Sally and Alvin V. Shoemaker Chair

Department of Anthropology

University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

University of Pennsylvania

Teaching: Courses

This project examines long-term human and natural histories in two different biodiversity ‘hotspots’ in South Asia; the semi-arid inselbergs of the peninsular interior, and the semitropical forests of the Western Ghats.  In each case, ‘islands’ of diversity exist today amidst human habitation.  While this situation is often seen as paradoxical, with humans representing an obvious threat to supposedly ‘pristine’ environments, history suggests a different story.  Both human history and paleoenvironmental evidence show a long record of occupied landscapes in these settings, pointing to the need for  more accurate historically-informed understandings of when and how land use and land cover changes have maintained, reduced, or expanded biodiversity.

Two phases of research are planned: in phase 1, building on our own well-established archaeological/historical records for the last 5kya, we have started a program of paleoenvironmental analysis at multiple locations atop inselbergs of the southern Deccan Plateau. In phase 2, we will expand to the Ghat uplands, conducting new archaeological and historical research. Here we will supplement existing paleoenvironmental analyses with targeted studies in undersampled areas.

The summer of 2014 was the first season of this new project, funded by the National Geographic Society.  Stay tuned for updated results.