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Time, Place, and Emergent Complexity in Forager Societies

Date and Time: 
Thursday, May 2, 2019. 05:15 PM - 06:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Archaeology Center
Workshop: 
Archaeology: Connectivity and Temporality, An Archaeological View
Meeting Description: 

Recent archaeological research reveals that hunter-gatherer settlement patterns are surprisingly hierarchical in structure. Few extremely large sites dwarf many small sites in terms of scale and intensity of occupation. This observation presents something of a paradox. How could relatively egalitarian societies come to generate decidedly hierarchical structure in their settlement patterns? Drawing insights from network theory, agent-based modeling, Andean archaeology, and ethnography, Randy Haas will show that settlement hierarchy is an emergent property of preferential attachment to places anticipated by fundamental connections between people and their material culture. This simple model of forager mobility moves beyond environmentally deterministic explanations of hunter-gatherer mobility and generates insights into the evolution of certain complex behaviors in human societies. In particular, the talk will explore how preferential attachment to places over hundreds to thousands of years could have catalyzed plant and animal domestication. A working model for the evolution of potatoes, quinoa, and alpaca in the Andes Mountains over 9000-3000 years ago will be presented as a case study.

Randy Haas is an archaeologist and assistant professor of anthropology in the UC Davis Department of Anthropology where he studies the evolution of complex human behaviors among ancient forager societies. The archaeological record and quantitative methods are at the core of his research. His recent case studies explore how early hunter-gatherer societies of the Andes Mountains adapted to physically challenging alpine environments above 3800 meters in altitude and how cooperative social structures, potato and quinoa agriculture, and alpaca husbandry evolved between 12,000 and 3500 years ago.

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