The consequences of human land-use strategies during the PPNB-LN transition: a simulation modeling approach
This dissertation investigates the long-term consequences of human land-use practices in general, and in early agricultural villages in specific. This pioneering case study investigates the "collapse" of the Early (Pre-Pottery) Neolithic lifeway, which was a major transformational event marked by significant changes in settlement patterns, material culture, and social markers. To move beyond traditional narratives of cultural collapse, I employ a Complex Adaptive Systems approach to this research, and combine agent-based computer simulations of Neolithic land-use with dynamic and spatially-explicit GIS-based environmental models to conduct experiments into long-term trajectories of different potential Neolithic socio-environmental systems. My analysis outlines how the Early Neolithic "collapse" was likely instigated by a non-linear sequence of events, and that it would have been impossible for Neolithic peoples to recognize the long-term outcome of their actions. The experiment-based simulation approach shows that, starting from the same initial conditions, complex combinations of feedback amplification, stochasticity, responses to internal and external stimuli, and the accumulation of incremental changes to the socio-natural landscape, can lead to widely divergent outcomes over time. Thus, rather than being an inevitable consequence of specific Neolithic land-use choices, the "catastrophic" transformation at the end of the Early Neolithic was an emergent property of the Early Neolithic socio-natural system itself, and thus likely not an easily predictable event. In this way, my work uses the technique of simulation modeling to connect CAS theory with the archaeological and geoarchaeological record to help better understand the causes and consequences of socio-ecological transformation at a regional scale. The research is broadly applicable to other archaeological cases of resilience and collapse, and is truly interdisciplinary in that it draws on fields such as geomorphology, computer science, and agronomy in addition to archaeology.