Human responses to climate stress and catastrophic events like hurricanes, drought, and resource conflict have been oversimplified for years — portrayed as either miraculous tales of survival or total collapse. This project seeks to understand, instead, what ancient societies can tell us about resilience — not as the ability to bounce back to a previous state after a crisis, but as the ability to embrace transformation to bounce forward, and as the ability to preserve core values and traditions even in the face of tremendous loss. Research focuses specifically on ancient water management and human mobility and migration, using a variety of methods ranging from ancient DNA analysis to LiDAR survey to chemical analysis of water and bone. This quantitative information is integrated with the qualitative results of archaeological excavations and historical investigation to develop vivid alternative narratives of survival, change, and adaptation in times of stress. These discoveries will help Texans and our global community better understand the relationships among climate, migration, health, equity, and human and environmental wellbeing. The project will also provide insights about difficult challenges such as the trauma entire communities must confront when faced with mass relocation. Ultimately, the project seeks to offer new ways of envisioning our future to help us make decisions about local and global responses to the current climate crisis.

Team: Adam Rabinowitz (Classics); Melissa Kemp (Integrative Biology); Daniel Breecker (Geological Sciences); Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach (Geography and the Environment); Tim Beach (Geography and the Environment); Tim Keitt (Integrative Biology); riel Sturchio (Art and Art History); Katie Dawson (Theatre and Dance); J.E. Johnson (Texas Performing Arts); Jay Banner (Geological Sciences); Michael Holleran (Architecture); Tom Garrison (Geography and the Environment); Vagheesh Narasimhan (Integrative Biology); Martha Menchaca (Anthropology); Dev Niyogi (Geosciences); Arlene Rosen (Anthropology); Fred Valdez (Anthropology); Rabun Taylor (Classics); Jonathan Jarvis (Texas Archaeological Research Library); Astrid Runggaldier (The Mesoamerica Center); Tim Shanahan (Geological Sciences); David Stuart (The Mesoamerica Center)