1 Mar 2013. Beyond Collapse: Archaeological Perspectives on Resilience, Revitalization, and Reorganization in Complex Societies

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Southern Illinois University
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In 1988, while the Soviet Union was experiencing a crisis that ultimately led to its dissolution and the reconfiguration of its once vast political and geographic territory, two important volumes on collapse were published: Yoffee and Cowgill’s The Collapse of Ancient States and Civilizations and Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies. This upcoming year (2013) marks the 25th anniversary of these seminal works, a quarter century that has seen new scholarly treatment of the subject and the publication of a fair amount of comparative data and hypotheses. At the same time, a few archaeologists have turned their attention to what happens after collapse, yielding important information on post-collapse environments once considered “dark ages,” identifying factors that contribute to the “regeneration” of complexity, and challenging traditional ideas on collapse altogether. General theoretical approaches have transformed as well, and recent frameworks reconsider collapse and reorganization not as unrelated phenomena but as integral components in a cyclical understanding of the evolution of complex societies. In light of these developments, the aim of this conference and subsequent volume is to encourage scholars with diverse regional specializations and theoretical perspectives to present and synthesize new data and approaches to understanding the collapse and reorganization of complex societies.

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