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New Publication on Climate Change by Greg Monks

University of Manitoba professor and Anthropology department head Greg Monks has published a new edited volume of essays that demonstrates how the field of archaeology can contribute vital perspectives to the seemingly unrelated topic of contemporary climate change.

Climate Change and Human Responses highlights the fact that human impact on ecosystems is not a new phenomenon: humans have always affected the ecosystems in which they live. The book examines the ways in which past human groups responded to climatic and environmental change, drawing conclusions from studies of the animal remains that ancient people left behind in their occupation sites.

Archaeology, especially zooarchaeology (the archeology of animals) and archaeobotany (the archeology of plants), provide information about past relationships between people and their environments, shining light from the distant past onto the current context of climatic change.

Over three sections and ten chapters, the authors provide insight into occupational sites through animal bones and food remains, and offer studies with a temporal scope ranging from the Pleistocene to the Late Holocene, and a geographic scope covering Africa, Asia, North and South America, and Europe. Professor Monks himself contributes the introductory chapter, as well as a study of particular relevance to Canadian readers: “Evidence of Changing Climate and Subsistence Strategies Among the Nuu-chah-nulth of Canada’s West Coast.”

The book concludes with a final chapter of potential lessons to be drawn from human responses to climate change. “To interpret the human response to climatic change,” chapter author Daniel Sandweiss writes, “we need to understand past cultural logic that would have conditioned responses to such stimuli – a difficult task, especially for pre-literate societies (221-222).” It is a task to which Professor Monk’s book makes an important contribution.

This publication is one of the volumes of the proceedings of the 11th International Conference of the International Council for Archaeozoology, where nearly 800 papers were presented. It is available from UM Libraries, and from the publisher:

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