"The twin concepts of sustainability and conservation that are so pivotal within current debates regarding economic development and biodiversity protection both contain an inherent temporal dimension, since both refer to the need to balance short-term gains with long-term resource maintenance. Proponents of resilience theory and of development based on ‘indigenous knowledge’ have thus argued for the necessity of including archaeological, historical and palaeoenvironmental components within development project design. Indeed, some have argued that archaeology should lead these interdisciplinary projects on the grounds that it provides the necessary time depth and bridges the social and natural sciences. The project proposed here accepts this logic and endorses this renewed contemporary relevance of archaeological research. However, it also needs to be admitted that moving beyond critiques of the misuse of historical data presents significant hurdles. When presenting results outside the discipline, for example, archaeological projects tend to downplay the poor archaeological visibility of certain agricultural practices, and computer models designed to test sustainability struggle to adequately account for local cultural preferences. This field will therefore not progress unless there is a frank appraisal of archaeology’s strengths and weaknesses. This project will provide this assessment by employing a range of established and groundbreaking archaeological and modelling techniques to examine the development of two east Africa agricultural systems: one at the abandoned site of Engaruka in Tanzania, commonly seen as an example of resource mismanagement and ecological collapse; and another at the current agricultural landscape in Konso, Ethiopia, described by the UN FAO as one of a select few African “lessons from the past”. The project thus aims to assess the sustainability of these systems, but will also assess the role archaeology can play in such debates worldwide."
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