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WHY DO WE FARM? A STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF THE FORAGING-FARMING TRANSITION IN THE INTERIOR EASTERN WOODLANDS OF NORTH AMERICA

thesis
posted on 2024-04-11, 14:59 authored by Melissa G TorquatoMelissa G Torquato

Early agriculture represents a critical change in human subsistence strategy in the Interior Eastern Woodlands of North America. Given that this change in diet is associated with an overall decline in nutrition and health, scholars have often wondered why such a transition would have occurred in the region. Since the foraging-farming transition is known to be a global phenomenon, numerous hypotheses have been proposed to explain this foraging-farming transition. These hypotheses include environmental hypotheses, sociocultural hypotheses, demographic hypotheses, risk-based hypotheses, co-evolutionary hypotheses, and aggrandizement hypotheses. Previous research in North America has focused on demographic hypotheses, risk-based hypotheses, and sociocultural hypotheses. One area that has not received attention in North America is the effect of climate change on the emergence of agriculture under the environmental hypotheses.

Although scholars previously thought the climate did not change during the foraging-farming transition, more recent research has suggested otherwise. Thus, the goal of this dissertation is to explore how climate change influenced the foraging-farming transition in the Interior Eastern Woodlands of North America. I combine paleoenvironmental reconstructions, cultural resource management (CRM) data, and multivariate statistical methods to examine the effect of climate change on the foraging-farming transition. Using advanced statistical methods, I found that increases in mean annual temperature and mean annual precipitation are associated with the plant-dominated diets of the foraging-farming transition. Furthermore, these later occurring plant-dominated diets are associated with an increased prevalence of cultivars like sunflowers, maygrass, goosefoot, marshelder, and squash. Additionally, a comparison of the northern Interior Eastern Woodlands and the southern Interior Eastern Woodlands revealed different impacts of climate change on diet.

This study provides a methodological advancement in the field of anthropology. Specifically, the application of advanced statistical methods to explore the effect of climate change on the foraging-transition is novel. Additionally, the compilation and use of a large dataset in analyses demonstrates the usefulness of CRM data when exploring regional trends.

History

Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy

Department

  • Anthropology

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

H Kory Cooper

Additional Committee Member 2

Stacy LIndshield

Additional Committee Member 3

Melissa Remis

Additional Committee Member 4

Jesse Wolfhagen

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