Results of the struggle at ancient Ephesus: natural processes 1, human intervention 0
John C. Kraft, George Rapp, Helmut Brükner, İlhan Kayan, 2011. "Results of the struggle at ancient Ephesus: natural processes 1, human intervention 0", Human Interactions with the Geosphere: The Geoarchaeological Perspective, L. Wilson
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Coastal areas have been prime locations for habitation and commerce. Early authors such as Pausanias (second century CE), and Strabo (64 or 63 BCE–24 CE) noted the impacts of shoreline changes. Geomorphological and subsurface geological data, combined with archaeological excavation and ancient texts, indicate a long interplay between natural processes of estuarine infilling by sediments from the Küçük Menderes River (ancient Cayster River) and multiple attempts of human intervention to preserve the harbours of Ephesus. Strabo noted that harbour engineering efforts there, such as the construction of a mole to prevent siltation, instead created a sediment trap that made things worse. The pre-Holocene river valley was inundated by Holocene sea-level rise that formed the ancient Gulf of Ephesus. Extensive palaeogeographical studies, based on sediment coring, geomorphology, archaeology and history, have provided details of the problems the inhabitants faced in keeping vital harbours in operation. Dating and analysis of sedimentary deposits has allowed the description of shifting river courses, floodplain changes, human intervention, and anthropogenic deposits at Ephesus. During and following Classical times sediment deposition rapidly began to fill in the embayment, requiring the inhabitants to regularly shift the harbours westward. Ultimately, it was to no avail.
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Human impact on our environment is not a new phenomenon. For millennia, humans have been coping with – or provoking – environmental change. We have exploited, extracted, over-used, but also in many cases nurtured, the resources that the geosphere offers. Geoarchaeology studies the traces of human interactions with the geosphere and provides the key to recognizing landscape and environmental change, human impacts and the effects of environmental change on human societies. This collection of papers from around the world includes case studies and broader reviews covering the time period since before modern human beings came into existence up until the present day. To understand ourselves, we need to understand that our world is constantly changing, and that change is dynamic and complex. Geoarchaeology provides an inclusive and long-term view of human–geosphere interactions and serves as a valuable aid to those who try to determine sustainable policies for the future.