an NSF supported program

Village Ecodynamics Project


The late A.D. 1200s depopulation of the Mesa Verde region of the American Southwest is one of the great mysteries of American archaeology. Deserted Cliff DwellingsMany mechanisms have been proposed to account for this rapid out-migration of regional populations. Most suggest increasingly severe resource imbalances across a densely populated landscape. Some accepted research, however, shows that potential maize production was sufficient to support the estimated populations of the time. If these populations emigrated due to resource scarcity, then scarcity of other resources must have contributed to decisions to leave. On the other hand, there are hints of important changes in sociopolitical organization just prior to the depopulation.

This famous depopulation is one of the riddles that the Village Project addresses. The project was undertaken to examine the interaction of simulated agrarian households with their natural environment taking in to account the production and consumption of various natural resources essential for everyday life. By evaluating the possibility of crises in factors such as potable water, woody fuels, and protein, this research will help determine whether resource factors were in fact critical in these decisions, or whether social factors may have largely influenced the exodus.

See our Research Plan for other problems we are addressing.

VEP Papers at 2013 SAAs!

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We hope you will come to hear about VEP and VEP-related research in Honolulu…one can only surf so much! Papers include: Katie Grundtisch, Scott Ortman, Timothy Kohler and Carly Fitzpatrick: Violence and Warfare in the Northern Rio Grande. In General Session "New Insights in Southwestern Archaeology," Thursday Morning April 4 Kelsey M. Reese, R. Kyle Bocinsky, Addy Donyina, Donna M. Glowacki, and Scott G. Ortman: What are Communities, Really? In Symposium "New Directions in Modeling Dynamics for Coupled Social-Natural Systems," Thursday 9:30 AM April 4 Tim Kohler, Stefani Crabtree, Michael Berry, and Jeffrey Dean, Secrets of the Southwest Solved by Walkative Tree Rings. In Symposium, "The connected past: critical and innovative approaches to networks in archaeology," Thursday evening April 4 Tim Kohler, Discussant in Forum "Re-connecting the past: the future of social network analysis in archaeology" Friday afternoon April 5.

VEP Graduate Student Researcher Wins AAAS Student Poster Prize

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 Stefani Crabtree, M.A. candidate in the Department of Anthropology, WSU, was named winner of the 2012 AAAS Student Poster Competition in Social Sciences for her poster "Trophic Interconnectedness in Southwestern Colorado:  Studying Archaeological Food-Webs in Ancestral Pueblo Society." Lydia Smith, University of California-Berkeley, and Tim Kohler were co-authors. 

Agent-based Modeling

Since the 1990s there has been a marked increase in interest in computational approaches—including simulation—by social science researchers. This appears to be driven both by a cross-disciplinary interest in the sciences of complexity and the ever-increasing computational capacity at our disposal.

In the past, due to the complexity of the phenomena involved, we have been forced to use simplistic world models. Today we are able to study a world in which most important phenomena emerge from the non-linear interaction of many agents (physical, biological, or social) in systems that are rarely at equilibrium.

This vision promotes a method—agent-based modeling—that provides a computational environment in which the behaviors of such systems can be studied.

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Department of Anthropology, PO Box 644910, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-4910, 509-335-3441, Contact Us