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Risk, Climatic Variability, and the Study of Southwestern Prehistory: An Evolutionary Perspective

  • Daniel O. Larson (a1), Hector Neff (a2), Donald A. Graybill (a3), Joel Michaelsen (a4) and Elizabeth Ambos (a5)...
Abstract

Two recent developments in southwestern archaeology are brought together in this paper. First, theoreticians have begun to argue that the archaeological record should be viewed as the product of selection-driven evolution. Second, tree-ring research has produced a highly detailed history of climate for a large area of the northern Southwest. We view the record of climatic oscillations and extreme events as a record of the strength of selection favoring stabilization of specialized agricultural strategies in the arid northern Southwest. Published data from Black Mesa provide a cultural record of sufficient precision to permit comparison with the climatic record, while new data from Vermillion Cliffs, southern Utah, document one local end-product of an evolutionary sequence shaped to an important degree by the long-term variability of climate. Anasazi occupation of many regions failed to persist through the “Great Drought” of the 1270s. From a local perspective, this extreme climatic event caused adaptations shaped by selection prior to the 1270s to fail; from a broader temporal-spatial perspective, however, the drought must be seen as part of the selective regime that shaped subsequent human adaptation to the northern Southwest.

Resumen

Este artículo Integra dos recientes desarrollos en la arqueología del suroeste norteamericano. En primer lugar, teoristas arguyen que el registro arqueologíco debe considerarse como el producto de evolutión selectiva. En segundo lugar, la dendrocronología ha producido un historia climática muy detallada para una gran área en la parte norte del suroeste. Interpretamos el registro de oscilaciones climáticas y eventos extremos como el récord de lafuerza de selectión quefavoreció la estabilización de estrategias agrícolas especializadas en el norte árido del suroeste. Informatión publicada proveniente de Black Mesa provee un registro cultural con precisión suficiente para permitir una comparación con el registro climático, mientras que nuevos datos de Vermillion Cliffs, Utah meridional, documentan un producto local de la secuencia evolucionaria configurada en alto grado por una variabilidad climática a largo plazo. La ocupación Anasazi de muchas regiones no persistió durante la “Gran Sequía” de la década de 1270. Desde unaperspectiva local, la “Gran Sequía” ocasionó una caida en las adaptaciones selectivas antes de 1270; desde una perspectiva espacio-temporal más amplia, no obstante, este evento climático extremo debe ser visto como parte de un régimen selectivo que configuró la adaptatión humana subsiguiente en la parte norte del suroeste.

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American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
  • EISSN: 2325-5064
  • URL: /core/journals/american-antiquity
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