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Resilience of Past Landscapes: Resilience Theory, Society, and the Longue Durée

Charles L Redman, Arizona State University
Ann P Kinzig, Arizona State University


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Resilience theory is an expanding body of ideas that attempts to provide explanations for the source and role of change in adaptive systems, particularly the kinds of change that are transforming. Scholars from various disciplines have contributed to the current state of this formulation. This article proposes that resilience theory would benefit from an increasing collaboration with archaeologists, who would provide a long-term perspective on adaptive cycles. Although archaeologists and anthropologists have written provocatively about studying the resilience of past and present societies, such an approach has not become common in these disciplines. We suggest, however, that a resilience framework offers a potential mechanism for reinvigorating the conceptual base of archaeological and anthropological disciplines. To make this case, we (1) highlight three features of resilience theory, including cross-scale interactions, information flow, and phases of the adaptive cycle; (2) examine the extent to which purely natural or social science analyses would give complementary or contradictory conclusions; and (3) discuss the implications of using a long-term integrative perspective for understanding linked social and ecological systems.

Key words

Hohokam, Mesopotamia, ancient societies, archaeology, cross-scale interactions, history, information flow, panarchy, prehistory, resilience theory, socio-ecological systems

Copyright © 2003 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087