Sebastian Hageneuer

Hi! My name is Sebastian. I am an archaeologist, a university lecturer, freelancer, guitarist, and father. You could say I am quiet busy, so I learned to manage my time and energy to build good habits and still have space for myself and my family. Sounds difficult? Read here how I do it. (Nearly) Every Friday.

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