“Beautiful and evocative. A very important counterbalance to the persistent stream of literature that techno-optimistically promotes ‘design thinking’ and terraforming as ways to escape our deep integration with Nature.”
—Karen Holmberg, New York University
In The Power of Nature archaeologists address the force and impact of nature relative to human knowledge, action, and volition. Case studies from around the world focusing on different levels of sociopolitical complexity—ranging from early agricultural societies to states and empires—address the ways in which nature retains the upper hand in human agentive environmental discourse, providing an opportunity for an insightful perspective on the current anthropological emphasis on how humans affect the environment.
Climatic events, pathogens, and animals as nonhuman agents, ranging in size from viruses to mega-storms, have presented our species with dynamic conditions that overwhelm human capacities. In some cases, people modified architecture to deal with a constant onslaught of storms, as in Japan or the Caribbean; in other cases, they welcomed the occasional natural disaster as a chance to start fresh or to put into place new ideas and practices, as in the case of ancient Roman cities. Using the concept of “agency” as one in which multiple sentient and nonhuman actors interact in a landscape, and exploring locations such as the Caribbean, the Pacific, South Asia, the Andes, the Mediterranean, Mesoamerica, North America, and the Arctic, the authors provide compelling explanations of the effect of an entire realm of natural powers that beset human societies past and present—from storms, earthquakes, and fires to vegetation, domestic animals, and wild birds. Throughout, the emphasis is on the philosophical and engineering adjustments that people make to stay resilient when facing the perpetual changes of the natural world.
Using an archaeological perspective, The Power of Nature illustrates and analyzes the many ways that people do not control their environments. It will be of interest to archaeologists, as well as scholars in science, biology, botany, forestry, urban studies, and disaster management.
Contributors: Steven Ammerman, Traci Ardren, Katelyn J. Bishop, Karen Mohr Chávez, Sergio Chávez, Stanislava Chávez, Emelie Cobb, Jago Cooper, Harper Dine, Chelsea Fisher, Jennifer Huebert, Dale L. Hutchinson, Sara L. Juengst, Kanika Kalra, François Oliva, Matthew C. Peros, Jordan Pickett, Seth Quintus, John Robb, Monica L. Smith, Jillian A. Swift, Silvia Tomášková, Kyungsoo Yoo