an NSF supported program

Village Ecodynamics Project


About the project

The Village Ecodynamics Project is a network of archaeologists, geologists, geographers, computer scientists and economists seeking to explain key aspects of the late prehistory of the northern Southwest through empirical research and modeling.

VEP I (≈2002-2008) was focused on an 1827-sq-km area on and around the Great Sage Plain of southwestern Colorado. This area was densely settled by farmers beginning around AD 600, but was rapidly and completely depopulated in the 30 years from AD 1250-1280. The almost 700-year-long occupation was marked by the formation of some of the earliest and largest villages in the Southwest, followed by near abandonment in the AD 900s. Chacoan-inspired occupations appeared in the mid-late 1000s, and the collapse or reorganization of that system in the mid-1100s marked the beginning of a turbulent period that eventually culminated in the depopulation of the entire northern Southwest.

With funding from NSF's "Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems" program we began a new phase of this project in 2009.

VEP II expands our focus in Southwest Colorado to include Mesa Verde National Park and adjacent areas east and south of the VEP I area. As this project develops we will also open a study area in the northern Rio Grande region of New Mexico. Fieldwork was conducted in Summer 2009 in Mesa Verde National Park under the direction of Kohler and Dr. Donna Glowacki of the University of Notre Dame, involving graduate students from Washington State University and an undergraduate from Notre Dame.  Crow Canyon Archaeological Center provided logistical support. 

The Village Project

The Village Project is designed to help archaeologists understand the factors influencing settlement patterns of small-scale agrarian peoples. Although such societies are becoming increasingly rare, they represent the norm throughout most of the Neolithic period the world over.

This project uses agent-based modeling to investigate where prehistoric people of the American Southwest would have situated their households based on both the natural and social environments in which they lived.

We seek to understand general processes in the environments of southwestern Colorado between A.D. 600 and A.D. 1300. Agent-based models allow us to study a system characterized by high degrees of interaction between the landscape as it was affected by climate change and by the actions of farmers, and among the farmers themselves, as they sought to make a living in this marginal farming area.

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