The work of Crow Canyon researchers will be featured next month in American Scientist magazine. Crow Canyon research associate Tim Kohler (top photo) is the senior author of an article, “Mesa Verde Migrations,” upcoming in the prestigious publication’s March–April issue. The article is coauthored by Mark Varien (middle photo), Crow Canyon's vice president of programs; Aaron Wright, a doctoral candidate at Washington State University; and Kristin Kuckelman (lower photo), Crow Canyon's senior research archaeologist
The article describes how computer simulation techniques were used to integrate nearly a century’s worth of archaeological research with new climatic, ecological, and demographic data to analyze two major cycles in population growth and decline among the ancestral Pueblo Indians. Ultimately, the data suggest that the final population collapse within the region resulted from a complex set of environmental changes and societal pressures—including climate change, population growth, increasing competition for resources, and escalating conflict and violence among local societies.
Early archaeologists often attributed the depopulation of the Mesa Verde region in the middle to late A.D. 1200s to single factors such as climate change or conflict. More recently, some scholars have suggested that better conditions or new types of social organization drew the population southward. In the American Scientist article, however, the authors suggest that the causes of the emigration were far more complex.
“. . . it was a cascade of events that included climate-induced immigration from peripheral regions resulting in overpopulation . . . in turn generating resource depletion that was exacerbated by a decline in maize productivity . . . ,” the authors write. “These changes provoked conflict, which in turn induced more scarcity. As these societies began to lose population, they also functioned less successfully and became vulnerable to aggression.”
Timothy Kohler, the article's senior author, is a regents’ professor at Washington State University and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He earned a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Florida in 1978. Since joining the faculty of WSU, he has increasingly specialized in Southwestern archaeology. In the late 1970s through the middle 1980s, he collaborated with former Crow Canyon research director and current board member Bill Lipe on the Dolores Archaeological Project in southwestern Colorado. He has been a research associate with Crow Canyon for seven years.
American Scientist, with a readership of more than 144,000, has been published since 1913 by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society. Each issue features articles written by prominent scientists and engineers, reviewing important work in fields that range from molecular biology to computer engineering. All articles are written by scientists in concert with American Scientist editors and are illustrated with color photographs, fine art, diagrams, and graphs.
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