Date(s) - February 23, 2018
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Room 1204, Colorado State Stadium
Categories No Categories
How Environmental Interactions Shaped Ancestral Pueblo Social Dynamics
Analyzing how humans interacted with (and within) their greater ecosystems facilitates a more nuanced understanding of societies both in the archaeological past and in the present. Further, studies of ecosystems can benefit by including humans to better understand complex human/environment interactions. My work addresses this by placing humans within a greater ecological context via food web network models—models of predator prey dynamics within ecosystems. Here I explore how the Ancestral Pueblo farming peoples in the American Southwest were tied to the greater Four Corners environment and were shaped by the ways they interacted with the biotic environment across space and through time. I demonstrate that practices that were beneficial in the short term, such as intensifying maize agriculture, had cascading effects through time and space, destabilizing the Four Corners ecosystem and making it more vulnerable to external environmental shocks. This vulnerability led to the development of innovative social responses such as the development of long distance social networks, though ultimately led to the depopulation of the Four Corners region. This work is situated within an increasing body of knowledge on food webs that demonstrates the importance of humans in structuring ecosystems: how we dramatically alter ecosystems, and how we can manage ecosystems to prevent potential species loss. By developing food webs from well-studied archaeological cases like the Ancestral Pueblo we can better understand our place in the global ecosystem today.
About the Speaker
Stefani Crabtree is a trained “in the dirt archaeologist” who approaches archaeological questions with computational approaches including agent-based modeling, network analysis (social and trophic) and GIS. She employs these methods to understand the socio-environmental trajectory of the Ancestral Pueblo farmers of the U.S. Southwest examining how the actions and interactions of Ancestral Pueblo people led to large, overarching social structures. In her research she asks how small choices – like where to farm – had compounding effects on the environment, and how the unpredictable environment of the Four Corners region could lead to cultural adaptations. Before beginning her advanced studies, Stefani worked in CRM in the Intermountain West, and has also led projects in northern Mongolia and Western Australia, though always returns home to the Four Corners region. She is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the Pennsylvania State University and has published in PNAS, American Antiquity, and other journals.