Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
Human physical and cultural evolution have taken place through an epoch of constant environmental change. Environmental factors have, therefore, strongly influenced the development of human society. I will review the cycles of long and short-term climate change that have provided the context for the emergence of humanity. I will then focus on the inception of farming as the seminal event in the development of our modern way of life. I will describe my excavations at the early village of Abu Hureyra in Syria that document the adoption of farming by a community of hunter-gatherers. The catalyst for the inception of farming there was a significant episode of climate change. Current research demonstrates that the subsequent rise and fall of major civilizations across the Middle East and elsewhere in the world was strongly influenced by cycles of climate change. I will argue that climate change has conditioned the world we know, and that archaeology has much to tell us about how human societies have adapted to large-scale environmental disruption across the millennia. Global warming presents societies in the present day with existential challenges that lessons from the past can help us address.
An AIA President’s Challenge Lecture