The Dreaded Pox: Agent-Based Simulation of the 1870 Smallpox Epidemic in Tucson, Arizona

Author(s): Jeremy Pye

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2019: General Sessions" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

In October of 1869 a smallpox outbreak developed in Tucson, Arizona, which lasted until late April of 1870. Historical documents do not agree on the number of deaths resulting from the epidemic, and no concrete information is given about the extent of the illness spread through the Tucson community or the surrounding region. Bioarchaeological evidence of smallpox is also scant. Therefore, in order to estimate the total number of deaths and impact of the epidemic, an agent-based computer simulation was constructed using AgentSheets® 3.0 simulation software. Census figures from the 1870 federal census were used to populate the simulated Tucson environment. This initial simulation tests a "virgin" environment where no previous immunity is assumed and agents progress through all levels of smallpox infection (susceptible, pre-eruptive, pre-symptomatic, symptomatic, immune or dead) based on agreed upon disease epidemiological parameters. Ten simulations were run and the averages of the simulation resulted in 779 deaths, 1721 infected individuals who recovered, and a 311-day long epidemic. These results are similar to what would be expected in a virgin population of this size based on disease parameters. This suggests that further simulation specification could yield results which more clearly approximate the unknown historical truth.

Cite this Record

The Dreaded Pox: Agent-Based Simulation of the 1870 Smallpox Epidemic in Tucson, Arizona. Jeremy Pye. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449776)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -124.365; min lat: 25.958 ; max long: -93.428; max lat: 41.902 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23970