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September 25, 2014 : Archaeologist/Lancaster Native to Speak at OUL about Climate Change Research
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Emily Holt
- Cheri Russo
Communications and Marketing Manager


Lancaster – Scientists and researchers all over the world are talking about climate change and how it will impact our lives.  An environmental archaeologist who grew up in Lancaster and will be speaking at Ohio University Lancaster next month believes she knows one thing we need to do to deal with climate change because she is studying how another culture dealt with the same issue.
Dr. Emily Holt is speaking at OUL as part of the Friends of the Library Presentation Series. Holt’s talk is called “Water, Power, and Climate Change in the Nuragic Culture of Bronze Age Sardinia.”
“I think we can learn from how the Nuragic people responded to climate change and how many cultures have responded to climate change in the past,” said Holt. “In order to incorporate climate change and live successfully with it, it really requires major cultural changes. I think the lesson we need to take from that is that in order to adapt to climate change we have to be willing to make major cultural changes ourselves. We’re going to have to be willing to abandon some of the things that we’re used to and embrace new things.”
Holt graduated from Lancaster High School in 1998 and is now a postdoctoral fellow at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She studies the way people interacted with their environment in the past.  Her specific area of interest is the Nuragic people on the island of Sardinia during the Bronze Age.
“People do things that affect the environment; they change the environment.  They clear trees and plant crops and, in turn, that changes the environments,” said Holt. “This has happened pretty much in all human cultures throughout time.  It’s something we tend to think of being associated with contemporary cultures, but it’s not.  People in the past changed their environments as well and had to adapt to those changes.”
Research in environmental archaeology suggests that the Nuragic people, named after monumental stone towers called nuraghi that they built throughout Sardinia, probably experienced a progressively hotter and drier climate during the Bronze Age. This changing climate and its effects on natural resources, particularly water, provided opportunities for some members of Nuragic society to assert their power and create unequal access to goods and labor.
“We think that they built the towers - this is a major issue of debate - but we think that they did this primarily as a way of expressing power and maybe also expressing identity in the landscape,” said Holt. “Maybe you’re a member of a particular group or tribe and that group has a leader who builds this enormous tower, and that tower becomes associated with your group, your people and your leader.  It becomes a point of pride or identity and a way of distinguishing yourself from other groups.”
The stone towers were built all over the island. Some estimate that they built as many as 10,000 towers.  A lot of land was cleared during this time, a lot of trees were cut down and a lot of food was being planted to feed the people.  The clearing of the land caused soil erosion, and there were also climate change issues that affected the water.
“I think there was a lot of climate change that happened at this time,” said Holt “We get a good amount of evidence that the Mediterranean was getting hotter and drier at this time, and what it seems to be was that was actually changing where water was available.  The people shifted their habitations to follow that water.”
You can hear more about Dr. Holt’s research when she speaks at OUL on October 2 at 7 p.m. The event will held in the Raymond S. Wilkes Gallery for the Visual Arts.