Brian Lander employs textual, archaeological and paleoecological sources to study the human impact on the environment in ancient China.
Brian received a B.A. in history from the University of Victoria, an M.A. in East Asian studies from McGill University and a Ph.D. in Chinese history from Columbia University. Along the way he spent five years at various universities in China and did archaeological fieldwork in Shandong. His dissertation began by reconstructing the natural ecology of North China’s lowlands, which were converted to farmland so long ago that people often forget that they were ever home to wild plants and animals. It then employed a case study of Qin, China’s first empire, to analyze the environmental transformation required for the formation of centralized bureaucratic states.
As an Environmental Fellow, Brian will work with archaeologist Rowan Flad to study the environmental history of central China’s wetlands. The Yangzi valley once had some of the largest wetlands in the world, but these were gradually transformed into rice paddies and fish farms and the region is now home to hundreds of millions of people. This research seeks to explore this process from the origins of agriculture to around 600 CE. He will also study the historical ecology of arid Gansu province as part of Rowan Flad’s ongoing research project into the archaeology of Northwest China.