Coupled Natural and Human Ecosystems over Long Periods: Pueblo Ecodynamics

This project expands the temporal and spatial dimensions of prior research to examine the interaction of social and natural factors that shaped the pre-historic agricultural societies of Pueblo Indians in the Mesa Verde and Rio Grande regions of the southwest United States. This project will conduct a coupled socio-natural science analysis of one of the most dramatic migration episodes in world prehistory; model the evolution of incipient market-based economies from earlier economies of reciprocity, a major economic transformation of global interest; and compare land-use strategies and outcomes for people of a single cultural tradition in two different, sequentially occupied environments.

The project will collect new information on known archaeological sites, and conduct a study of resource availability and use to model the evolution of economic strategies among households and larger groups. Model simulations will be used to explore processes leading to group-formation. This includes identifying communities in the archaeological record, evolving them in simulation models, and allowing them to compete and cooperate with other groups.

This work contributes to understanding several near-universal processes in societies undergoing population growth and economic intensification following the development of new technologies. Equally important is the enhanced understanding it will provide of the rich archaeological records of Mesa Verde and Rio Grande regions, which together are visited by close to a million people each year.

The research team is highly interdisciplinary and includes archaeologists, a geochemist, a computer scientist, an ecologist/geographer, a specialist in ancient DNA, and an economist. Researchers from the two national parks, the Santa Fe National Forest, and major museums are an integral part of the team. Collaborating institutions will involve undergraduate and graduate students and the public in research activities. Results will be disseminated to school-age children and the general public through interpreters at the parks, through the educational activities of Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, and through exhibits and other interpretive materials developed for museums and units of the National Park Service and US Forest Service.

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