Saturday, November 20, 2010

Collapse? What Collapse?

The current issue of Science (12 Nov. 2010, pp. 907-909) has a nice 3-page report on the recent conference on collapse at the McDonald Institute at the university of Cambridge. The conference was called "Crisis? What Crisis? Collapses and the Dark Ages in Comparative Perspective." The Science piece is called "Collapse? What Collapse? Societal Change Revisited;" it is written by Andrew Lawler.

I wonder if they played the Supertramp album "Crisis? What Crisis" at the conference?

It looks like entrenched positions on ancient collapse were well represented. The determinist viewpoint was represented by Harvey Weiss (there was a drought; there was a collpase; thus the drought caused the collapse, end of story). Jared Diamond was invited but did not attend. The culturalist viewpoint was represented by Norm Yoffee (people are smart, cultures are resilient, nobody collapsed!). I've gone over this material in prior posts and won't belabor the issue here.

One post discusses the book Questioning Collapse, a largely ineffective critique of Jared Diamond's work on collapse (a post that irritated a bunch of people). And one post reviews Joe Tainter's very nice book review essay on Questioning Collapse

Of course the Maya collapse was covered. Elizabeth Graham points out that the collapse did not occur in some regions, something that is often forgotten. And Steve Houston affirms that yes, indeed, there was a collapse in the central area. I've discussed a 2009 Science report on the Maya collapse (a topic guaranteed to get a bunch of people riled up).

If occurs to me that if I were a bit cleverer (or if perhaps I hadn't done a taste test of Rosé wines tonight), I could analyze the lyrics of "Another Man's Woman" (from Supertramp's Crisis what Crisis? album) as an allegory for societal collapse. Livin' on another man's land; I hear the hound dogs comin' .....  But now the Fellowship of the Ring is on TV, and I get dirty looks from Cindy when I play Supertramp too loudly. I'd rather watch the hobbits, anyway.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is an interesting new twist to Gill's "mega-drought" hypothesis for the Maya collapse. I have recently covered Gerardo Aldana's critique of the GMT-correlation between the Long Count and the Julian calendar. It appears to off by at least 60 days but could be off by several decades. Since Gill partly relies on the last date inscriptions at several sites for speculating when sites were abandoned a changed correlation by some decades will affect the correlation between documented droughts and abandonment.