Emergence and Collapse of Early Villages

Emergence and Collapse of Early Villages: Models of Central Mesa Verde Archaeology

Timothy A. Kohler
Mark D. Varien
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Emergence and Collapse of Early Villages
    Book Description:

    Ancestral Pueblo farmers encountered the deep, well watered, and productive soils of the central Mesa Verde region of Southwest Colorado around A.D. 600, and within two centuries built some of the largest villages known up to that time in the U.S. Southwest. But one hundred years later, those villages were empty, and most people had gone. This cycle repeated itself from the mid-A.D. 1000s until 1280, when Puebloan farmers permanently abandoned the entire northern Southwest. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this book examines how climate change, population size, interpersonal conflict, resource depression, and changing social organization contribute to explaining these dramatic shifts. Comparing the simulations from agent-based models with the precisely dated archaeological record from this area, this text will interest archaeologists working in the Southwest and in Neolithic societies around the world as well as anyone applying modeling techniques to understanding how human societies shape, and are shaped by the environments we inhabit.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95199-0
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. ONE Emergence and Collapse of Early Villages in the Central Mesa Verde: AN INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-14)
    Timothy A. Kohler and Mark D. Varien

    Two hundred and forty years after the last Pueblo people left Colorado, Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro—or maybe it was Quetzalcoatl—stepped onto the shores of Veracruz. Arriving at the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan less than seven months later, the Spanish had no trouble recognizing kings and slaves, temples and markets, gods and warriors, and all manners of artifacts and other institutions, none of which had existed when the ancestors of these two societies last lived together in Eurasia. What accounts for the surprising mutual intelligibility of social forms between two societies that had shared their last common...

  6. TWO The Study Area and the Ancestral Pueblo Occupation
    (pp. 15-40)
    Scott G. Ortman, Donna M. Glowacki, Mark D. Varien and C. David Johnson

    Most of the chapters in this book present models of the ancient environment and society of the central Mesa Verde region. To a greater or lesser extent, all these models seek to account for aspects of the actual history of ancestral Pueblo settlement in this region. The archaeology of the region has been studied intensively for more than a century, but in order to compare model results directly to archaeological patterns on the ground, it is necessary to systematize the diverse archaeological data resulting from this long-term research. Thus, a major effort of the Village Ecodynamics Project (VEP) involved translating...

  7. THREE Low-Frequency Climate in the Mesa Verde Region: BEEF PASTURE REVISITED
    (pp. 41-58)
    Aaron M. Wright

    Around a.d. 600, early farmers set deep roots in the high desert country of the Mesa Verde region, dry-farming the loamy canyon floors and mesa tops and building hamlets and villages that, over time, culminated in an intricate array of settlement clusters inhabited by tens of thousands of people. Although these settlements were centered, in most periods, on the region’s most productive agricultural lands (Varien 1999b; Varien et al. 2000), their Pueblo residents ultimately left during the thirteenth century in favor of places peripheral to the San Juan region. One long held explanation for this migration has been an adaptive...

  8. FOUR Simulation Model Overview
    (pp. 59-72)
    Timothy A. Kohler

    There is no substitute for a map if you are going someplace you have never been before. Most archaeologists have little or no experience with simulation; in this chapter we provide “maps” to the collection of Swarm code that constitutes the Village simulation model in the form of flowcharts summarizing the main features of the simulation. We also explain how the demographic and household location routines work and how they interact with other parts of the simulation.

    Some of the data used by the simulation have long stories behind them, and in Chapters 5 through 7 we discuss how we...

  9. FIVE Modeling Paleohydrological System Structure and Function
    (pp. 73-84)
    Kenneth E. Kolm and Schaun M. Smith

    Over the seven centuries of prehispanic occupation, the settlement and subsistence strategies of the Pueblo inhabitants of the central Mesa Verde region (Figure 1.1) underwent several well-documented transformations, including two cycles of population aggregation and disaggregation (Huckleberry and Billman 1998; Ortman et al. 2000; Varien et al. 2007); changes in farming and irrigation strategies (Schlanger 1988; Van West 1994; Wilshusen et al. 1997); movement of large population centers to canyon heads, which offered protection and springs as a source of water (Varien et al. 1996); and finally, the complete depopulation of the region, accompanied by the intensification of warfare (Chapter...

  10. Color insert
    (pp. None)
  11. SIX Modeling Agricultural Productivity and Farming Effort
    (pp. 85-112)
    Timothy A. Kohler

    To model subsistence in the central Mesa Verde region from a.d. 600 through 1300 is—largely—to model maize production. Stable isotope studies indicate a heavy reliance on maize by both the eastern Basketmakers (of southwestern Colorado) and the western Basketmakers (of northeastern Arizona and southeastern Utah) by the first millennium b.c. Already in the first millennium b.c., up to 80 percent of the Basketmaker diet came from maize, with reliance on maize likely peaking at a level only slightly higher in the period between a.d. 500 and a.d. 1000 (Coltrain et al. 2006, 2007; Matson and Chisholm 1991).


  12. SEVEN Modeling Plant and Animal Productivity and Fuel Use
    (pp. 113-128)
    C. David Johnson and Timothy A. Kohler

    The success of our modeling efforts depends on establishing plausible long-term productivity estimates for relevant aspects of the biotic environment across the Village Ecodynamics Project (VEP) study area for the seven centuries on which we are focusing. Simulating the long-term productivities of natural resources critical for human survival could not be realistically accomplished without the availability of the paleoproductivity reconstruction detailed in the previous chapter. That, in turn, relied on a substantial body of previous work on various aspects of the paleoenvironment of the upland Southwest. Similarly, this chapter builds on abundant research by a variety of scientists in soils,...

  13. EIGHT Supply, Demand, Return Rates, and Resource Depression: HUNTING IN THE VILLAGE ECODYNAMICS WORLD
    (pp. 129-144)
    Jason A. Cowan, Timothy A. Kohler, C. David Johnson, Kevin Cooper and R. Kyle Bocinsky

    Many excellent studies of hunting in small-scale agricultural societies are available in the archaeological and zooarchaeological literature, including several (e.g., Muir and Driver 2002) for the portion of the U.S. Southwest on which this chapter focuses. It is our contention, nevertheless, that such studies would be strengthened if they could document not just the “demand” side of hunting as known from the archaeological record, but also the numbers and spatial distributions of various animals in the environment from which hunters sampled—the “supply” side. The absence of models of resource supply leads to difficulties in adjudicating controversies such as that...

  14. NINE How Hunting Changes the VEP World, and How the VEP World Changes Hunting
    (pp. 145-152)
    R. Kyle Bocinsky, Jason A. Cowan, Timothy A. Kohler and C. David Johnson

    This chapter emphasizes those results from running Village, the simulation of the Village Ecodynamics Project (VEP), that help us understand how the agents behave as we vary parameters that directly affect their hunting, as described in Chapter 8. The sweep reported here consisted of 512 runs in which we vary nine parameters with two states each. In this chapter we “compress” these 512 runs into 16, each representing a unique combination of values for the four parameters explained in the preceding chapter (see also Table 4.1) that directly affect hunting. These are (1) the grams of protein needed per person...

    (pp. 153-164)
    Timothy A. Kohler, R. Kyle Bocinsky, Stefani Crabtree and Ben Ford

    So far we have emphasized how the Village model was constructed, how resources are produced and consumed, and how our parameter choices affect simulated population sizes and time allocations over the course of the occupation.

    But of course the model “solves” not only for population size, given specific parameters, but also for household location. So we begin this chapter by providing an overview of how our parameter choices affect the ways households locate within the model world. We then consider how well the simulated settlement distributions fit those known from archaeological research—including the Village Ecodynamics Project (VEP) fieldwork discussed...

  16. ELEVEN Simulating Household Exchange with Cultural Algorithms
    (pp. 165-174)
    Ziad Kobti

    So far in this book we have summarized key points about the archaeological record in the Village Ecodynamics Project I (VEP I) study area (Chapter 2) and presented an overview of how the Village simulation works (Chapter 4), with special attention to how we model the supply and use of various resources (Chapters 5 through 9) and how various parameter settings alter the choices agents make about where to live (Chapter 10).

    With the minor exception that newlyweds start their house holds relatively close to that of one of their parents, nothing in the modeled interactions of households that we...

  17. TWELVE Tool-Stone Procurement in the Mesa Verde Core Region Through Time
    (pp. 175-196)
    Fumiyasu Arakawa

    The village ecodynamics project (VEP) was designed to integrate a computer simulation with archaeological analyses to better understand the long-term interaction between humans and their environment and to clarify general evolutionary processes. One goal of these integrated studies was to better understand settlement patterns, including the episodic formation of aggregated villages. By modeling the exchange of maize and meat among households, the computer simulation illustrates how exchange helps us understand settlement patterns and the formation of villages. But it is difficult—perhaps impossible—to assess the local exchange of maize, of the sort we model, in the archaeological record. Therefore,...

  18. THIRTEEN Population Dynamics and Warfare in the Central Mesa Verde Region
    (pp. 197-218)
    Sarah M. Cole

    The village simulation (Chapter 4, this book) is a model of functional regularity. Agents never so much as argue with each other. To bash someone on the head, or steal a wife or some maize, is quite literally unthinkable.

    Of course, there was a time when archaeologists harbored an almost equally pacific vision of prehispanic Pueblo societies. The last two decades of archaeological research in the Southwest, however, have been as unkind to that stereotype as they have been to the ideal of the ecological Indian (Krech 1999). But the causes of conflict in the ancient Southwest remain elusive. In...

  19. FOURTEEN Characterizing Community-Center (Village) Formation in the VEP Study Area, a.d. 600–1280
    (pp. 219-246)
    Donna M. Glowacki and Scott G. Ortman

    Large villages and associated civic architecture played instrumental roles in structuring social life throughout the ancestral Pueblo occupation of the northern San Juan region (Brown et al. 2008; Cattanach 1980; Glowacki 2010; Hurst and Till 2002; Lipe and Ortman 2000; Lipe and Varien 1999a; Mc Kenna and Toll 1992; Nordby 2001; Toll 1993; Varien 1999a; Varien et al. 2007). The highest density of these sites is found in the canyons and mesas formed by the McElmo and Monument drainages (Glowacki 2006). The Village Ecodynamics Project (VEP) study area is in the heart of this locale (Figure 1.1). Consequently, the VEP...

  20. FIFTEEN The Rise and Collapse of Villages in the Central Mesa Verde Region
    (pp. 247-262)
    Timothy A. Kohler

    The village ecodynamics project (VEP) is ambitious in scope and innovative in design. Our work continues in parallel with that of many other archaeologists; it is hard to think of this book as a conclusion. This chapter emphasizes our provisional results on two topics: (1) what caused the ebb and flow of population into and out of our study area, and (2) what caused the formation and dissolution of villages in this area. In truth, the single authorship of this chapter reflects that in many cases these are my own (possibly idiosyncratic) conclusions. I will focus on what, specifically, the...

  21. Appendix A Parameter Values for Each Run Reported in This Book
    (pp. 263-274)
  22. APPENDIX B Community Centers
    (pp. 275-288)
    (pp. 289-324)
    (pp. 325-326)
  25. INDEX
    (pp. 327-343)
  26. Back Matter
    (pp. 344-344)