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SETTLEMENT SCALING IN MIDDLE-RANGE SOCIETIES

  • Scott G. Ortman (a1) (a2) (a3) and Grant D. Coffey (a4)

Abstract

The contemporary relevance of archaeology would be greatly enhanced if archaeologists could develop theory that frames human societies of all scales in the same terms. We present evidence that an approach known as settlement scaling theory can contribute to such a framework. The theory proposes that a variety of aggregate socioeconomic properties of human networks emerge from individuals arranging themselves in space so as to balance the costs of movement with the benefits of social interactions. This balancing leads to settlements that concentrate human interactions and their products in space and time in an open-ended way. The parameters and processes embedded in settlement scaling models are very basic, and this suggests that scaling phenomena should be observable in the archaeological record of middle-range societies just as readily as they have been observed in contemporary first-world nations. In this paper, we show that quantitative scaling relationships observed for modern urban systems, and more recently for early civilizations, are also apparent in settlement data from the Central Mesa Verde and northern Middle Missouri regions of North America. These findings suggest that settlement scaling theory may help increase the practical relevance of archaeology for present-day concerns.

La relevancia contemporánea de la arqueología sería mucho mayor si los arqueólogos pudieran desarrollar una teoría que enmarcara las sociedades humanas de todas las escalas en los mismos términos. Presentamos evidencia de que un enfoque conocido como teoría de escalamiento de asentamientos puede contribuir a este marco. La teoría propone que una variedad de propiedades socioeconómicas agregadas de las redes humanas surgen de la organización de individuos en el espacio con el fin de equilibrar los costos del movimiento con los beneficios de las interacciones sociales. Esta búsqueda de un equilibrio lleva a desarrollar asentamientos que concentran las interacciones humanas y sus productos en el espacio y el tiempo de una manera abierta. Los parámetros y procesos incluidos en los modelos de escalamiento de asentamientos son muy básicos y esto sugiere que los fenómenos de escalamiento deben ser tan fácilmente observables en el registro arqueológico de las sociedades de rango medio como se han observado en las naciones contemporáneas del primer mundo. En este artículo se muestra que las relaciones cuantitativas de escalamiento que han sido observadas para los sistemas urbanos modernos y, más recientemente, para las civilizaciones tempranas, también son evidentes en los datos de asentamientos de las regiones de la Mesa Verde Central y el Missouri Medio, ambas en Norteamérica. Estos hallazgos sugieren que la teoría de escalamiento de asentamientos puede ayudar a aumentar la relevancia práctica de la arqueología para cuestiones actuales.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

(scott.ortman@colorado.edu, corresponding author)

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