About Ignite

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Survival in the American Southwest: How Computational Modeling helps understand Archaeology

Stefani Crabtree

Washington State University


Stefani began studying archaeology as an exchange student in Paris taking classes in Egyptology and the Archaeology of Islam. Returning to Scripps College in Claremont, CA she majored in Anthropology and French, writing her undergraduate thesis on a Gallo-Roman site she helped excavate in 2003. Upon graduation she was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship which enabled her to complete a multi-sited ethnography on how women of indigenous cultures use traditional medicine in pregnancy and childbirth researching in New Zealand, Samoa, India and Vietnam. Since returning to the country she has worked for a non-profit human rights organization and two cultural resource management firmsf. Stefani is interested in questions of how humans’ decisions have affected their overall evolutionary fitness, and how changes in the environment forced humanity to adapt differing strategies to ensure their overall survival. She believes that through understanding which adaptive choices of previous hominids were successful and which failed, we can help provide transformative options to the parallel and potentially equally drastic problems humans are facing today.

As resources dwindle, climate change is reshaping the earth, leaving us faced with problems with potentially dire consequences. Repeated calls have recently been made to apply agent-based modeling to contemporary affairs, both to understand crises as they unfold, and to anticipate them. In these efforts, archaeology assists by providing a long-term view of the relationship between environmental factors and violent conflict. My talk will investigates how people in the SW reacted to changing resources by resorting to both alliances and violent conflict. As my research analyzes how issues such as control of resources influence the formation of alliances, I am able to determine how these alliances break down when resources become scarce. My results may have widespread applicability as the human population continues to grow worldwide, stretching the resources of our fragile planet. Understanding what lead to the dissolution of civilizations in the Neolithic world may help policymakers anticipate future challenges. Through agent-based models of the archaeological data, I analyze how people reacted to fluctuating temperature, reduction of key resources such as woody fuels and water, crop failure, and inter and extra-tribal hostilities, which may have been induced from the changing environment. Additionally, I will explore the extent to which alliances form out of conflict, or as a means of providing positive per capita return in procurement of resources, and help us to understand not only the years of peace dominating the Mesa Verde region, but also the wave of violence that swept the area in its final years. We are poised at a cross-roads as a civilization, plagued by many of the same issues that our ancestors faced. An understanding of our past will help us make informed decisions about our future.



Next Event

Ignite Bend ​15
​2018 TBA
Doors open at 6:00pm
Tower Theater - Bend, OR
Admission is always FREE

Tickets will be available two weeks prior to the event.


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