Living with change: an archaeological study of human settlement patterns as environmental adaptations in Late Holocene Madagascar
Increasing climate change is negatively impacting the sustainability of coastal communities. Archaeology provides a deep-time perspective into the impacts of climate change on human populations, as our species has coped with varying degrees of environmental change for most of our existence. This project seeks to investigate the relationship between settlement choice and environmental conditions in coastal foraging populations on Madagascar over the last 4000 years. This project will provide important insight into the interlinked social and environmental factors that affect settlement choices. By investigating community settlement choice in Madagascar, an area known for its extreme environmental conditions, we can better understand human responses to environmental change in other parts of the world. Clarifying the connection between human behavior and environmental change is vital, as climate change impacts on livelihoods are intensifying. The methods proposed here will also assist local communities in conserving their cultural heritage by systematically recording human activities on the landscape through time.
Three main questions are posed by this project: 1) How important are natural resources in human settlement choice in southwest Madagascar? 2) Are major climate events accompanied by shifts in the distribution and density of settlements? And 3) Did social factors – such as community ties or networks – influence settlement patterns, and if so, to what degree? Using an automated remote sensing procedure, this project will systematically record archaeological deposits in southwest Madagascar and researchers will survey and excavate identified locations to establish site chronologies. Next, environmental conditions over the past several thousand years will be reconstructed using fossilized corals. Finally, these data will be incorporated into spatial statistical models to analyze the relationship between environmental conditions and settlement distributions over time.