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The Power of Nature

Archaeology and Human-Environmental Dynamics

edited by Monica L. Smith

Hardcover Price $72.00
Ebook Price $58.00
30-day ebook rental price $29.00

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“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

"[The Power of Nature] convenes a stunning array of archaeologists and anthropologists who make their work engaging, conversational, and question-provoking, even for the non-anthropologist."
H-Net Reviews

“With its rich case studies and theoretical implications, The Power of Nature will appeal to all those with an interest in human-environment dynamics.”


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

Monica L. Smith is professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles, holds the Navin and Pratima Doshi Chair in Indian Studies, and is the director of the South Asian Archaeology Laboratory at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. She is author of Cities: The First 6,000 Years, A Prehistory of Ordinary People and editor of The Power of Nature, Abundance and The Social Construction of Ancient Cities.

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  • Hardcover Price: $72.00
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-64642-351-4
  • Ebook Price: $58.00
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $29.00
  • EISBN: 978-1-64642-352-1
  • Publication Month: March
  • Publication Year: 2023
  • Pages: 288
  • Illustrations: 31
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: edited by Monica L. Smith
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-64642-351-4
  • Get Permissions: Get Permission

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