My research explores the impacts of human/environment interaction and examines how the actions and interactions of individuals can have large overarching consequences for the environment and society. By building network and agent-based models, examining multiple scenarios, and comparing modeled results to empirical archaeological and/or anthropological data, I reconsider narratives of the past, further refining our understanding of the archaeological record through systematic model development and theory building.
I use agent-based modeling (ABM) to examine how the interactions among people and between people and their environments led to the development of complex society. In a recent paper published in American Antiquity I show that the competition for arable land can lead to the development of hierarchical societies. By comparing archaeological data on site size and ceremonial structure size distributions against data from hundreds of simulations I determine that hierarchy developed in the Ancestral Pueblo Southwest when climatic conditions were favorable, yet dissolved as climatic conditions became more difficult.
In other work, I examine the deep roots of the development of viticulture in Southern France, suggesting that the complex exchange relationships among Gauls, Etruscans, and Greeks helped sew the seeds for the modern wine industry today.
In Mongolia I have used agent-based modeling to examine risk mitigation strategies, specifically for coping with unpredictable winter storms.