Earl Stefanyshen

Email: estefany@sfu.ca

M.A.: Simon Fraser University (2019)

B.F.A.: Emily Carr University (1995)

B.A.: University of Winnipeg (1990)                       

Supervisor: Dr. Francesco Berna

Research Areas:  geoarchaeology, archaeology of the Himalaya region, and archaeology of the British Columbia Coast and Interior Plateau.

Research Interest:

Traditional Ecological Knowledge of agricultural practices used in harsh environments can provide food security strategies for farming communities which are undergoing environmental transformations due to climate change. Many high altitude and high latitude regions of the world, such as the Tigrai Plateau of Ethiopia and the Boreal and Taiga forest regions of the circumpolar belt, are now undergoing rapid and irreversible ecological renewals. Boreal forest regions in particular, where growing seasons are short and forest soils are thin, acidic and often unsuitable for agriculture, will have an opportunity to adapt to conditions which will allow for the expansion of their arable lands. Other challenging agricultural environments of the world such as those found in the western Himalaya region will also transition into atypical biogeoclimatic conditions due to global climate change. However, the people who inhabit the Himalayas have the advantage of a knowledge tradition which allows for the maintenance of food securities even within a severe climate which is prone to extreme swings in growing conditions from season to season. Archaeological and ethnographic research of these communities and their territories can certainly contribute practical information to our understanding of past human lifeways, but they can also be valuable assets providing guidance for resolving contemporary environmental concerns. 

Ph.D. Research:

My research is concerned with the way humans have adapted to alpine environments and I have a particular interest in the culture and landscape of the western Himalaya region. For my Doctoral studies I will continue utilizing the microsedimentry analytical methods used in my Master’s research and turn them toward an examination of farming practices and a study of the agricultural landscapes found in mountain habitats. Working in collaboration with local communities, I will study the traditional farming methods employed by Indigenous people of Ladakh and the Spiti River valley. These regions are examples where barley and other crops have been cultivated for millennia at some of the highest growing-elevations in the world. Among their various time proven techniques, the inhabitants of these alpine deserts hold a knowledge tradition which allows them to transform coarse regoliths into fertile anthrosols. This transformation of unconsolidated bedrock into arable land, as well as other cultivation techniques, will be documented and analyzed using geoarchaeological, ethnoarchaeological, and ethnobotanical methods..

M.A. Thesis: http://www.sfu.ca/archaeology/graduate/theseslist/thesisstefanyshen-HRM.html


Other Academic Interests: 

Vernacular architecture of Himalayan region, Tibetan language studies.


Road sign in Lahaul valley, India


Rammed earth building in Spiti valley, India


Barley and other crops near harvest time, Spiti valley


Irrigation canal at 4000m, Spiti valley


Crampon, from Ladakh (image: The British Museum)


Toy Car/Truck, from Ladakh (image: The British Museum)

Snowshoe, from Ladakh (image: The British Museum)


A nice column of soil micromorphology samples