tDAR Logo tDAR digital antiquity

Changing Channels: Simulating Irrigation Management on Evolving Canal Systems for the Prehistoric Hohokam of Central Arizona

Author(s): Louise Purdue ; John Murphy ; Maurits Ertsen

Year: 2015

» Downloads & Basic Metadata


Societies that rely on irrigation face challenges arising from the variability and unpredictability of water supply and the physics underlying the flow of water through open channels; they overcome these through structured social interactions and institutions ranging from simple to complex. To better understand these past interactions we combine geoarchaeological studies with flow simulations and Agent Based Modeling. Fieldwork conducted during CRM projects on Hohokam irrigation structures in central Arizona has revealed new details about canal morphology, including shape, size, elevation, slope, and cleaning events. The micromorphological study of the sediments that fill these structures allow finer resolution in discerning the performance (velocity, discharge, etc.) of the canal channels and their evolution through time. We couple this with an agent-based model to explore how these constraints might have required alternative strategies for cooperation. The combination of both approaches is key to discerning both broad differences between periods and fine variation within major chronological periods. We show that the coupling of social and physical models on very fine time scales can offer insight into the social arrangements and day-to-day life of people in the prehistoric past and inform our understanding of those societies’ long-term changes.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Cite this Record

Changing Channels: Simulating Irrigation Management on Evolving Canal Systems for the Prehistoric Hohokam of Central Arizona. John Murphy, Louise Purdue, Maurits Ertsen. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395155)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America