Environmental Archaeology: What is it?

Environmental Archaeology is a multidisciplinary field of study that focuses on understanding the past relationships between groups and their environments. Through archaeological methods we can identify the impacts humans have had on their environment, and how their behavior changed according to environmental shifts. These findings can be applied to modern scenarios to help us better understand how our relationship with the environment has changed. Understanding these past and present patterns are used to develop future action to address environmental issues.

The holistic nature of environmental archaeology requires the employment of many disciplines and specialties to collect the information needed to reach understanding. The specialties used in environmental archaeology aid in the study of humans, plants, animals, and landscapes:


Each focus within environmental archaeology collects information about a different aspect of human relation with their surrounding environment. Archaeobotany studies plant remains which can tell us what past societies relied on for food, through foraging or through agriculture. We can understand what animals societies hunted and which species they domesticated through zooarchaeological study of animal remains. Geoarchaeology can help us understand the landscape and soil properties within an archaeological site. Together these components (along with methods from other fields) are combined to fully understand a past society’s lifestyle and interactions with their environment.

D.A. A.G.

Further Readings:

Association for Environmental Archaeology (AEA)

What is Environmental Archaeology? FMNH

Dr. Kitty Emery Environmental Archaeology

Environmental Coring (Video)


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