This session provides an opportunity for an overview of recent research in environmental archaeology carried out in south west Britain, as well as indicating the major changes in method and theory that have occurred in the area since the last such meeting and discussing future directions.
Several advances in methodology and techniques have occurred within the science-based archaeological sub-disciplines often collectively referred to as environmental archaeology, in the UK, since the Palaeoeconomy and Environment in South West England Symposium, held at the University of Bristol in 1985. The south west's rich archaeological heritage and surprisingly varied environments provide exciting opportunities for these new and improved approaches to understanding our past, just as they did 25 years ago.
Understanding the theory behind the application of science-based methodologies in archaeology is critical to their effective use in the wider discipline - knowing their limits as well as their potential. Often such limits can be overcome by combining several different datasets and methodologies from across the environmental sub-disciplines, highlighting the theoretical virtues of interdisciplinarity within the sciences.
The human species has an unequalled ability for local and regional environmental adaptation and past conditions continue to shape present and future reworkings, thus environmental archaeology is central to the current climate change debate. Limits of adaptation by people and the environment in the past may highlight future restrictions. Parts of the south west have reached and breached such limits in the past as sea-level change and upland deterioration.
Papers are encouraged from researchers currently engaged in environmental archaeological research in south west Britain, particularly from interdisciplinary projects and those that have an overt aim to place scientific methodologies and datasets within a theoretical structure.