Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Simulate Long-gone Societies Of The American Southwest

Date:
July 8, 2005
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
According to new research, climate change alone cannot explain why the Puebloan people--also known as Anasazi--abruptly abandoned the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest in the 1300s after residing there for hundreds of years. Human impact on the environment, high population levels and social and political factors, including violent conflict, likely played important roles.

Researchers simulated the settlement and farmable land patterns of the Puebloan people living in Long House Valley, Ariz. from 400 to 1305 (upper panel covers the time period from 1170 to 1305).
Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

According to new research, climate change alone cannot explain why the Puebloan people--also known as Anasazi--abruptly abandoned the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest in the 1300s after residing there for hundreds of years. Human impact on the environment, high population levels and social and political factors, including violent conflict, likely played important roles.

Related Articles


Tim Kohler of Washington State University bases this conclusion on the results of computer modeling simulations and traditional archaeological research performed by his NSF-supported research team.

Most of what we know about human history didn't come from texts; it was carefully reconstructed from archeological evidence, including tools, pottery and architecture, left behind by ancient societies. While artifacts provide a glimpse of long-gone societies, they usually can't capture the dynamic factors that shaped and changed them.

For many years, researchers have used computer models to fill in the gaps of our unwritten history. But today's "object-oriented" computer languages such as Java, take computer modeling to a new level. Object-oriented programming languages let scientists simulate the behavior of ancient societies and their responses to environment change the same way players control virtual households in the popular computer game The Sims™.

"Computer models can provide basic insights regarding how individuals, households and even entire societies may have interacted with the their natural environment," says NSF program director Thomas Baerwald. Because nature goes through a variety of cycles, we can learn a great deal from these types of studies, he adds. "There are parallels between what happened in a historical context and what is going on today in these regions."

Kohler's team, and a group lead by George Gumerman of the School of American Research in Santa Fe, used the approach to explore how environmental conditions may have influenced Puebloan people's settlement and land use in the central Mesa Verde region of Colo. and Long House Valley of Ariz. First, they programmed the computer to simulate the effects of population growth, resource use and other well-documented environmental factors on the behavior of virtual households (see illustration). Then, they compared the models to the abundant archaeological record of the region.

The simulations indicate environmental factors alone can't explain the abrupt disappearance of the Puebloans from Four Corners region--where Ariz., N.M., Colo. and Utah meet--700 years ago. They conclude the change was driven by factors not included in their models.

The Mesa Verde experiments suggest the Puebloans impact on the environment through deer hunting, use of fuel wood and soil exhaustion probably contributed to their decisions to leave these areas. "Climate change played an important role, but it did not act in isolation," says Kohler. "Past human land-use and high populations contributed to difficulties in making a living here in the 1200s."

"This approach is becoming more common as a complement--not a substitute--for other analytical approaches for a whole range of fields," according to Baerwald. Simulations are particularly valuable to historical sciences such as archaeology and the social sciences where researchers either don't have the luxury of performing experiments in real time or it would not be ethical to do so.

A feature about the work, which was funded through an NSF program designed to explore the dynamic interactions between living systems--including human communities--and the environment, appears in the July issue of Scientific American.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Researchers Simulate Long-gone Societies Of The American Southwest." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 July 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050707211359.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2005, July 8). Researchers Simulate Long-gone Societies Of The American Southwest. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050707211359.htm
National Science Foundation. "Researchers Simulate Long-gone Societies Of The American Southwest." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050707211359.htm (accessed February 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Computers & Math News

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Smart Glasses Augment Reality to Help Visually Impaired

Smart Glasses Augment Reality to Help Visually Impaired

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Feb. 1, 2015) New augmented reality smart glasses developed by researchers at Oxford University can help people with visual impairments improve their vision by providing depth-based feedback, allowing users to "see" better. Joel Flynn reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Verizon Will Let Users Opt Out Of 'Supercookies'

Verizon Will Let Users Opt Out Of 'Supercookies'

Newsy (Jan. 31, 2015) Verizon says users can remove its ad targeting software from their phones completely. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's "Great Firewall" Frustrates Internet Users

China's "Great Firewall" Frustrates Internet Users

Reuters - News Video Online (Jan. 31, 2015) The Chinese government moves to tighten regulations for virtual private network (VPN) services that are used to access websites and services normally blocked in China. That&apos;s affected many internet users in the country. Yiming Woo reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Forced To Obey Law, Changes U.K. Privacy Policy

Google Forced To Obey Law, Changes U.K. Privacy Policy

Newsy (Jan. 30, 2015) Google has agreed to make its privacy policy more transparent in compliance with a U.K. law. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins