Dr. Claire Ebert: "Resilience and Vulnerability to Climate Change in Early Agricultural Communities"

October 13, 2017 - 3:00pm


Resilience and Vulnerability to Climate Change in Early Agricultural Communities

Claire Ebert, Visiting Scholar, Center for Comparative Archaeology, University of Pittsburgh

Archaeological studies have highlighted variability in responses to climatic fluctuations as a factor in the development and breakdown of prehistoric complex societies worldwide. This is particularly true for farming societies with high degrees of environmental dependency. This talk examines the timing and nature of adaptations of early agricultural communities in the face of climate change in the Belize Valley of western Belize. Radiocarbon and stable isotope data from human burials document diverse diets incorporating a range of wild and domestic resources, which promoted resilience to a multi-century “mega-drought” at the end of the Preclassic period (~AD 100-300). During the subsequent Classic period (AD 300-900/1000), elites developed a narrow and highly specialized diet which likely created a more vulnerable socio-economic system that ultimately disintegrated as a result of anthropogenic landscape degradation and severe and protracted drought conditions during the Terminal Classic Maya collapse. The adaptive strategies of the Preclassic Maya can be compared to those developed by other early agricultural societies elsewhere in the prehistoric world to understand different behaviors that promoted resilience or induced vulnerability in response to dramatic climate shifts.

Claire Ebert is the Visiting Scholar for 2017-2018 in the Center for Comparative Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her M.A. in 2013 and her Ph.D. in 2017 from The Pennsylvania State University. Her research integrates approaches from environmental archaeology, human ecology, and economic anthropology with radiocarbon dating, stable isotope geochemistry, and geochemical sourcing methods to understand local and regional trajectories of socio-economic development among early ranked societies in Belize and Croatia.

Location and Address

3106 WWPH - Anthropology Lounge