September 1, 2018 at 8:45 pm

Joint Colloquium | Integrating Archaeology and Conservation in Southwest Madagascar, Sept. 14

Kristina Douglass, portrait

Dr. Kristina Douglass

The Ohio Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies and the Geological Sciences Colloquium Series present Dr. Kristina Douglass on “Integrating Archaeology and Conservation in Southwest Madagascar” on Friday, Sept. 14, at 10 a.m. in Irvine 199.

The date of Madagascar’s initial settlement has long been the subject of academic inquiry and debate. Archaeologists, historians, geneticists, linguists, and paleoecologists interested in the history of Malagasy and Indian Ocean peoples, regional exchange, island ecosystems, and environmental change have contributed diverse datasets and perspectives to this debate over Madagascar’s colonization, but consensus on the timing of human arrival remains elusive.

Despite its relative proximity to the African mainland, Madagascar was thought to have been settled around 1500 years ago by iron-using agriculturalists from Southeast Asia. Recent archaeological findings, however, suggest that foraging groups reached the island by as early as ca. 4000 years ago, if not earlier. These early dates force us to reconsider models of the island’s colonization, particularly in terms of the nature and rate of human impact on its natural communities, such as the extinction of the charismatic elephant bird. Meanwhile, Madagascar today faces serious environmental challenges, including loss of biodiversity, deforestation, and erosion.

Douglass’ research provides long-term perspectives on human-environment interaction from southwest Madagascar, and in this lecture, she will make the case that integrating archaeology and conservation will improve our ability to understand modern trends and find sustainable solutions that benefit human and natural communities.

This event is being generously co-sponsored by the Ohio Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies, the Geological Sciences Department, the Food Studies theme, the African Studies program, the Environmental Studies program, and the Ohio University Museum Complex.

About Kristina Douglass

Douglass is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University whose current work investigates human-environment interaction in Madagascar. She integrates archaeological, paleoecological, ethnohistorical, ethnographic, and biological data to understand the dynamic relationship between communities and their environment over time. In particular, she focuses on culture change and continuity, subsistence strategies and mobility in contexts of resource scarcity, plant and animal extinctions, and unpredictable climatic conditions.

For the last seven years, Douglass has directed the Morombe Archaeological Project in southwest Madagascar. Through collaborations with conservationists, biologists, geneticists, and other anthropologists, the Morombe Archaeological Project has begun to reconstruct the historical ecology of Velondriake and Mikea, offering a long-term view of changing human-environment dynamics, migration, settlement, and faunal extinctions.

Douglass’ work aims to bridge divides between anthropology, conservation, and development, while critically addressing the role of archaeological narratives of human environmental impact in conservation and policy discourse. Her work contributes to current debates over conservation, extinction, and sustainability in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, with the view that archaeological data can help refine approaches to modern-day conservation issues and build more holistic understandings of human-environment dynamics.

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