The Robustness and Vulnerability of Food Production and Social Change: An evaluation of interdisciplinary concepts using archaeological data, models and ethnographic observations

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Our session is broadly focused on the production of food, which encompasses the beliefs, practices, technologies and resources that individuals draw upon to obtain food. Systems of food production create feedbacks between humans and ecosystems, which can lead to the coevolution of social norms and practices and the composition of ecosystems, path dependency and rapid social transformations (i.e. regime changes). Our session aims to bring together a geographically and conceptually diverse set of contributions to investigate feedbacks between social systems and ecosystems, with a central focus on how strategies of food production modify such feedback processes. In particular, we seek to critically integrate interdisciplinary concepts like robustness, resilience and vulnerability to investigate the recursive relationships between human food practices, ecosystem dynamics, and social changes documented through the long gaze of the archaeological record. Drawing on archaeological, ethnographic data and/or models, the contributions to this session are focused on: (1) examining the trade-offs between strategies designed to cope with environmental change over the short-term and the ways these strategies influence the resilience and create new vulnerabilities for societies over the long-term; (2) discussions of the data, methodologies, and infrastructure needed for research of such trade-offs in social-ecological systems.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-8 of 8)

  • Documents (8)

  • Considering Robustness and Vulnerability in Texas Hunter-Gatherer Social-Ecological Systems using Stable Isotope Data (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Robert Hard. Jacob Freeman. Raymond Mauldin.

    We analyze stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic data from over 200 foragers from inland, riverine, and coastal settings on the Texas Coastal Plain. Prehistoric foragers on the Texas Coastal Plain faced the challenge of maintaining a robust supply of food despite constant changes in their environments, including seasonal changes and changes that occurred over decades-to-centuries, like climate change and sea level rise. Given that coastal estuaries and inland river valleys had resources that...

  • Examining Settlement Reorganization and Plant Food Use in the Greater Cibola Region A.D. 900-1400 (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sarah Oas.

    Investigations at varying scales have been undertaken to understand the role of maize in the diets and daily lives of prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. In the Cibola region, around the modern Pueblo of Zuni, archaeological studies provide a detailed temporal and spatial picture of rapid settlement reorganization and aggregation in the Pueblo III and IV periods between A.D. 1150-1400. Less well understood, however, is how daily subsistence practices and interactions with local...

  • Extreme weather events and 10,000 years of land-use change in the Gediz River valley (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nicolas Gauthier. Christina Luke. Christopher Roosevelt.

    We analyze long-term community responses to extreme weather events in the Gediz River valley of western Anatolia. Today, as in antiquity, the valley is one of the most agriculturally productive in Turkey, and its agroecosystem is well-adapted to the seasonal variability of its Mediterranean environment. Nevertheless — and in spite of modern water-management infrastructure — unpredictable droughts, storms, and floods can still devastate the region’s food production. How were the valley’s ancient...

  • Humans, Fire, and Food Production: Examining the spatial and temporal patterns of changing burning practices during the transition to agriculture in the Western Mediterranean (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Grant Snitker.

    One of the principle objectives of current archaeological research is to improve our understanding of the recursive relationship between humans and their environments through time. Following this objective, archaeological and paleoecological analyses have demonstrated that fire and humans have a coupled relationship in almost every biome on earth. The processes through which humans modify landscapes with fire reflect the complexities of human-environmental relationships, especially in the ...

  • Hydraulic Empire Revisited: Exploring the sociopolitical vulnerabilities of the riverine socio-ecological system of Pharaonic Egypt (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rudolf Cesaretti.

    Ever since the falsification of Wittfogel’s thesis on the role of centralized irrigation construction and administration in ancient Near Eastern states, most scholars of Pharaonic Egypt have found it taboo to theorize a relationship between irrigation-based productive systems and the Pharaonic political economy. A wealth of geoarchaeological and paleoclimatological proxy data has enabled the reconstruction of long term trends in Nile flood levels, highlighting not only the considerable...

  • Modeling Prehispanic Agricultural Risk Landscapes in the Cibola Region of the U.S. Southwest (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jon Norberg. John Anderies. Jon Sandor. Grant Snitker. Andrea Torvinen.

    Ethnographic research suggests maintaining diverse subsistence strategies and extensive social networks help to mitigate various ecological risks (e.g., Cashdan 1985; Spielmann 1986; Wiessner 1982). The prehispanic agriculturalists of the semi-arid U.S. Southwest faced several ecological challenges and may have maintained social connections with ecologically diverse areas as a risk mitigation strategy. To test this hypothesis, we have developed a temporally and spatially explicit model of...

  • The Social Opportunity Hypothesis (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jacob Freeman.

    My work is motivated by the finding that the first farmers of the deserts of Northern Mexico and Southern Arizona formed settlements near and farmed reliable and productive flood plains. To understand why, I investigate to the processes that lead hunters and gatherers to invest in the low-level production of food in general. I use a dynamical systems model to investigate the effect of low-level food production on the ability of foragers to predictably allocate time to reaping the fitness...

  • Toward effective cyber-infrastructure support of socio-environmental research (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only R. Kyle Bocinsky. Keith Kintigh. Timothy A. Kohler. Margaret C. Nelson.

    Understanding coupled human and natural systems is a major research focus for the social and natural sciences. Scholars interested in historic environmental conditions (including those of deep pre-history) cannot simply extrapolate the past from the present. Instead, they need environmental knowledge specific to their spatial-temporal problem contexts. However, in accounting for environmental change they are likely to find that state-of-the-art data on past environments are difficult to discover...