Synthesizing human behavioral ecology and niche construction theory: an Ohio Hopewell case study

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 17 March, 2016 - 16:15
, Andrew - The Ohio State University

Recent debates that compare niche construction theory (NCT) with human behavioral ecology (HBE) as theoretical frameworks for studying the origins of agriculture, have clarified elements of these approaches. This debate, rather than confounding researchers, can lead to a fruitful expansion and synthesis of both these evolutionary theoretical frameworks in explaining the origin, diffusion, and intensification of agriculture. HBE concepts of patch residence time and the marginal value theorem can be used to explain intensification through niche construction. An Ohio Hopewell subsistence model provides a case study exploring this theoretical synthesis, in which anthropogenic riverine niche expansion of weedy pre-maize crops into earthworks in the first terrace is explained as a response to diminishing returns in alluvial patches. In this research design, earthwork size, distance between habitational sites and earthworks, nutritional value of pre-maize crops, population estimates, macro- and microbotanical data are used as variables to determine catchment areas.