Population growth and collapse in a multiagent model of the Kayenta Anasazi in Long House Valley

Robert L. Axtell, Joshua M. Epstein, Jeffrey S. Dean, George J. Gumerman, Alan C. Swedlund, Jason Harburger, Shubha Chakravarty, Ross Hammond, Jon Parker, Miles Parker

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Long House Valley in the Black Mesa area of northeastern Arizona (U.S.) was inhabited by the Kayenta Anasazi from about 1800 before Christ to about anno Domini 1300. These people were prehistoric ancestors of the modern Pueblo cultures of the Colorado Plateau. Paleoenvironmental research based on alluvial geomorphology, palynology, and dendroclimatology permits accurate quantitative reconstruction of annual fluctuations in potential agricultural production (kg of maize per hectare). The archaeological record of Anasazi farming groups from anno Domini 200-1300 provides information on a millennium of sociocultural stasis, variability, change, and adaptation. We report on a multiagent computational model of this society that closely reproduces the main features of its actual history, including population ebb and flow, changing spatial settlement patterns, and eventual rapid decline. The agents in the model are monoagriculturalists, who decide both where to situate their fields as well as the location of their settlements. Nutritional needs constrain fertility. Agent heterogeneity, difficult to model mathematically, is demonstrated to be crucial to the high fidelity of the model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7275-7279
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
StatePublished - May 14 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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