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.

Final Report on VEP I Available Soon!

Please note that this content is not current. It is being maintained for historical purposes.

In early 2012 the University of California Press will publish Emergence and Collapse of Early Villages: Models of Central Mesa Verde Archaeology. Edited by Tim Kohler and Mark Varien, this volume takes a broad, comparative look at the AD 600-1280 period in the central Mesa Verde region, moving back and forth between the output from the agent-based model "Village" and the archaeological record. What factors affected local settlement practices, including aggregation, and how did these change through time? What impacts did these populations have on their landscapes? Do these help explain the 13th-century depopulation? This is our comprehensive synthetic report on the first six years of the Village Ecodynamics Project, funded by NSF Biocomplexity grant BCS–0119981. You can read the first chapter here.

Prehistory of the Pueblo Peoples: How We Learn and What We Know

Please note that this content is not current. It is being maintained for historical purposes.

In March 2011 VEP PI Tim Kohler presented WSU's annual Distinguished Faculty Address, in which he reviewed main currents of VEP research over the last 8 years. With introductions by President Elson Floyd and Provost Warwick Bayly.

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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