The Organization and Evolution of the Hohokam Economy: Agent-Based Modeling of Exchange in the Phoenix Basin, Arizona, AD 200-1450

Author(s): Joshua Watts

Year: 2013


The Hohokam of central Arizona left behind evidence of a culture markedly different from and more complex than the small communities of O'odham farmers first encountered by Europeans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries A.D. Archaeologists have worked for well over a century to document Hohokam culture history, but much about Pre-Columbian life in the Sonoran Desert remains poorly understood. In particular, the organization of the Hohokam economy in the Phoenix Basin has been an elusive and complicated subject, despite having been the focus of much previous research. This dissertation provides an assessment of several working hypotheses regarding the organization and evolution of the pottery distribution sector of the Hohokam economy. This was accomplished using an agent-based modeling methodology known as pattern-oriented modeling.

The objective of the research was to first identify a variety of economic models that may explain patterns of artifact distribution in the archaeological record. Those models were abstract representations of the real-world system theoretically drawn from different sources, including microeconomics, mathematics (network/graph theory), and economic anthropology. Next, the effort was turned toward implementing those hypotheses as agent-based models, and finally assessing whether or not any of the models were consistent with Hohokam ceramic datasets. The project’s pattern-oriented modeling methodology led to the discard of several hypotheses, narrowing the range of plausible models of the organization of the Hohokam economy. The results suggest that for much of the Hohokam sequence a market-based system, perhaps structured around workshop procurement and shopkeeper merchandise, provided the means of distributing pottery from specialist producers to widely distributed consumers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results of this project are broadly consistent with earlier researchers' interpretations that the structure of the Hohokam economy evolved through time, growing more complex throughout the Preclassic, and undergoing a major reorganization resulting in a less complicated system at the transition to the Classic Period.

Cite this Record

The Organization and Evolution of the Hohokam Economy: Agent-Based Modeling of Exchange in the Phoenix Basin, Arizona, AD 200-1450. Joshua Watts. Doctoral Dissertation. Arizona State University (ASU), School of Human Evolution and Social Change. 2013 ( tDAR id: 391253) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8V125PD




Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 200 to 1450

Spatial Coverage

min long: -112.576; min lat: 33.02 ; max long: -111.312; max lat: 33.857 ;

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