Open table discussion

HOME Forums Virtual PASES Forum Open table discussion

Viewing 3 posts - 1 through 3 (of 3 total)
  • Author
  • #2071
    Xavier Benito

    Hi everyone, and especially John, Simon, Daniel and Anupama,

    A lot of questions were already addressed, but I had two more questions:
    On question 1, Dan:
    Are there any examples where it was discovered how exactly a society was mitigating disasters, where they made, for example, predictions and/or rules about what to do? I am especially interested in examples where this was reconstructed without the use of written records.

    On question 5, Simon:
    What should be taken into account when judging the applicability of a certain process with regards to the extinction of megafauna in one region/continent to others, to avoid confirmation bias?

    (I addressed the specific speakers, but of course everyone feel free to reply)


    That’s a great question. At least in my part of the world (the Andes), I don’t know of a case where we know that people made rules or predictions per se. However, there are cases in which ancient invested a lot of planning and labor in mitigating a recurring disaster–the paper I shared by Caramanica et al in a recent issue of PNAS is a good example. They show that in the Chicama Valley of northern Peru, in later prehistory people prepared fields that would only come into use during the torrential rainfall of El Niño, which usually leads to destruction of irrigation systems (the area is a desert and irrigation is essential to agriculture). These fields slowed water flow, captured silt, and utilized previously broken sections of canals. I would say this is indirect evidence for prediction. Another interesting (though not prehistoric example) is the work of Cane and colleagues on El Niño prediction by a modern, traditional highland Andean group using observation of celestial phenomena (Orlove, Ben; Chiang, John; and Cane, Mark A., Ethnoclimatology in the Andes (2004). American Scientist 90:428-435, 2004). There are good reasons to think that pre-European peoples of the region were aware of many similar natural phenomena with some predictive power for climatological events. I hope this helps answer your question. -Dan

Viewing 3 posts - 1 through 3 (of 3 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.