Benjamin Vining

(781) 283-2164
B.A., Colgate University; M.A., Ph.D., Boston University

Benjamin Vining
Visiting Lecturer in Anthropology

Environmental Anthropologist and Archaeologist

As an archaeologist and environmental anthropologist, I take a historical ecology approach to understanding how human action can be an integral component in environmental systems.  Currently, I am involved in two multi-year projects that investigate the cumulative, continued impacts of prehispanic land use patterns on Andean environments, and how ancient societies responded to episodes of climatic stress.  The Proyecto Arqueologico Lago Suches integrates archaeological fieldwork with lake coring, ecological inventories, and geospatial approaches to reconstruct changing strategies of environmental exploitation in the southern Peruvian highlands with the advent of prehispanic states and Holocene climate trends.  With Harvard University’s Moche Human Ecodynamics project, I am involved in NASA-funded research to identify impacts of prehispanic agricultural and settlement systems on local soils and hydrology using multispectral satellite imagery.  More information on these projects is available at:

I believe archaeology as a discipline is uniquely positioned to critically evaluate both human and environmental dimensions of global change—how social and economic behaviors are coupled with ecological dynamics over the long-term.  These can be mutualistic, and potentially result in sustained human – ecological arrangements that overtime contribute to the anthropogenic environments we encounter today.  Within this broader framework, I am interested in the environmental roles rural communities play, as they can provide important ecosystem services based on highly localized and detailed ecological knowledge. 

While most of my research focuses on the Peruvian Andes, I’ve been fortunate to contribute to projects in Mesoamerica, the Mediterranean, Egypt, China, and South East Asia.  I bring this diversity of experiences to my research and teaching.  I always encourage students to investigate original problems and approaches, while addressing the contemporary salience of the topics we cover during coursework.  Teaching archaeology is an excellent way to dynamically explore and better understand anthropological and global change issues, while students directly engage with the current research in these fields.