DROUGHT, DUST AND DISPARITY: ARCHAEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON SOCIAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHANGE IN THE SOUTHWEST, THE SOUTHERN HIGH PLAINS, AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
Alan J. Osborn and Robert K. Hitchcock
7:30 PM, Tuesday, June 16, 2020
via Zoom at your Computer or Smart Phone
Single- to multiple-year drought episodes, especially megadroughts – those lasting 10 years or more – have posed significant challenges for agrarian communities across the Southwest, southern High Plains, and southern Africa in the past two millennia. Particular problems were faced during the Medieval Climatic Anomaly, AD 900–1400. Dry periods are correlated with high levels of atmospheric dust, which contribute to a lowering of rainfall and to human health and economic problems. Archaeological evidence indicates that social disparities expanded between better-off and poorer segments of the populations living in the Southwest, southern High Plains, and the Kalahari Desert region of Southern Africa during these megadrought periods. Excavations of sites occupied between AD 900 and 1400 in all three areas reveal the presence of large numbers of shell beads that apparently were used as social status indicators, identity markers, and symbols that conveyed social information. These beads were circulated over large areas in elaborate exchange systems. Exchange partners were able to take advantage of social alliances they had established through these systems and move to areas that were not as affected by drought. Livelihoods and human well-being were thus correlated, at least in part, with drought, aridity, dust storms, lowered food availability, and higher rates of migration.
Alan J. Osborn is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Nebraska Omaha. He is also the Curator of Anthropology at the Nebraska State Museum at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and he is the Director of the Nebraska Archaeological Survey. He obtained his PhD from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in 1977. His archaeological field work has been conducted in Arizona, Colorado, Ecuador, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Peru, South Dakota, and Texas. He has overseen archaeological projects in Canyonlands and Capital Reef National Monument for the Midwest Archaeological Center and in Amistad Reservoir in the Texas-Mexico borderlands. Dr. Osborn has published extensively on Paleoindians in North America and has been part of the debates about the effects of climate change on Paleoindian adaptations and on poison hunting of mammoths, mastodons, and elephants.
He is the co-editor, with Marcel Kornfeld, of Islands in the Plains: Ecological, Social, and Ritual Use of Landscapes (University of Utah Press, 2003). He is currently working on two projects: one examining the impacts of drought, rodents, and ritual burning in the Iron Age of southeastern Africa and the other on bean-cooking in corrugated ware pots in the Southwest.
Robert K. Hitchcock is a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico and a Board Member of the Kalahari Peoples Fund, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides funding for education, development, and capacity building training for indigenous and minority peoples in southern Africa. He was a member of the Remote Sensing Division of the Chaco Project of the National Park Service at the University of New Mexico in the early 1970s. He has done archaeological fieldwork in Arizona, Botswana, British Columbia, California, Colorado, Greece, Hawaii, Michigan, Namibia, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Saudi Arabia, and Zimbabwe. He has done applied work on the impacts of large dams, agricultural projects, protected areas, conservation, and refugee resettlement in ten African countries, Afghanistan, Canada, Guatemala, Peru, and the United States. His current grant-funded projects are in Botswana (National Geographic Society) and Namibia (U.S. Department of State). His most recent book is People, Parks, and Power: The Ethics of Conservation-related Resettlement of Indigenous People (with Maria Sapignoli, Springer, 2020). [Ed. note: This presentation was originally scheduled for our cancelled March meeting.]
A day or so prior to the June meeting, an email message will be sent to members with the URL for the Zoom meeting. If you didn’t join us for the May meeting via Zoom, it went really well, and we found Zoom easy to use even for folks new to Zoom meetings. At the May meeting we had over 40 connections and since some of those were from computers where two people were watching we estimate there were about 50 people in all. This month there will be no practice session. If you didn’t join us last month and are new to Zoom, plan to join the meeting 5-10 minutes before the 7:30 start time to get familiar with Zoom and say “Hi” to everybody already in the meeting.
The Albuquerque Archaeological Society is an avocational group that advocates preserving archaeological and other cultural resources by informing members and the public about archaeological and ethnological subjects through our meetings, presentations, newsletter, other electronic media, field trips, volunteer efforts, field surveys, and studies. Membership is only $25 for an individual or family, and it’s free to students with a Student ID or current class schedule. Membership puts you on our mailing list for our monthly newsletter, and gives you access to our field trips, volunteering endeavors, and our seminars. However, our meetings are always free and open to the public, with a guest lecturer and refreshments, great conversation, and the chance to socialize with those who share an interest in archaeology, both professionals and avocational members. Come see what we’re all about! We’d love your company!