Evolving Complexity And Environmental Risk In The Prehistoric Southwest


By Joseph A. Tainter

Edited by Bonnie Bagley Tainter

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Cultural behavior exhibits many of the features of complex adaptive systems, but is in some ways distinctive. Cultural complexity is enigmatic, improbable, and difficult to maintain. It constrains behavior, limits understanding of processes, and imposes economic burdens. The advantages of complexity are modified by human cognition and limited by economic and environmental costs. This book explores in detail how and why prehistoric Southwestern societies changed in complexity, and thus offers important new perspectives on the evolution of culture.The papers discuss the factors that made prehistoric Southwesterners vulnerable to an arid environment, and their strategies to lessen risk and stress. The topics of the book link Southwestern data to fields such as economics, climatology, and evolutionary theory. In addition to a readership of archaeologists and anthropologists, this volume will be of interest to specialists in these related fields and to those concerned with complex adaptive systems and the work of the Santa Fe Institute.


On Sale
Jan 1, 1996
Page Count
284 pages
Avalon Publishing

Joseph A. Tainter

About the Author

Joseph A. Tainter is project leader of Cultural Heritage Research, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has taught anthropology at the University of New Mexico, and is the author or editor of many articles and monographs. His book The Collapse of Complex Societies develops a long-standing research interest in the evolution of socioeconomic complexity. His work has been recognized in several fields, and has led to invitations to lecture to organizations as diverse as the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities and the International Society for Ecological Economics.Bonnie Bagley Tainter is an archaeologist, poet, editor, and private consultant. Her academic interests range from vertebrate and invertebrate evolution to Southwestern archaeology, and include historic preservation planning for her home community of Corrales, New Mexico. She previously contributed to the editing of several papers for the book Effects of War on Society, and has done research on the architecture of Hovenweep National Monument and on prehistoric settlement changes in the Albuquerque area.

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