Arctic Archaeology and climate change

Desjardins, S. & Jordan, P., Oct-2019, In : Annual Review of Anthropology. 48, 2019, p. 279-296 18 p.

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  • Arctic Archaeology and climate change

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An enduring debate in the field of Arctic archaeology has been the extent to which climate change impacted cultural developments in the past. Long-term culture change across the circumpolar Arctic was often highly dynamic, with episodes of rapid migration, regional abandonment, and—in some cases—the disappearance or wholesale replacement of entire cultural traditions. By the 1960s, researchers were exploring the possibility that warming episodes had positive effects on cold-adapted premodern peoples in the Arctic by (a) reducing the extent of sea ice, (b) expanding the size and range of marine mammal populations, and (c) opening new waterways and hunting areas for marine-adapted human groups. Although monocausal climatic arguments for change are now regarded as overly simplistic, the growing threat of contemporary Arctic warming to Indigenous livelihoods has given wider relevance to research into long-term culture–climate interactions. With their capacity to examine deeper cultural responses to climate change, archaeologists are in a unique position to generate human-scale climate adaptation insights that may inform future planning and mitigation efforts. The exceptionally well-preserved cultural and paleo-ecological sequences of the Arctic make it one of the best-suited regions on Earth to address such problems. Ironically, while archaeologists employ an exciting and highly promising new generation of methods and approaches to examine long-term fragility and resilience in Arctic social-ecological systems, many of these frozen paleo-societal archives are fast disappearing due to anthropogenic warming.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-296
Number of pages18
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
Issue number2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2019



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