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Beyond Collapse

Beyond Collapse

Archaeological Perspectives on Resilience, Revitalization, and Transformation in Complex Societies

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Edited by Ronald K. Faulseit


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
552 pages, 7 x 10, 118 illustrations


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About the Book

The Maya. The Romans. The great dynasties of ancient China. It is generally believed that these once mighty empires eventually crumbled and disappeared. A recent trend in archaeology, however, focusing on what happened during and after the decline of once powerful societies has found social resilience and transformation instead of collapse. In Beyond Collapse: Archaeological Perspectives on Resilience, Revitalization, and Transformation in Complex Societies, editor Ronald K. Faulseit gathers scholars with diverse theoretical perspectives to present innovative approaches to understanding the decline and reorganization of complex societies.  
Essays in the book are arranged into five sections. The first section addresses previous research on the subject of collapse and reorganization as well as recent and historic theoretical trends. In the second section, contributors look at collapse and resilience through the concepts of collective action, eventful archaeology, and resilience theory. The third section introduces critical analyses of the effectiveness of resilience theory as a heuristic tool for modeling the phenomena of collapse and resilience. In the fourth section, contributors examine long-term adaptive strategies employed by prehistoric societies to cope with stresses. Essays in the fifth section make connections to contemporary research on post-decline societies in a variety of time periods and geographic locations.
Contributors consider collapse and reorganization not as unrelated phenomena but as integral components in the evolution of complex societies. Using archaeological data to interpret how ancient civilizations responded to various stresses—including environmental change, warfare, and the fragmentation of political institutions—contributors discuss not only what leads societies to collapse but also why some societies are resilient and others are not, as well as how societies reorganize after collapse. The implications of the fate of these societies for modern nations cannot be underestimated. Putting in context issues we face today, such as climate change, lack of social diversity, and the failure of modern states, Beyond Collapse is an essential volume for readers interested in human-environment interaction and in the collapse—and subsequent reorganization—of human societies.


Ronald K. Faulseit is a postdoctoral fellow in the Integrative Research Center at the Field Museum in Chicago. He served as the 2012–13 visiting scholar at the Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His work has been published in the Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association and the journals Latin American Antiquity and Mexicon.

Contributors include J. Heath Anderson, Christina A. Conlee, Thomas E. Emerson, Gary M. Feinman, Kristin M. Hedman, Julie A. Hoggarth, Scott Hutson, Gyles Iannone, Tristram R. Kidder, Michael L. Loughlin, Katie Lukach, Maureen Meyers, Christopher A. Pool, Christopher B. Rodning, Jakob W. Sedig, Nicola Sharratt, Glenn R. Storey, Rebecca Storey, Richard C. Sutter, Joseph A. Tainter, Victor D. Thompson, Andrea Torvinen, and Kari A. Zobler.


"A masterful volume that synthesizes the most recent research on the role of societal resilience in the face of political collapse. Faulseit and colleagues pull together examples through time from across the world to create a rich mosaic of what archaeology has to teach us about social transformation in an ever-changing world."—Patrick Ryan Williams, curator of archaeological science, the Field Museum, Chicago