Human history is punctuated by the succession of changing cultures and civilisations, many of which emerged and disappeared within decades or centuries. But why did some cultures manage to sustain themselves for centuries or millennia, while others collapsed in response to changing conditions in natural and/or sociocultural environments? We know that change and/or instability imposed stress on ancient societies, causing either extinction or adaptation and evolution; however, there are few studied examples of the immensely important issue of adaptation towards sustainability. Through innovative interdisciplinary fieldwork, analysis and synthesis, the ERC-funded FRAGSUS Project may provide answers to questions that are relevant today at a global scale by developing models of how past societies emerged, expanded, were sustained, and then finally declined, collapsed, or were transformed or replaced. As Principle Researcher for the project's Population History Workgroup, A/Prof. Ronika Power will present the team's methodology and progress towards exploring the human experience of fragility and sustainability using a case study of the remote and restricted island of Neolithic Malta.
Ronika Power is an Associate Professor of Bioarchaeology in the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University, an Honorary Research Fellow of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, an elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries London, and one of the 30 inaugural Superstars of STEM for Science and Technology Australia. Ronika's research methodology is Biocultural Archaeology, which takes data derived from scientific analyses of human bodies and interprets it in conjunction with all other forms of archaeological and historical evidence to provide meaningful insights into the community structures, health, life-ways and world-views of individuals and groups from the past. Ronika has worked with diverse international populations: from early Holocene hunter-gatherers of Kenya; to megalithic temple builders of Neolithic Malta; multi-period cemeteries across Egypt; and Late Anglo-Saxon English child burials, to name only a few. Ronika also has a particular interest in the curation, display and scientific and cultural analyses of mummified human remains from across the world, but especially those of ancient Egypt.