Affiliation: Rochester Institute of Technology (Emeritus)
Andrew M.T. Moore is Immediate Past President of the AIA. Recently retired from Rochester Institute of Technology, he also taught European and world archaeology at the University of Arizona and Yale University. Dr. Moore has a particular interest in Scandinavian and Viking Age archaeology. Since 1960, he has participated in archaeological surveys, excavations, and field research in England, Italy, Malta, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria. His earlier research concentrated on the advent of agriculture and sedentary life in western Asia, especially in Syria. In 2002, Dr. Moore began a new project to investigate the spread of farming around the Mediterranean and into southern Europe. At the invitation of colleagues in Croatia, he is conducting this research in central Dalmatia, through surveys and excavations at the Neolithic villages of Danilo and Pokrovnik.
The beginning of farming was the single most important cultural and economic transformation in the entire human career. The region where this transformation took place first was Western Asia. During the 1970s I excavated the early village site of Abu Hureyra in the Euphrates Valley in Syria. This was a contribution to a salvage project there in advance of completion of a new dam across the river. That excavation demonstrated that the site had been initially settled by hunter-gatherers who adopted farming c. 13,000 years ago towards the end of the last Ice Age. They were the first known farmers anywhere in the world. The new way of life enabled their village to grow until it became one of the most populous anywhere.
Research on the material recovered from the site has continued. Our latest results demonstrate that the transition to farming at Abu Hureyra was triggered by a major change in climate. This in turn was caused by airbursts across the northern hemisphere occasioned by the collision of the earth with a comet or asteroid. This event had major consequences for humanity, especially in the northern hemisphere.
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.