Bibliotheca Catastrophica



Understanding when, where, why, and how natural and human-induced hazards occur is the first step in minimizing their impacts on our lives. And a great deal of information regarding past disasters and after-shock cultural readjustments may turn into a very useful tool for modern scientists in order to plan effective mitigation strategies. The ʽnaturalʼ and the ʽhumanʼ are inextricably bound together in hazardous situations, thus, Disaster Archaeology should hold a leading position in hazard assessment, having as pivotal direction not only the study of the disastrous events of the past, but also the environmental, physical, mental and social shocks after them.

Disaster Archaeology belongs to the scientific sector of Environmental Studies, being a pioneering and promising field with established methods, goals and techniques that cover both scientific topics of the past, present and future societies. D.A. teaching is more suitable for post-graduate students with strong interdisciplinary background. A cycle of interdisciplinary presentations covers the vast field of disaster studies within the perspective of their spatio-temporal distribution, along with their leading role in human evolution and civilization.

Dr. Amanda Laoupi, since January 2005, is an Associate Researcher at the Centre for the Assessment of Natural Hazards and Proactive Planning (National Technical University of Athens), where she established Disaster Archaeology and works on the Risk Management of Cultural Heritage.

Dr. Amanda Laoupi, first, introduced the ʽDisaster Lecturesʼ at Athens University, as seminars: a) with the title Archaeology of Natural Disasters / Issues on Methodology, Terminology and Organization of Archaeoenvironmental Information, presented during 2003 – 2005 educational seasons (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Faculty of History and Archaeology. Department of Archaeology and History of Arts. Lesson : Prehistoric Archaeology Cʼ, IA 26. Professor : Lilian Karali) and b) with the title Introducing Disaster Archaeology. A brief map of archaeodisasters, presented during 2006 spring season (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. School of Sciences. Faculty of Geology and Geoenvironment. Interdisciplinary Post graduated Programme: Prevention and Management of Natural Disasters. Professor: T. Papadopoulos).

Dr. Amanda Laoupi, studied various archaeoenvironmentals topics, in the period 1990 – 1998, at Goulandris Museum of Natural History – Athens, Greece, participating in the research team of the Museumʼ s Workshop of Ecology. Later on (1998 – 2001), worked at GAIA Centre for the Environmental Research and Education, creating the archaeoenvironmental sector in the Museum, among other responsibilities.


The ancient Greeks authors were fully aware of the crucial role of natural phenomena and human-induced hazards that may cause perturbations in the equilibrium of ecosystems and the life of the cities. Plato with his ideas on urban management, environmental crises and the famous disaster myth of Atlantis, Aristotle with his thoughts on social metabolism, disaster management and the Atlas of human ecosystems (socio-ecological structures and ecological suicides/societal successes), along with Theophrast with his detailed studies on ecosystems and natural equilibrium, having filtrated all the preceded knowledge (mythological cycles, Homeric Epics, Pre-Socratic Philosophers, Greek Geographers and Historians), proposed a societal-environmental dialectic and contributed greatly to an early scientific approach to Disaster Studies, as we acknowledge today.

Disasters as cosmic categories

        Aither (Space)
        Pyr (Fire)
        Gaia (Earth)
        Aer (Wind - climate)
        Hydor (Water)
       Anthropos (Human Being)

 The first attempt to tame topics that cross biological, ecological, physical and socio-cultural concepts is dated back to the 1990’s, when Dr. Amanda Laoupi's  PhD. thesis (Athens University - (Department of Archaeology and History of Art) focused on Attica of Classical Era as Human Ecosystem, and on the Eco-philosophy of Aristotle and various methodological issues of Environmental Archaeology. This attempt had firstly to confront many misconceptions, for example that cities are separate from nature and not participating in the ecosystems’ analysis, along with various methodological and practical issues, such as the lack of a framework within which to interpret empirical studies, if any. The lack of a comparative or reference framework ended when a systematic methodology had been chosen .. Main target was the analysis of the Classical city-state of Attica (due to the plenteousness of archaeological and philological evidence), within the schema of its natural, rural, urban and peri-urban landscapes. The works of Aristotle and Theophrast offered an enormous help, because these philosophers filled the methodological gap between the physical and cultural systems.

This huge step was reinforced also by the geographical and environmental reality of Greek landscapes. Mediterranean world is composed of scores of thousand physically differentiated micro-regions, the local ecologies of which have separable identities that continually interact each other. Their evolution and transformation had to take into account longer time frames, in particular intergenerational and historical dimensions, along with other socio-cultural parameters, such as the urban hierarchies and the shift of populations, ideas and products.Human existence holds center place in the urban ecosystems of ancient Greece. The ideals of democracy, spiritual freedom and scientific progress were forged in the physical and cultural landscapes of Eastern Mediterranean, so richly varied and contradictory.

Especially Plato and Aristotle presented a profound schema of the life-cycle of nature and culture, as a cosmic phenomenon, where the rise and fall of human societies is tuned with the mystic cosmic rhythms of disaster and rebirth. They also pointed out that the root of any environmental or social crisis is an inner spiritual aridity, and that any truly holistic environmental policy must include this in its approach. Even today, we need not only to conduct research in the physical and biological sciences, we also need to explore the humanistic, psychological and more sacred sciences as well.

PhD Thesis (Athens University) ‘The reconstruction of the ecosystem of Attica during the Classical Period, according to the Methodology and the Ecological Principles of the Environmental Archaeology and the Aristotelian Philosophy’. Greek text