Archaeologist illuminates the present by humanizing the past

Michelle Hegmon

In exploring how humans of past civilizations experienced the world around them, ASU archaeologist and senior sustainability scientist Michelle Hegmon is generating interest in studies that the average reader might otherwise avoid. She refers to this unique approach - which humanizes research by exploring elements like suffering, mental illness and the attitudes people held toward their environments - as Archaeology of the Human Experience (AHE). Utilizing the AHE approach not only paints a more detailed picture of the past, but assists researchers in better understanding present circumstances.

Hegmon believes that the AHE approach can have an illuminating effect on sustainability studies, which numerous archaeologists now contribute to. In some instances, the roots of an environmentally exemplary modern society may be entangled with past oppression or inequality. Because an essential element of sustainability is satisfying human needs, AHE challenges us to asses whether the ends justified the means and to consider alternative methods for achieving similar results.