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Resilience Lost: Intersecting Land Use and Landscape Dynamics in the Prehistoric Southwestern United States

Matthew A. Peeples, School of Human Evolution & Social Change, Arizona State University
C. Michael Barton, School of Human Evolution & Social Change, Arizona State University; Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity, Arizona State University
Steven Schmich, School of Human Evolution & Social Change, Arizona State University


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The interdisciplinary framework known as resilience theory used by ecologists, social scientists, as well as policy makers, is primarily concerned with the sources of transformation and stability in complex socioecological systems. The laboratory of the long and diverse archaeological record is uniquely suited to testing some of the implications of this theoretical perspective. In this paper, we consider the history of land use and landscape change across the transition from foraging to agricultural subsistence economies in the Middle Chevelon Creek region of northern Arizona. Through this discussion, we highlight the potential roles of diversity and flexibility at multiple spatial and temporal scales in the resilience of human land use practices from the prehistoric past. Expressing the long-term history of this region in a more general theoretical language that bridges the social and natural sciences promotes the collaboration of scientists with expertise deriving from different traditional disciplines. Such a broad perspective is necessary to characterize changes and stabilities in complex socioecological systems.

Key words

adaptive cycle; agriculture; archaeology; human environmental impacts; land use; landscape dynamics; resilience theory; southwestern United States.

Copyright © 2006 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087