Media Release: Free lecture to show how archaeology can support future sustainability

Professor Jane Downes,Dept of Archaeology UHI Orkney

A FREE lecture in Inverness next month will explore how archaeology can play a part in supporting environmental sustainability.

Professor Jane Downes will argue that looking at how people interacted with their environments in the past can give us valuable insights into how we can influence our environments in the future.

Professor Downes is head of archaeology at the University of the Highlands and Islands and director of Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology. The lecture marks the fact she was made a Professor by the university last year and is part of the organisation’s public lecture series.

Using examples from her research in Orkney and Easter Island, Professor Downes will show how past societies influenced and adapted to their external surroundings. She will argue that archaeology can inform thinking and policy on environmental sustainability more effectively than it does at present. She explains:

“Archaeology and palaeoenvironment studies have given us some understanding about past societies and their relationship to the environment.

“However, there is a lack of research which gives prominence to the social and cultural aspects of sustainability, and science-based approaches have tended to remove human agency, meaning societies are viewed as passive responders to external conditions.

“Using a broader sphere of interpretative approaches can provide a more nuanced account of the complex and reflexive relationship between people and the environment.

“The way people perceived their world and the role of ritual, for example, can be seen as vitally important factors in how societies interacted with their environment.

“Providing thorough examinations of sustainability in the past will help archaeology to play a greater role in supporting sustainability in the future.”

Professor Downes’ inaugural Professorial lecture, The Archaeology of Sustainability, will take place at the University of the Highlands and Islands Executive Office, Inverness, from 5:15pm to 7pm on Wednesday 19 March.

To book your free place, visit For questions about the event or to find out about joining by video-conference, please email or call 01463 279 344.


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Contact: Susan Szymborski
Phone: 01463279210