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Historical Ecology in the Mesa Verde Region: Results from the Village Ecodynamics Project

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Mark D. Varien
Affiliation:
Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, 23390 County Road K, Cortez, CO 81321. 970-565-8975 (mvarien@crowcanyon.org, sortman@crowcanyon.org)
Scott G. Ortman
Affiliation:
Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, 23390 County Road K, Cortez, CO 81321. 970-565-8975 (mvarien@crowcanyon.org, sortman@crowcanyon.org)
Timothy A. Kohler
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-4910 & Santa Fe Institute, (tako@wsu.edu)
Donna M. Glowacki
Affiliation:
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2402 (donna.glowacki @ asu.edu)
C. David Johnson
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-4910. (cdj@wsu.edu)

Abstract

Using the occupation histories of 3,176 habitation sites, new estimates of maize-agriculture productivity, and an analysis of over 1,700 construction timbers, we examine the historical ecology of Pueblo peoples during their seven-century occupation (A.D. 600–1300) of a densely settled portion of the Mesa Verde archaeological region. We identify two cycles of population growth and decline, the earlier and smaller peaking in the late-A.D. 800s, the later and larger in the mid-A.D. 1200s. We also identify several episodes of immigration. Formation of aggregated settlements, which we term community centers, is positively correlated with increasing population and the time elapsed in each settlement cycle, and it persists during periods of regional population decline, but it does not correlate with climatic variation averaged over periods. Architectural and land-use practices depleted pinyon-juniper woodlands during the first cycle, but more stable field systems and greater recycling of construction timber resulted in more sustainable management of wood resources during the second cycle, despite much higher population densities. Our estimates for maize production are lower than previous estimates, especially for the A.D. 1200s, when population reached its peak in the study area. Even so, considerable potential agricultural production remained unused in the decades that immediately preceded the complete depopulation of our study area.

Résumé

Résumé

En este trabajo examinamos la ecología histórica de las gentes Pueblo a través de siete siglos de ocupación (600–1300 d.C.) en una densa porción asentada en la región arqueológica de Mesa Verde. Usamos como datos las historias ocupacionales de 3,176 sitios habitacionales, unos cálculos nuevos de la productividad agrícola del maíz, y un análisis de más de 1,700 muestras de madera de construcción. Identificamos dos ciclos de crecimiento y disminución poblacional, el más temprano y pequeño con su apogeo hacia finales de los 800 d.C, y el más tardío y grande con su máximo auge hacia los 1200 d.C. También identificamos varios episodios de inmigración. La formación de los asentamientos agregados, los cuales denominamos como centros comunitarios, está correlacionada positivamente con el incremento de la población y el tiempo asociado con cada ciclo del asentamiento, y persiste durante los periodos de disminución de la población regional, pero no se correlaciona con la variación climática promediada a través de los periodos. Durante el primer ciclo, las necesidades de materiales constructivos y del uso del suelo dieron lugar a la reducción de los recursos en los bosques de piñón y enebro. Sin embargo, y a pesar de que las densidades de población fueron más grandes, durante el segundo ciclo se manejaron los recursos de la madera de manera más sustentable a través de sistemas de cultivo más estables, y del reciclamiento de la madera de construcción. Nuestros cálculos de la producción de maíz son más bajos que los previamente calculados, especialmente para los 1200s d.C, cuando la población alcanzó su máximo desarrollo en el área de estudio. Aún así, una considerable proporción del potencial de la producción agrícola no se empleó en las décadas que precedieron inmediatamente el despoblamiento total del área de estudio.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The Society for American Archaeology 2007

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