Wednesday 7
Archaeological Studies of the Long-Term Resilience of Food Supplies to Climatic Shocks in Arid North America and the North Atlantic
Jacob Freeman
› 10:25 - 11:20 (55min)
› Barthez
The Robustness of Plant Assemblages to Climate Shocks and the Evolution of Agroecological Systems
Jacob Freeman  1@  , Brad Butterfield  2@  
1 : Arizona State University  (ASU)
2 : Northern Arizona University  (NAU)


Our paper contributes to understanding how the robustness of a particular food supply to climate shocks effects the long-term evolution of agricultural systems.Agriculture transforms the earth. From the composition of the atmosphere, to local patterns of erosion, to the eutophication of lakes; the list of agriculture's impacts on the bio-physical structure of the earth goes on and on. Thus, a scientific understanding of agriculture is pretty darn important, if we hope to eliminate hunger, keep the bio-physical systems of the earth within a safe operating space for humanity, protect and conserve biological diversity and come to a better understanding of the human condition. One of the primary scientific questions that remains difficult to answer is how did we get here? What processes led to the rise of agriculture as the dominant form of human-environment interaction and the agri-formation of the earth system? For much of our history as a species, humans have obtained the bulk of our diet from wild foods by foraging, even after critical staple crops like maize were domesticated. In this paper we study the potential robustness of food supplies drawn from assemblages of wild plant resources to drought and frost in arid North America. We evaluate the proposition that, over the long-term, specialization toward fully agricultural life-ways occurs more quickly in areas where the wild plant foods that forager-farmers target are more vulnerable to environmental shocks and, thus, are relatively unreliable compared with areas where wild plants are less vulnerable. The “vulnerability of a resource base" refers to the capacity of an assemblage of wild plant species to resist significant losses in productivity as a result of periodic disturbance. Our analysis compiles responsiveness estimates for modern edible plants found in southern Arizona and New Mexico and converts the response data into a vulnerability assessment for the wild plant assemblage in each region. We use archaeological data on long-term changes in the consumption of maize to assess the rate at which prehistoric peoples transitioned from a mixed forager-farmer life-way to the life-ways of “full-blown” farmers. Finally, our paper contributes to the session “Archaeological Studies of the Long-Term Resilience of Food Supplies to Climatic Shocks in Arid North America and the North Atlantic.”

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