عنوان مقاله [English]
The Iranian plateau has witnessed various cultural, social, and political phenomena from the prehistoric millennia to the present century. Sometimes some of them have led to prosperity, growth, and development, and others have been accompanied by war, conflict, and collapse. On the other hand, the diverse and variable ecosystem of the Iranian plateau as one of the semi-arid regions in Southwest Asia leads to different environmental and climatic conditions. Like many other parts of the world, these circumstances caused prolonged droughts, floods, and other unpredictable environmental disasters or disturbances. However, ecological catastrophes, climate change, social and political transformations do not confine to this landscape or current time. Amid these circumstances, what makes a society resilient to these often unpredictable disturbances is its ability to cope with them. I do argue that learning from past experiences will enable communities to consciously manage the crisis and prevent trial and error methods. In recent decades, various theories have been proposed in anthropology and archeology. One of these theories, borrowed from ecology, is the theory of “resilience”. In this research, the role of archeology in resilience studies and different aspects of this theory is expounded. It designates how archaeology, with its multidisciplinary nature, under the resilience framework can transfer the knowledge of the past societies to us. Resilience theory is one of the rare frameworks that explore change, transformation, and development within a long-perspective environmental setting as well as its contemporary social, political, and economic contexts. Evaluating the correlations between climatic and cultural changes in Longue-durée, recognizing a degree of sustainability, finding probable past societies solutions to environmental challenges, and deciphering the long-term processes of resilience are the objectives that could be addressed under this framework. In this article, the significance of this theory as a promising bridging approach for the hazardous landscape of the Iranian plateau is demonstrated.
Keywords: Resilience, Human-Environment Interaction, Resource and Crisis Management, Sustainable Development
Iran is a semi-arid country with diverse and limited geographical water resources. Such features have made it prone to different environmental and climatic phenomena and sometimes ecological disasters. However, archaeological findings show that the Iranian plateau was among the earliest settled areas in the world. The emergence and flourishing of many civilizations in this landscape designate the successful strategies of human societies in resource management and coping with unpredictable crises in different periods. However, in recent decades, the unsuccessful crisis management and trials and errors in many parts of Iran revealed a deep gap between the knowledge of the past societies; the way they lived in this hazardous landscape, and the current inhabitants of this area.
The universality of these challenges ‘and the relatively limited ways in which human groups can respond to such unpredictability’ underscore the importance of interdisciplinary approaches such as archaeology and theories such as ‘resilience’ that “orders and explains knowledge and experience” (Stephens and McCallum, 1998: 4). As it is highlighted in many of the resilience-related literature, the environmental or climate fluctuations never has been the sole decisive trigger or driver of thresholds or transformations; it is never “just an environmental story but, rather, a complex mosaic of human action, unintended consequences, and natural change” (ibid: 65). That is why resilience in social sciences goes beyond the ecological landscape and is studied in the socioecological landscapes (Adger, 2000; Cooper and Sheets, 2012; Marston, 2011, 2015).
For a long time, the definition of resilience was “based on the engineering conception of resilience, which focuses on the resistance of a system to shocks and the speed of its return or ‘bounce-back to a pre-shock state or equilibrium” (Bristow and Healy, 2014: 924). The other perspective acknowledges resilience as a “multidimensional property embracing not only recovery from the shock and resistance (the ability of regions to resist disruptive shocks in the first place), but also re-orientation (the extent to which the region adapts its economic structure), and finally renewal (the degree to which the region resumes the growth path that characterized its economy prior to the shock” (ibid: 924). Both of these perspectives consider resilience as a “system”. Holling later distinguishes these two perspectives as the “engineering resilience” for the former and “ecological resilience” for the later (2001). The ecological resilience “relates to the functioning of the system, rather than the stability of its component populations, or even the ability to maintain a steady ecological state” (Adger, 2000: 349). Later another group of scholars criticized the “evolutionary economic geography” and “complex adaptive system” that they neglected the role of human agency in this process (Bristow and Healy, 2014). Humanities and social science require a human agency perspective toward resilience discourse. Fostered by different analytical data and evidence, resilience is not anymore about getting back to equilibrium and being in equilibrium but about function and the ability to transform and withstand disruptions. This new perspective, which is called by scholars such as Simin Davoudi and her colleagues as evolutionary resilience, sees the world as “chaotic, complex, uncertain, and unpredictable” (Davoudi et al., 2012:302). The revival of this perspective is “the acknowledgment that that regime shifts. Regime shifts are not necessarily the outcome of an external disturbance and its linear and proportional cause and effects” (Ibid). This perspective does not envisage the crisis as a disastrous event but as an opportunity.
Archaeology and Resilience
Applying “resilience theory” to archaeology does not have a long history (for the review, see Bradtmöller et al., 2017). The time depth of archaeology and its potential to produce an extensive range of multidisciplinary evidence and data makes approaches well suited for exploring the resilience strategies among past societies (Redman and Kinzig 2003; Redman 2005; Matson 2015; Bradtmöller et al., 2017). Resilience is not instinctive to society, but acknowledging its environment and surrounding, provisional shocks and disturbances, envision remedies and strategies through the cognitive process leading to its resilience. There is much left to be understood about the experiences of individuals and communities and the functioning of resilience among them.
As it is mentioned, there are different definitions of resilience in various disciplines, and it is not easy to operationalize this abstract concept (Cumming et al., 2005: 976), especially in the cultural context. For instance, which variables should be considered, or how can we measure the degree of resilience among past societies? Resilience is not limited to just one aspect or parameter, and societies will have varied resilience on just a one-time scale. On the other hand, there is a considerable difference between “resilience” and “stability”. A resilient system can be with low stability, and necessarily the former is not the result of the latter (Holling, 1973: 18). Stability requires equilibrium and maintenance, whereas resilience “emphasizes domains of attraction and the need for persistence” (Holling, 1973: 21). In this sense, if we take one example of archaeological context, the highly complex societies with a specialized economy are not necessarily more resilient than egalitarian societies with diverse economic structures or inefficient strategies. Many case studies from the past to the present exhibit that “a more diverse economic structure may provide greater regional resistance to shocks than a more specialized structure”(Bristow and Healy, 2014: 926). Furthermore, we should not underestimate many counterintuitive correlations in archaeological interpretations. For instance, in most cases, the flood has been considered as a negative environmental variable, whereas it could also have positive ecological impacts such as “restoring soil nutrients and reducing the threat of salinization” (Redman 2005, 75)
The Adaptive cycle is a conceptual model for understanding the long-term dynamics of transformation and enables us “to interpret the pattern of change” in each phase (Fisher and Feinman, 2005: 63). Recognizing vulnerability and resilience in prehistoric societies is not easy; matching cultural developments or transformations with the adaptive cycle is sometimes even impossible. In the adaptive cycle, each cycle includes four main domains; Alpha (∂): reorganization, r: growth, K: conservation, and Omega (Ω): release (crisis). ‘Potential’, ‘connectedness’, and ‘resilience’ are the properties that actuate the dynamic characteristics of each cycle (Holling, 1973; 2001; Holling and Gunderson, 2002). The hardness of “transferring the parameters of the adaptive cycle to archaeological datasets” (Bradtmöller et al., 2017: 5) is one of the main challenges in applying and approaching ‘resilience theory’. However, thresholds and mismatches play a vital role in helping archaeologists frame the process of cultural, social, and economic development under resilience thinking. This model is one way amidst others to address resilience in an archaeological context.
Resilience theory is one of the rare frameworks that explore change, transformation, and development within a long-perspective environmental setting as well as its contemporary social, political, and economic contexts. The concept of resilience makes it possible to examine different issues through interdisciplinary methods. However, as archaeologists, finding the resilience strategies of the prehistoric societies through excavations is arduous, frustrating work. It is not easy to identify society’s anticipatory behaviour or responses to risks, vulnerabilities or even recognize those perturbations or short/long term economic/hazardous social shocks. Furthermore, to address resilience in the socioecological context and not trapping in wrong causation, one should investigate the material remnants within their cultural, ecological, social, and political contexts.
To grasp resilience, we should not limit ourselves to the temporal (just contemporary) or spatial scale, and we should go beyond them. There is no resilience formula or pattern for all periods and time, but there are lessons that can be learned by monitoring the socioecological systems and human behavior along with the adoptive cycles in a longue durée. All of this does not mean that archaeologists could reconstruct a thorough uniform picture of past patterns or processes. What they would have, in the best case, are episodical patterns at temporal or spatial scales. Archaeology, however, besides other disciplines such as ecology, sociology, geography, political and economic science, can contribute effectively to resilience studies and enable us to learn from the lived experiences of past societies.