People and water – perspectives on past and present relationships via hydrology, palaeohydrology and archaeology

Workshop,  June 15 2017

Organised by Kevin Walsh (Fellow IMéRA-EURIAS 2016-2017 ; Senior Lecturer in Landscape Archaeology, University of York, UK) in collaboration with Peter Cook (IMéRA Fellow 2016-2017 ; Professorial Research Fellow, School of Environment, Flinders University, Adelaide Australia)

In collaboration with Peter Cook, I organised a one-day international workshop that took place at IMERA on 15 June 2017.

The rationale and aims of the workshop were as follows:
Both hydrologists and anthropologists/archaeologists are interested in how hydrological systems have changed over time. Hydrological interpretation can benefit from information on how human-stresses on hydrological systems have changed over time, and anthropological and archaeological studies can benefit from information on hydrological change (which can be both a cause and an effect of anthropological change). In this one-day conference, we brought together a group of hydrologists, palaeohydrologists, and archaeologists. Within this group of disciplines, we wanted to assess and question disciplinary boundaries and consider data-integration: For example, to what extent do hydrologists consider time-depth and to what extent does palaeohydrological research inform contemporary hydrological models. Moving on from this, how do hydrologists and palaeohydrologists incorporate evidence relating to changes in human activities, practices, behaviour, and the related forms of environmental knowledge that change over time. All of these issues, discussing the ways in which hydrological, palaeohydrological and historical disciplines intersect, is of paramount importance for discussions of Anthropocene trajectories.With regards to the relationship of this workshop to my IMERA/EURIAS project, this workshop dealt with all important question of people and water, a essential resource that is threatened by over-exploitation, increasingly so during the period that many researchers characterise as the Anthropocene. From my perspective, the key to understanding all human-environment relationships and the development of the Anthropocene is via the development of truly interdisciplinary research. Such research should combine the environmental sciences, archaeology, history, anthropology and sociology. My presentation at the workshop, Archaeology, hydrogeology and geomythology in the Stymphalos valley, considered the relationships between people and water around a mountain spring-fed lake in the Peloponnese, Greece. This paper was published earlier in the year (see below).
Listening to, and discussing with colleagues at the workshop gave me a new perspective on human-water relationships, particularly the importance of understanding groundwater. This is of paramount importance in mountain environments and is an issue that I will continue to develop as part of research emanating from my IMERA/EURIAS project.
The research of Professor Cook is focussed mostly on determining residence times of groundwater systems, and using this information to understand groundwater processes under current and future climates. This workshop provided me the opportunity to also think about groundwater systems can record and preserve records of past climates, and what type of information can be preserved. I often have to think about how hydrological conditions have changed in the past, as past conditions can influence present conditions. In Australia, the influence of man on hydrological processes has been profound, but is mostly limited to the past 150 years (particularly widespread clearing of native vegetation that took place in the early part of the 20th century). In Europe and Africa, the influence of man has a much longer history and is also more complex.

Attendance
Nine colleagues from France, the UK and Germany attended a daylong workshop at IMERA. The group comprised hydrologists, palaeohydrologists and Archaeologists. This was the first time that such a varied group of researchers had come together to present research projects and discuss interrelated themes.
There was a very animated and constructive discussions throughout the workshop, and it is likely that a number of new collaborations will develop from this meeting. It became apparent during the meeting, for example, that research on groundwater temperatures measured in the Sahel can help explain some previously contradictory data on palaeotemperatures in areas of the Sahara. These links had not previously been apparent.


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