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.

Winds from the North: Tewa Origins and Historical Anthropology

Ortman, Scott G.
Ortman, S. G. (2012). Winds from the North: Tewa Origins and Historical Anthropology. University of Utah Press.

The “abandonment” of Mesa Verde and the formation of the Rio Grande Pueblos represent two classic events in North American prehistory. Yet, despite a century of research, no consensus has been reached on precisely how, or even if, these two events were related. In this landmark study, Scott Ortman proposes a novel and compelling solution to this problem through an investigation of the genetic, linguistic, and cultural heritage of the Tewa Pueblo people of New Mexico.

The Mesa Verde Community Center Survey - 2011 Progress Report

Donna M. Glowacki and R. Kyle Bocinsky
Glowacki, D. and R. Bocinsky. 2011. The Mesa Verde Community Center Survey: 2011 Progress Report. Manuscript submitted to the National Science Foundation and Mesa Verde National Park, on file with Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and Washington State University in compliance with deliverable for NSF Grant DEB-0816400.

The Mesa Verde Community Center Survey (MV-CCS) is a multi-year field project that seeks to expand our understanding of the distribution and organization of large, ancestral Pueblo villages in Mesa Verde National Park (MVNP) that were occupied from AD 600-1290. The 2011 survey focused on characterizing the distribution of community centers (large, aggregated Pueblo villages) in Little Soda Canyon, and on completing documentation for those visited during the 2009 season.

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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