The Bioarchaeology of Climate Change and Violence: A Temporal and Cross-Cultural Approach

  • Ryan P. Harrod
  • Debra L. Martin
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Anthropology book series (BRIEFSANTHRO)


As anthropologists, we are concerned with the way climate change is being linked to violence. Assumptions are being made that groups in particularly hard-hit areas will likely turn to violence when climate changes limit their livelihood and resources. Bioarchaeological approaches (which add time depth to our understanding of how humans coped with drought and other environmental problems in the past) provide important correctives. Having baseline data on diet, health, and levels of violence before, during, and after climatic events provide a better measure of the range of human responses to climate in different cultural settings. Assuming that all groups will respond with increased violence has ethical implications for how international and national policies will be carried out. Instead of sending military troops to places where resources are dwindling, bioarchaeological studies suggest that it would be better to support grassroots initiatives based on the needs of the local people. This is why empirical bioarchaeological data are so valuable, because it offers ways to better understand the limits of human adaptability and resilience in the face of enormous environmental challenges. Bioarchaeology incorporates a broad and holistic biocultural perspective that integrates biology (data from human remains) and culture (data from archaeological reconstruction of material remains) within the larger environmental context (data from the geomorphology, climate, and biota of a region). A biocultural approach provides an integrated way of exploring the means by which humans have adapted to and survived in diverse of environmental contexts.


Bioarchaeology Climate change Climate-conflict model Ethics Biocultural approach 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan P. Harrod
    • 1
  • Debra L. Martin
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Nevada Las VegasLas VegasUSA

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