Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Archaeologist models past and future landscapes

Date:
February 20, 2011
Source:
Arizona State University
Summary:
An archaeologist says it takes a revolution in thought, along with the newest methods of modeling, to produce a comprehensive picture of the past that can help inform land-use decisions for our future.

Archaeology is a vital tool in understanding the long-term consequences of human impact on the environment. Computational modeling can refine that understanding. But according to Arizona State University archaeologist C. Michael Barton, it takes a revolution in thought, along with the newest methods of modeling, to produce a comprehensive picture of the past that can help inform land-use decisions for our future.

Barton, a professor in ASU's School of Human Evolution and Social Change, will discuss "Looking for the Future in the Past: Long-Term Change in Socioecological Systems" at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Feb. 20.

"We have lots of information in the archaeological record, but it actually represents a tiny fraction of what people used, which represents a small portion of how people lived," Barton explained. "We have artifacts from this point in time and that point in time, but we don't know what people used or how they lived in the interim. So we are left with connecting the dots and making inferences."

Enter computational modeling, which can help fill in the gaps with quantitative estimates by taking into account what we know about people based on sociology, economics, anthropology and other fields. But Barton isn't convinced that a computer can do a better job at such guesswork than archaeologists.

"We must use these tools but also change the way we think about the archaeological record," he said. "When formal and computational modeling is used to experimentally simulate human socioecological dynamics, the empirical archaeological record can be used to validate and improve dynamic models of long-term change."

Considered a pioneer in the area of archaeological applications of computational modeling, Barton helms the Mediterranean Landscape Dynamics project, which is an example of using the past to develop and test decision-support models regarding interactions between land use and landscape evolution. At the AAAS meeting, he will present the project's findings from an agrarian region of northern Jordan.

Barton's team set up experiments that yielded expected and unexpected results. Among the expected findings were that shifting (or "swidden") cultivation produced more erosion than farming and fertilizing the same field repeatedly, and larger settlements had a greater impact on the land than smaller ones. Unexpectedly, the team found that in smaller communities, shifting cultivation and grazing can increase productivity because soil lost due to erosion from grazing can accumulate in farmed areas; however, when those hamlets grow, the same practices can cause soil loss throughout the land used by a village, leading to a significant drop in productivity. In fact, the archaeological record of northern Jordan shows the earliest farming communities experienced the kinds of impacts predicted by the modeling experiments.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Arizona State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. M. Barton, I. I. Ullah, S. Bergin. Land use, water and Mediterranean landscapes: modelling long-term dynamics of complex socio-ecological systems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 2010; 368 (1931): 5275 DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2010.0193

Cite This Page:

Arizona State University. "Archaeologist models past and future landscapes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110220142815.htm>.
Arizona State University. (2011, February 20). Archaeologist models past and future landscapes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110220142815.htm
Arizona State University. "Archaeologist models past and future landscapes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110220142815.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) U-576, a long-lost German U-boat the U.S. sank in 1942, has been found just 30 miles off North Carolina's coast and near the wreckage of another ship. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) After testing DNA from a shawl found near one of Jack the Ripper's victims, a scientist said he'd identified the killer. New reports refute the claim. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? 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


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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