Modeling Resilience and Sustainability in Ancient Agricultural Systems


John M. Marston

Journal or Book Title: Journal of Ethnobiology

Keywords: agriculture, resilience, sustainability, climate change, environmental archaeology

Volume/Issue: 35(3)

Page Number(s): 585-605

Year Published: 2015


The reasons why people adopt unsustainable agricultural practices, and the ultimate environmental implications of those practices, remain incompletely understood in the present world. Archaeology, however, offers unique datasets on coincident cultural and ecological change, and their social and environmental effects. This article applies concepts derived from ecological resilience thinking to assess the sustainability of agricultural practices as a result of long-term interactions between political, economic, and environmental systems. Using the urban center of Gordion, in central Turkey, as a case study, it is possible to identify mismatched social and ecological processes on temporal, spatial, and organizational scales, which help to resolve thresholds of resilience. Results of this analysis implicate temporal and spatial mismatches as a cause for local environmental degradation, and increasing extralocal economic pressures as an ultimate cause for the adoption of unsustainable land-use practices. This analysis suggests that a research approach that integrates environmental archaeology with a resilience perspective has considerable potential for explicating regional patterns of agricultural change and environmental degradation in the past.

DOI: 10.2993/etbi-35-03-585-605.1

Type of Publication: Journal Article