It was the worst time to be alive, according to some scientists. From 536 C.E. to 541 C.E., a series of volcanic eruptions in North and Central America sent tons of ash into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight, chilling the globe, and destroying crops worldwide. Societies everywhere struggled to survive. But for the Ancestral Pueblo people living in what today is the U.S. Southwest, this climate catastrophe planted the seeds for a more cohesive, technologically sophisticated society, a new study suggests.
“This story makes sense to me,” says Tim Kohler, an archaeologist at Washington State University, Pullman, who has studied climate impacts on the Pueblo people of different eras but was not involved in the new work. He says the disturbance and subsequent reorganization of the Ancestral Puebloans provide clues to what makes societies resilient in the face of dramatic climate change.
Climate data from tree rings from northern Arizona suggest the region suffered abnormally cold temperatures and drought between the years 534 and 569. So the Ancestral Puebloans, like people around the globe, endured the harsh weather conditions of the time. Yet within a few decades, they had bounced back and reorganized into a larger, more cohesive civilization, the team reported last week in Antiquity.
Washington State University has selected Emeritus Professor William D. Lipe, an internationally recognized leader in the field of archaeology, to receive its highest honor: an honorary doctoral degree. In a career spanning six decades, Lipe has significantly shaped the way archaeological resources are managed and how archaeology is conducted today.
The university will grant the degree to Lipe at the fall Commencement ceremony next Saturday, Dec. 11.
In the 1990s Lipe was president of the Society for American Archaeology, a professional society that he helped to transform into an authoritative resource for archaeological practice and professional ethics. The Society has recognized him with the Distinguished Service Award, its highest honor.
He has sat on the boards of a number of professional societies and is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Across America, families are likely squirreling away turkeys into chest freezers for Thanksgiving. But earlier this month, Butterball CEO Jay Jandrain warned of a potential shortage of small birds during the holiday season. This threatens the long tradition of Thanksgiving turkey, which has nebulous origins in early colonial New England. Yet Indigenous people’s relationship with the ubiquitous bird goes back more than two thousand years.
“I can visualize the blanket-maker calming a familiar household-raised turkey so it could be held in that person’s lap while some of its mature body feathers were carefully and painlessly removed for use in the blanket,” William Lipe, a Southwestern archaeologist and professor emeritus at Washington State University, says.
After the great migration, the Pueblo people relied less on turkeys for sustenance. Their new territory once again offered plentiful big game to hunt. Still, some traditions lived on. Today, you can hear turkey gobbles in many New Mexican Pueblos.
Today it’s all about Cosmic Crisp apples, winter wheat and wine grapes, but 400 years ago Washington state’s food environment looked a lot different.
The mechanized system of food production has churned over recent centuries, but when the land was occupied only by Indigenous people whose ties to the land had deep roots, the Pacific Northwest served an abundance of helpful herbs, fragrant flowers, fat-rich fish and vital vegetables that could easily make a feast.
Other fish like sturgeon, lamprey eels, suckers and various species of traits also helped sustain these communities. Diets for people in the Northwest also included a fat-rich fish called eulachon, found in the rivers, Washington State University anthropology researcher Shannon Tushingham told WSU Insider earlier this year.
WSU archaeology researcher Molly Carney studied how often Indigenous tribes used camas root and found the onionlike bulbs were a critical part of the cuisine, according to a WSU News article this year.