Archaeologies of empire and environment

Melissa S. Rosenzweig*, John M. Marston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This paper promotes an explicit study of archaeologies of empire and environment, and advances theories and methods in environmental archaeology that demonstrate that environmental practices articulate people's relationships to imperial authority. While many studies of empire take for granted that centralized organization and surplus production lead to political control and social inequity, in the papers assembled for this special issue, the very relationship between human-environment interactions and political power becomes the object of study. In this introduction, we review established archaeological approaches to empire, explain how environmental frameworks productively recast our understandings of imperialism, and proffer a number of avenues for continued research on the subject, including those provided by the articles in this issue. We present three overarching themes for the study of empire and environment—scale, legacy, and resilience and resistance—and discuss their implementation with the papers that follow. Ultimately, we argue that imperialism entails the management of heterogeneous peoples and environments, and therefore, archaeologies of empire require the integrated study of humans, landscapes, and biota.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-102
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Agriculture
  • Empire
  • Environmental archaeology
  • Landscape
  • Legacy effects
  • Political ecology
  • Political economy
  • Resilience
  • Resistance
  • Scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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