Modeling Historical Ecology, Thinking about Contemporary Systems



One way to make archaeological trajectories compelling to contemporary audiences is through detailed computer simulation with graphical interfaces that allow students or researchers to explore historical sequences and ask “what if” questions of them. We discuss progress on modeling coupled human systems and ecosystems over long periods in the Mesa Verde region of the U.S. Southwest, a project developed with both research and educational products in mind. The project has many foci, but here we concentrate on fuel-wood availability and its pre-Hispanic use in the pygmy forests of this region. Our preliminary results tend to indicate that wood for fuels became sufficiently limited in this sequence to become a factor of considerable importance in decisions about where to live, how to build, and even whether to remain in the region. The same logic of modeling can be used to study problems of contemporary forest use in other parts of the world.