Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


The Culture of Collapse

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorNovember 4, 2009 8:55 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

This story in Nature News about societal collapse in ancient Peru is worth noting, especially for this quote by one of the main researchers:

Dramatic climactic events are always used to explain culture change in the Andes. But this is not satisfying based on what we know about human culture. It paints a picture of culture sitting there, not changing, hit by events over which they have no control. But Native Americans did not always live in harmony with their environment.

That last line provided some fodder for an interesting exchange in the comments thread of the story. I really wish Savage Minds would take up this meme some day. By happenstance, the death of this giant in anthropology is relevant to a wider discussion, which Rex duly notes over at Savage Minds:

First, Lévi-Strauss taught us that culture is a force in its own right.

The question many scholars struggle with is how much of a "force" culture plays in a society's own demise--be it the Anasazi, the Angkor, or even in the widely cited case of a certain island people.

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In