Dr. Claire Ebert has received Pitt Momentum Funds for her research project "Agricultural Adaptations in Response to Environmental Stress". This funding will support Dr. Ebert's field resarch this coming summer, and next fall/spring.
Title: Agricultural Adaptations in Response to Environmental Stress in the Tropics
Abstract: The transition to agriculture is one of the most important evolutionary “tipping points” in human history because of its lasting impacts on both natural and social systems. Maize is a major staple crop consumed globally by modern populations, yet agriculture is facing another tipping point in response to anthropogenic climate change, especially in the tropics where maize farming began. This project builds a long-term narrative for the origins of maize agriculture among the ancient Maya of western Belize. Our very limited knowledge of early farming in the region indicates the food production intensified during the Late Archaic period (3500-1000 BC), coinciding with the “4.2k event” (i.e. 2200 BC event), when a three-century drought may have encouraged farming as an adaptive response to stresses on tropical biodiversity. Combining archaeological survey and excavation with lidar remote sensing analysis and radiocarbon dating, this project will systematically investigate the subsistence and settlement practices of the earliest farmers who inhabited western Belize, placing these developments in climatic context. Because modern communities in the tropics (and worldwide) are dependent on agriculture, long-term perspectives from archaeology can inform management strategies where current climate stress has significant implications for local economies and access to food resources.