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Environmental thresholds and the empirical reality of state collapse: a response to Erickson (1999)

  • Alan L. Kolata (a1), Michael W. Binford (a2), Mark Brenner (a3), John W. Janusek (a4) and Charles Ortloff (a5)...

We are grateful for the opportunity to respondto Erickson's (1999) critique of our articles onhuman-environment interactions in the LakeTiticaca basin of Bolivia (Ortloff & Kolata 1993;Abbott et al. 1997; Binford et al. 1997). Hisdecision to publish this critique in ANTIQUITY,rather than in the journals in which our articlesappeared, permits us to reach a broaderaudience. Erickson labels our interpretationsa form of 'neo-environmental determinism', buthis rejection of our conclusions stems fromserious misunderstandings and is misleadingto readers who have not examined our originaldata. He (p. 634) claims:1 our research represents 'simplistic reductionistthinking' that treats humans as 'passivepawns' of environmental change;2 our dating of the chronic drought in the Andeanaltiplano after AD 1150 is impreciseand not correlated with the 12th-centurydisintegration of the Tiwanaku state; and3 the drought did not affect intensive agriculturalproduction.

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Abbott, M., Binford, M. Brenner, M. & Kelts, K.. 1997. A3,500 14 C yr high-resolution sediment record of lake level changes in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia/Peru, Quaternary Research 47(2): 16980.
Biesboer, D., Binford, M. & Kolata, A.. 1999. Nitrogen fixation in soils and canals of rehabilitated raised fields in the Bolivian altiplano, Biotropica 31: 25567.
Binford, M., Kolata, A. Brenner, M. Janusek, J. Seddon, M. Abbott, M. & Curtis, J.. 1997. Climate variation and the rise and fall of an Andean civilization, Quaternary Research 47: 23548.
Carney, H.J., Binford, M. Kolata, A. Marin, R. & Goldman, C.. 1993. Nutrient and sediment retention in Andean raised-field agriculture. Nature 364: 1313.
Erickson, C. 1988. An archaeological investigation of raised fields in the Lake Titicaca Basin of Peru. Unpublished Ph.D dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana (IL).
Erickson, C. 1999. Neo-environmental determinism and agrarian ‘collapse’ in Andean prehistory, Antiquity 73: 63442.
Kolata, A. & Ortloff, C.. 1996. Agroecological perspectives on the decline of the Tiwanaku state, in Kolata, A. (ed.), Tiwanaku and its hinterland: archaeology and paleoecology of an Andean civilization 1:181202. Washington (DC): Smithsonian Institution Press.
Ortloff, C. & Kolata, A. 1993. Climate and collapse: agroecological perspectives on the decline of the Tiwanaku state, Journal of Archaeological Science 20: 195221.
Wirmann, D. & Oliveira Almeida, L.F.. 1987. Low Holocene level (7700 to 3650 years B.P.) of Lake Titicaca (Bolivia, South America), Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 59:31523.
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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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