Making Use of Archaeology in a World Adrift

  • Laurence Ferland, Université Laval
  • Simon Paquin, Université de Montréal

Living in ‘the self proclaimed age of humans’ means living in multiple paradoxes. One of them is the lucid paralysis one experiences while figuring how to act upon the climate crisis.  We know our comfortable though imperfect world will never be the same. Yet even in this position, “knowing the facts doesn’t help [us] imagine the truth”, as John Green notes on his podcast, “The Anthropocene Reviewed”. Green could not be more accurate. We therefore need the power of storytelling and the cautionary tales emerging from the archaeological record to translate data from the social and natural sciences into clear and relatable pictures. It will help achieve the purpose of the archaeological discipline in writing culturally impactful stories resonating with inhabitants of the Anthropocene. Through storytelling, archaeologists can advocate for change and suggest solutions involving the humanities that are based in social theories, material theories, and literature for example. We now need to step in to tell, and widely tell, of our world in mutation. That involves the actualisation of ancient stories to find meaningful elements that can be levers for change in people’s worldview and behaviors. This also involves reaching out politically, valuing public outreach and popularisation, and assuming a role of leadership in a crisis that is essentially social and not the sole burden of climate scientists.

We therefore invite our fellow archaeologists to step in and present the cautionary tale their work brings to light, public outreach projects involving the telling of said cautionary tales, and papers exploring theoretical frameworks allowing the exploration of relationships and bridges between life in the Past and life in the (current) Anthropocene.