Long- Term vulnerability and resilience: Three examples from archaeological study in the southwestern united states and northern Mexico

Margaret Nelson, Michelle Hegmon, Keith Kintigh, Ann Kinzig, Ben Nelson, John Anderies, David Abbott, Katherine A. Spielmann, Scott E. Ingram, Matthew Peeples, Stephanie Kulow, Colleen A. Strawhacker, Cathryn Meegan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

29 Scopus citations


Events during the last several years-such as Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, the Southeast Asian tsunami, and continuing droughts in Africa-vividly illustrate the vulnerability of human society to environmental disturbances. That vulnerability lies in both the nature and magnitude of hazards in the environment and in the configurations (institutions, policies, practices) of human societies. We unintentionally play an essential role in creating our vulnerabilities. The concepts of resilience and vulnerability in coupled social-ecological systems have proved increasingly important for analyzing the human dimensions of environmental disturbance and change ( Janssen and Ostrom 2006)-in the sense of this book, how people experience "hazards." For example, strong earthquakes in some regions of the world result in limited human suffering and infrastructure costs, while in others they are massively devastating in human life and property loss. The same can be said for disease, hurricane damage, and other occurrences we think of as "natural hazards." Human societies directly affect what a hazard is and how it is experienced. In this chapter we illustrate the role analysis of archaeological data can play to inform our understanding of resilience and vulnerability in coupled socialecological systems with a long- Term view of the interaction between society and environment. Our research employs environmental and social information from six regions within the southwestern United States and northern Mexico (figure 8.1) that collectively spans over a millennium. These examples address climate "hazards" directly, as well as the kinds of social pathways that can increase vulnerabilities to an array of conditions. It is the understanding of social and natural processes that can inform present decision-making, not the specific relationships evident in the past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSurviving Sudden Environmental Change
Subtitle of host publicationAnswers from Archaeology
PublisherUniversity Press of Colorado
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9781607321675
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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