11. Oct 26: From natural to cultural landscapes

Start Forums Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History 2015 11. Oct 26: From natural to cultural landscapes

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October 26, 2015 at 17:01 #17588
Josefin Heed

From natural to cultural landscapes: agriculture, co-evolution and change perspectives from the middle east. Valentina Caracuta, Max Planck- Weizmann Center.

Post your reflections before Wednesday 28th and give comments to the person above before Friday 30th.

October 26, 2015 at 20:08 #17590
Miguel Núñez

The archaeological methodologies explained in the conference gives me more scientific elements to comprehend the importance of the excavations of land, picking up fossils, analysis of charcoal and polen, and about the designs of diagrams which help to represent in long term dure, issues such as the crops. Its relationship with nomadic and sedentary practices have been underlined in many environmental histories but without the specific detail of the methodologies drawn today by Valentina Caracuta.

Another one interest point touched in the discussion was about the interdisciplinarity of the archaeological scientific practice, in his partner relation with the social sciences, for example. The mention about the written documents which could be base of explication for certain events partially understood by the natural sciences and his technologies of investigation, was a kind of inspiration for carrying on my thesis work. It because telling social stories could be a lamp for answering questions about the human motivations in the impact of his environment.

About the domestication of crops in the long term duree and the spread of anatomical modern humans out of Africa, it is wonderfull know that the nathufian known about the value of crops in the process of human surviving. As we experimented in the debate, the archeological efforts to give data which sustains theories about the processes of development of the homo sapiens have his scopes and limits. There the social sciences research contributes by telling the social dynamics between human groups.

Questions such as Why in the past the human impact on his environment by burning and cleareance lands had importance?, is one that only can be answered by telling social stories. Then there, the natural sciences came to sustain those social theories. I think that it point of convergence between sciences shows a future for the humanities, perhaps in the recovering of those ancient ideas which understand the science as a universe able to give enough explainations to all the questions.

October 27, 2015 at 16:06 #17591
Josefin Heed

Reflection on From natural to cultural landscapes with Valentina Caracuta

How can we learn from and interact with other disciplines? In some cases it is not a difficult task, as long as we use more or less the same methods we understand how to approach the issue and what questions to ask in order to start getting to know. Other disciplines are harder, for me who have studied social sciences and humanities it is hard to understand what my friend the astrophycisist is doing. Understanding archeologists is something in between. I understand more or less and recognize the field, but I do not have enough knowledge to really validate the research or have opinions about the methods. I just have to trust that the methods, analysis and results are valid. At the same time I feel that this is something that I lack if I want to be an environmental historian. Valentina addresses the need of social science in her work , to analyse the meaning of the findings. At the same time I do not really see clearly how I can participate in that. Somehow I feel a need for more knowledge about how I as a social science/humanities researcher can approach and study the findings of natural sciences and make meaning of that.

October 28, 2015 at 14:30 #17592
Sarah Rodrigue-Allouche

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!

October 29, 2015 at 11:37 #17593
Flavia Manieri

Reflections on “From natural to cultural landscapes” with V. Caracuta

What I found particularly interesting, when talking to Valentina, was the importance of multidisciplinary teamwork that she talked about as being very relevant to her work.
For thousands of years, the advancement of knowledge has taken a path of increasing specialization. We have approached understanding our world by deconstructing it into smaller and smaller fragments creating the disciplines and sub-disciplines in order to be able to predict, or at least to explain, behavior in nature, individuals and society.
This has somehow distanced scholars from different disciplines over the centuries, but things have changed and today there are powerful drivers for multidisciplinary research.
Through simple collaboration, researchers from different disciplines can accomplish more by teaming.
Interdisciplinary research moves beyond simple collaboration and teaming to integrate data, methodologies, perspectives, and concepts from multiple disciplines in order to advance fundamental understanding or to solve real world problems. Interdisciplinary research requires either that an individual researcher gains a depth of understanding two or more than one discipline and be fluent in their languages and methodologies, or more frequently that multidisciplinary teams assemble and create a common language and framework for discovery and innovation.
I think that the drivers for interdisciplinary research are varied, the first that comes to my mind is that nature and society are complex, and our innate curiosity to understand the elements and forces within them requires examination from the perspective of multiple disciplines. In order to solve societal problems – in a world that is subject to many forces – we need an interdisciplinary research that spans the natural and social sciences.
Although this kind of thinking has become more common in academia nowadays, it is unfortunately not shared by everyone.
Hopefully the new generations of researchers will go along with this “new trend” and will collaborate more and more.

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