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SOPAST Research Topic

Theme leader : Carole Bégeot, Joseph Gauthier, Matthieu Le Bailly

1. General presentation of the Theme - General problematic

The SOPAST theme encompasses research that is part of an archaeological-ecological approach and that aims to understand how human beings have lived in the past, how they have transformed, through their direct or indirect actions, ecosystems and how environmental changes, whether natural or anthropogenic, have impacted the functioning of societies. The aim is to use multidisciplinary approaches from the historical, archaeological, geographical, geological and ecological sciences to understand the structure and dynamics of socio-ecosystems perceived as complex systems involving and interweaving biophysical (biodiversity/biotope-climate) and societal (social, spatial, economic, political organisation, major environmental, political, economic, religious, cultural and military crises) components. The trajectories of these anthropised environments will be observed over the long term, from the Palaeolithic to the present day. The resulting knowledge is nonetheless strongly anchored in the present, as it feeds into current questions about the adaptation and resilience of societies to environmental hazards and health crises, or to political conflicts and the socio-economic and humanitarian crises they entail. This will involve questioning certain paradigms according to which, for example, the development of societies would always be harmful to the balance of ecosystems, that it would necessarily lead to an erosion of biodiversity, that environmental changes, whether sudden or gradual, would systematically be accompanied by political, economic, social or cultural changes and territorial dynamics, or that they would be the driving force behind major technical developments. The question of the stakes represented by the control of resources and the way in which societies organise themselves to obtain them are also an integral part of past and present issues.

2. Structuring and scientific project in 5 years
The SOPAST theme is structured according to four research axes: Axis 1: Territories and societies of the past, Axis 2: Environments of past societies, Axis 3: Exploitation of natural resources, Axis 4: Archaeology and history of risks.

3. Approaches: tools and methods
The research carried out within the SOPAST Theme relies on numerous thematic competences which are based on an important production of primary data from the field to the laboratory. The technical support of the PEA²t platform provides a valuable technological framework for the acquisition and processing of these data. The data produced will be referenced, described and opened via the dat@UBFC data workshop portal.

4. Objects, fields of study, collaborations
The SOPAST theme will focus in part on the study of environments that are constraining or even hyper-constraining for the settlement and development of human populations and for which the laboratory has solid expertise and international recognition. These include, in particular, mid-mountain areas (mainly the Jura, Vosges, Morvan and elsewhere in the Massif Central) and alluvial plains in temperate environments, the Mediterranean and Adriatic zones, including island environments, and the Arctic and boreal zones. Particularly sensitive to disturbances, these environments are relevant for documenting both the adaptation of societies to environmental constraints and for understanding how human activities have modified the ecosystem components of these environments and possibly altered their resilience capacities. In addition, the laboratory is historically involved in the knowledge and safeguarding of the regional archaeological heritage of the Centre-East of France (Franche-Comté, Burgundy and neighbouring regions) within the framework of preventive or programmed excavations in partnership with the SRA, INRAP and other operators such as the CEM Auxerre, for example, and with the ARTEHISlaboratory as a privileged collaborator within labelled programmes.

Area 2: Environments of past societies

The environment is seen here as the whole of natural and semi-natural environments, characterised by their biotic and abiotic components, as a framework for the life of human societies. The central objective of this axis is to describe landscapes over time, but above all to measure the anthropic imprint in relation to the evolution and development of societies from the Palaeolithic to the present day.

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Axis 1: Territories and societies of the past

This first axis brings together archaeologists, bio-archaeologists, geo-archaeologists and historians who seek to characterise the impact of societies on the appearance, management and transformation of the "territory", perceived here as a geographical space transformed by human use.

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Axis 3: Exploitation of natural resources

The exploitation of natural resources has often had a lasting impact on the environment, both in terms of the evolution of landscapes and the structuring of settlement and exchange networks. This line of research aims to study the extent of situations ranging from the exploitation of resources, whether plant, animal or mineral, to the use of the materials used.

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