What We're Missing in the Models: How Experimental Methods Can Change the Way We View Early Neolithic Farmscapes in the Ancient

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 17 March, 2016 - 08:45
, Benjamin - University of Arizona

In recent decades, scientists have developed a number of quantitative methods for reconstructing ancient agricultural systems, allowing them to create models of the ways farmers responded to fluctuating climatic and environmental conditions in the past. However, advancements in modeling capabilities have led some researchers away from nuanced analyses of specific agricultural technologies and the societies that used them, towards more generalized conclusions about the nature of farming in different areas of the world. In the northern Southwestern US, many archaeologists modeling the origins and development of maize agriculture continue to use outdated measures of productivity based on modern industrialized agricultural systems. Recent experimental farming and cold-air drainage studies in the Northern Southwest have shown that many of these models of maize productivity grossly underestimate the potential contribution of agriculture to early Neolithic societies. This presentation presents some of the key findings of this research and proposes strategies for future studies.