Site Clustering Parallels Initial Domestication in Eastern North America


Dense human settlements often emerge following a shift to agricultural economies, yet researchers still debate the underlying cause of this pattern. One driver may be what is known in ecology as an Allee effect, a positive relationship between population density and per capita utility. Allee effects may emerge with economies of scale such as those created by some forms of intensified food acquisition and production. Thus, in an Allee-like setting, individuals belonging to larger groups enjoy the benefits of greater efficiency and productivity of subsistence, as well as group defense, mating opportunities, cooperative parenting, etc. Here we evaluate this hypothesis by examining the process of initial plant domestication in Eastern North America, where we expect the process of intensification should co-occur with a shift from more dispersed to more clustered settlement patterns as individuals begin to benefit from aggregation. Application of the Clark-Evans Nearest Neighbor Index to dated site locations available from the Canadian Archaeological Radiocarbon Database support our predictions, revealing a shift from dispersed to clustered settlements that coincides with the initial domestication of plants in the region. This result supports the hypothesis that subsistence intensification in Holocene Eastern North America was associated with Allee effects and incipient territoriality.

Cite this Record

Site Clustering Parallels Initial Domestication in Eastern North America. Elic Weitzel, Brian Codding, Stephen Carmody, David Zeanah. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443235)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -168.574; min lat: 7.014 ; max long: -54.844; max lat: 74.683 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21012