Biological and cultural diversity: Human societies today are vibrant, diverse, and cosmopolitan. This extraordinary diversity is the outcome of thousands of years of population dispersal, migration, and mixing. Cross-disciplinary research in archaeology, molecular genetics and linguistics is today providing major new insights into these processes, and the factors that have shaped biological and cultural diversity today. This work has implications not only for understanding historical processes, but also the evolutionary, epidemiological, social, and political consequences of human diversity. The Department of Archaeology will draw on a range of novel methods to explore the role of human mobility, migration and intermixing in weaving the complex tapestry of human diversity that characterises our species today.
The Anthropocene: Human modification of ecosystems is today occurring at an unprecedented scale, with a broad array of implications for habitats, species, climate and ecosystem services. Nonetheless, anthropogenic alteration of ecosystems is not new, and archaeological research over the past decades has demonstrated previously unappreciated levels of ancient ecological transformation. Past human activities have important implications for how we understand, model, conserve and model ecosystems today, necessitating broader engagement with scientists and policy-makers. The Department of Archaeology will collaborate closely with colleagues in the environmental sciences to understand how humans have altered environments on different temporal and spatial scales, reshaping species distributions, altering landscapes and creating novel ecosystems.
Climate and society: The interplay between climatic change and the transformation of human societies is a major focus of research in the modern world, reflecting increasing concern with the impact of current alterations to global climate. Palaeoenvironmental and archaeological records offer long-term perspectives on the tempo and spatial scale of climate change in different ecosystems, revealing the environmental, evolutionary and human impacts of climate change over many millennia. The Department of Archaeology will explore the relationship between processes of climatic, evolutionary and cultural change, drawing on unique global records from the hyper-arid to hyper-humid regions of Asia, Africa, and elsewhere.
Globalisation: As globalisation drives societies to ever-greater levels of economic and social integration, it also creates the conditions for cultural disruption, social conflict, and ecological and economic collapse. Understanding and mediating the impacts of globalisation today necessitates an understanding of its long-term history and origins in ancient wide-ranging networks of interaction, trade, exchange and migration. These proto-globalised networks transformed societies in fundamental ways, and created the basis for the cosmopolitan and diverse societies of today, as well as the ethnic and cultural conflicts that also characterise global engagement. The Department of Archaeology will draw on new methods to explore the globalising processes of the ancient world, seeking to understand the development of the long-distance connections that have created shared arenas of interaction, hybridisation, exchange, conflict and ecological transformation today.