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Long Distance Exchange in Pre-Hispanic Chaco Canyon and the Mimbres Valley, New Mexico: A Comparison

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This thesis is a study of long distance exchange by the people of Chaco Canyon and the Mimbres Valley, New Mexico. Chaco Canyon region lies within the northwestern corner of present day New Mexico. Chaco Canyon belongs to the broader

This thesis is a study of long distance exchange by the people of Chaco Canyon and the Mimbres Valley, New Mexico. Chaco Canyon region lies within the northwestern corner of present day New Mexico. Chaco Canyon belongs to the broader ancestral Puebloan region of the U.S. Southwest. With its rise to prominence in the early 900s CE, Chaco Canyon was a major cultural center before European contact. Almost exactly south of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico lies the Mimbres region. Mimbres is a sub-classification within the broader Mogollon culture. Although both smaller in size and not quite as extensively studied as Chaco culture, the Mimbres region was important in its own right. Mimbres culture is considered to have it beginnings as a cohesive unit beginning around 825-850 CE with Three-Circle phase during the Late Pithouse period. Although Chaco Canyon and the Mimbres Valley are not thought to be well connected either through trade or culture, there is no denying that the contemporaneous dating of the occupations, and in particular their collapse at the same time, around 1130-1150 CE, speaks to the possibility of common forces working on both regions. The goal of this thesis is to see if the long-distance exchange of valued objects in both regions indicates parallel cultural responses between the two to distant external conditions, particularly in Mesoamerica. Does the growth and decline in procurement of these objects imply similar dynamics to the occupational histories of the two regions over time? The answers to these questions, which are compared to expectations based on distance to sources and the relative social power, may ultimately aid the understanding of a seemingly paradoxical interregional relationship and why two highly independent regions experienced simultaneous collapse. Separated by some 550 km, Chaco Canyon and the Mimbres region still have much to reveal about the nuances of their relationship with one other.

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2018-05

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Estimating Age at Death of Archaeological Remains: A Comparison of Transition Analysis and Traditional Estimation Methods

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Objectives: The objective of this research is to develop a better understanding of the ways in which Transition Analysis estimates differ from traditional estimates in terms of age-at-death point estimation and inter-observer error. Materials and methods: In order to achieve

Objectives: The objective of this research is to develop a better understanding of the ways in which Transition Analysis estimates differ from traditional estimates in terms of age-at-death point estimation and inter-observer error. Materials and methods: In order to achieve the objectives of the research, 71 adult individuals from an archaeological site in northern Sudan were subjected to Transition Analysis age estimation by the author, a beginner-level osteologist. These estimates were compared to previously produced traditional multifactorial age estimates for these individuals, as well as a small sample of Transition Analysis estimates produced by an intermediate-level investigator. Results: Transition Analysis estimates do not have a high correlation with traditional estimates of age at death, especially when those estimates fall within middle or old adult age ranges. The misalignment of beginner- and intermediate-level Transition Analysis age estimations calls into question intra-method as well as inter-method replicability of age estimations. Discussion: Although the poor overall correlation of Transition Analysis estimates and traditional estimates in this study might be blamed on the relatively low experience level of the analyst, the results cast doubt on the replicability of Transition Analysis estimations, echoing the Bethard's (2005) results on a known-age sample. The results also question the validity of refined age estimates produced for individuals previously estimated to be in the 50+ age range by traditional methods and suggest that Transition Analysis tends to produce younger estimates than its traditional counterparts. Key words: age estimation, Transition Analysis, human osteology, observer error

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2017-05

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Formal Open Space and Governance in Premodern Cities

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An important part of the layout of a city is the nature of formally defined open spaces that give people a designated forum for interaction, help them navigate the stress of a dense population, and impact how common people perceive

An important part of the layout of a city is the nature of formally defined open spaces that give people a designated forum for interaction, help them navigate the stress of a dense population, and impact how common people perceive each other and their authority and how they move through the built environment. There is a critical lack of understanding of the origin of these spaces in the earliest cities and their social contexts. I will examine a sample of premodern cities, including archaeologically and historically documented examples, to provide more clarity as to why formal open spaces exist, both in ancient cities and modern ones. This project stems from the larger one: "Service Access in Premodern Cities" at ASU, a project dedicated to transdisciplinary research on comparative urbanism. Each of the cities in this projects have been scored on a scale of governance based on that of Blanton and Fargher (2007).I will measure the formal open space in these cities using GIS. Relating plaza area to the size of the city and the form of governance will show whether or not plazas can be classified as a public good according to Blanton and Fargher's classification and whether cross-cultural patterns exist regarding the relationship of governance to public space. A development of this more complex understanding of the dynamics of early cities and their governance is critical to understanding the evolution of both human society and the modern city.

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2016-12

Food Plant Biogeography of the Sonoran Desert

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There is an ongoing debate around the extent that anthropogenic processes influence both plant species distribution dynamics and plant biodiversity patterns. Past human food use may leave a strong legacy on not only the extent that food plants are dispersed

There is an ongoing debate around the extent that anthropogenic processes influence both plant species distribution dynamics and plant biodiversity patterns. Past human food use may leave a strong legacy on not only the extent that food plants are dispersed and fill their potential geographic ranges, but also on food plant species richness in areas that have been densely populated by humans through time. The persistent legacy of plant domestication on contemporary species composition has been suggested to be significant in some regions. However, little is known about the effects that past human food use has had on the biogeography of the Sonoran Desert despite its rich cultural diversity and species richness. I used a combination of ecoinformatics, ethnobotanical, and archaeological data sources to quantitatively assess the impacts of pre-Columbian, and in some cases, more recent, human-mediated dispersal of food plants on the Sonoran Desert landscape. I found that (i) food plants do fill more of their potential geographic ranges than their un-used congeners, and that polyploidy, growth form, and life form are correlated with range filling and past food usage. I also found that (ii) both pre-Columbian and contemporary human population presence are correlated with relative food plant species richness. Thus, both past human food use and contemporary human activities may have influenced the geographic distribution of food plants at regional scales as well as species richness patterns. My research emphasizes that there is an interplay between ecological and anthropogenic processes, and that, therefore, humans must be considered as part of the landscape and included in ecological models.

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2019

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Archaeological Approaches to Population Growth and Social Interaction in Semiarid Environments: Pattern, Process, and Feedbacks

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Population growth, social interaction, and environmental variability are interrelated facets of the same complex system. Tracing the flow of food, water, information, and energy within these social-ecological systems is essential for understanding their long-term behavior. Leveraging an archaeological perspective of

Population growth, social interaction, and environmental variability are interrelated facets of the same complex system. Tracing the flow of food, water, information, and energy within these social-ecological systems is essential for understanding their long-term behavior. Leveraging an archaeological perspective of how past societies coevolved with their natural environments will be critical to anticipating the impact of impending climate change on farming communities in the developing world. However, there is currently a lack of formal, quantitative theory rooted in first principles of human behavior that can predict the empirical regularities of the archaeological record in semiarid regions. Through a series of models -- statistical, computational, and mathematical -- and empirical data from two long-term archaeological case studies in the pre-Hispanic American Southwest and Roman North Africa, I explore the feedbacks between population growth and social interaction in water-limited agrarian societies. First, I use a statistical model to analyze a database of 7.5 million artifacts collected from nearly 500 archaeological sites in the Southwest and found that sites located in different climatic zones were more likely to interact with one another than a sites occupying the same zone. Next, I develop a computational model of demography and food production in ancient agrarian societies and, using North Africa as a motivating example, show how the concrete actions and interactions of millions of individual people lead to emergent patterns of population growth and stability. Finally, I build a simple mathematical model of trade and migration among agricultural settlements to determine how the relative costs and benefits of social interaction drive population growth and shape long-term settlement patterns. Together, these studies form the foundation for a unified quantitative approach to regional social-ecological systems. By combining theory and methods from ecology, geography, and climate science, archaeologists can better leverage insights from diverse times and places to fill critical knowledge gaps in the study of food security and sustainability in the drylands of today.

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2019

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Social Identification and the Capacity for Collective Action at La Quemada, Zacatecas, Mexico (600-800 CE)

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Unlike traditional frontier studies that treat the frontier as monolithic and focus on core-periphery interactions involving colonialism and acculturation, this dissertation seeks to characterize the internal social dynamics of frontier regions using the collective social identification framework. Concentrating on the

Unlike traditional frontier studies that treat the frontier as monolithic and focus on core-periphery interactions involving colonialism and acculturation, this dissertation seeks to characterize the internal social dynamics of frontier regions using the collective social identification framework. Concentrating on the intraregional and intrasite scales makes it possible to directly evaluate the bottom-up processes involved in the formation of collective social identities within frontier zones (i.e., sociopolitical development divorced from core-centric actions). Derived from social science research aimed at understanding the development of modern nation-states and social movements, the theoretical framework implemented in this research centers on the idea that sustained collective action depends on the degree to which groups of individuals share networks of social interaction (i.e., relational identification) and recognize membership in the same social categories (i.e. categorical identification). Applying this model to the site of La Quemada, Zacatecas, Mexico, provides a methodology for assessing the potential for collective action through time and across spatial scales based on the degree of categorical commonality or the strength of relational connections among the site’s inhabitants.

Dating to the Epiclassic period (600-900 CE), La Quemada was founded during the cultural florescence of the northern frontier of Mesoamerica, but the site was abandoned ca. 800-900 CE while other polities persisted. Therefore, it is hypothesized that a change in how the occupants of La Quemada identified with one another decreased the potential for collective action over time and contributed to site abandonment. Material proxies in the form of ceramic-style categories (i.e., shared styles expressing categorical affiliation) and fabric classes (i.e., shared pastes indicative of relational networks) are used to assess the temporal and spatial consistency of social identification at multiple socio-spatial scales within the site of La Quemada. The results of this research, however, find that despite fluctuations in the expression of categorical identification among La Quemada residents it was the strength of their relational ties that gave them the capacity to recover. Furthermore, the capacity for collective action was high preceding site abandonment, suggesting that a disruption in the social fabric of La Quemada did not contribute to its decline and abandonment.

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2018