Reply To: 11. Oct 26: From natural to cultural landscapes

Author Replies
Sarah Rodrigue-Allouche # Posted on October 28, 2015 at 14:30

Reply to the Valenta Caracuta’s lecture : From natural to cultural landscapes: agriculture, co-evolution and change perspectives from the middle-east

Although I was not able to attend the lecture, I took a great interest in reading the text about archaeological findings in the Northern Israel region.
Since I have been a student in environmental history, many people have asked me about archaeological methods of investigating landscapes and understanding domestication and cultivation. Although I am a student of environmental history, I have no knowledge nor expertise in methods such as pollen analyses or carbon dating using charred seeds or charcoal.
I would like to know more about those methods but I realise that nowadays, one cannot be an expert in everything and therefore must choose a field of expertise.
I agree with Miguel and Josefin who emphasise the interdisciplinary aspect of our field.
The archaeological methods provide us with information much needed if we want to conduct social studies. Indeed, the studies carried out in the Middle-East can help us understand better agriculture, nutrition and health, but also peoples’ relationship to the environment on a more social and spiritual dimension.
In my thesis work I have been carrying out discourse analysis, relating to the ecological noble savage myth. Obviously, we need scientific data about indigenous peoples’ relationship to their environment if we are to contest the ecological noble savage myth on a more philosophical or anthropological level.
Here, the complementarity of hard sciences and social sciences is glaring.
Finally I would like to react on Ghide’s comment about landscapes being the results of culture or vice-versa. Finding out whether landscapes shaped humans or humans shaped landscapes is a most fundamental question in environmental history.
I found that reading Jared Diamond’s best-sellers ‘Collapse’ and ‘Guns, germs and steel’ have been very informative for me. Diamond repeatedly and astutely demonstrates that humans and landscapes simultaneously shape each other. Indeed, stating that humans are a product of their environments of origin would be pure environmental determinism while stating that landscapes are a mere product of human activity would be overly anthropocentric. In environmental history, things are far from simple, and many factors interact to influence each other. There is no simple answer to this question!