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Computational modeling and Neolithic socioecological dynamics: a case study from southwest Asia

TitleComputational modeling and Neolithic socioecological dynamics: a case study from southwest Asia
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsBarton, CMichael, Ullah, IIT, Mitasova, H
JournalAmerican Antiquity

Archaeology has an opportunity to offer major contributions to our understanding of the long-term interactions of humans and the environment. To do so, we must elucidate dynamic socioecological processes that generally operate at regional scales. However, the archaeological record is sparse, discontinuous, and static. Recent advances in computational model- ing provide the potential for creating experimental laboratories where dynamic processes can be simulated and their results compared against the archaeological record. Coupling computational modeling with the empirical record in this way can increase the rigor of our explanations while making more transparent the concepts on which they are based. We offer an example of such an experimental laboratory to study the long-term effects of varying landuse practices by subsistence farm- ers on landscapes, and compare the results with the Levantine Neolithic archaeological record. Different combinations of intensive and shifting cultivation, ovicaprid grazing, and settlement size are modeled for the Wadi Ziqlab drainage of north- ern Jordan. The results offer insight into conditions under which previously successful (and sustainable) landuse practices can pass an imperceptible threshold and lead to undesirable landscape consequences. This may also help explain long-term social, economic, and settlement changes in the Neolithic of Southwest Asia.

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