Computer models find ancient solutions to modern climate problems
Their work, which links ancient climate and archaeological data, could help modern communities identify new crops and other adaptive strategies when threatened by drought, extreme weather and other environmental challenges.
In a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jade d’Alpoim Guedes, assistant professor of anthropology, and WSU colleagues Stefani Crabtree, Kyle Bocinsky and Tim Kohler examine how recent advances in computational modeling are reshaping the field of archaeology.
"Computational modeling gives us an unprecedented ability to identify what worked for these people and what didn’t."
He launched the Village Ecodynamics Project in 2001 to simulate how virtual Pueblo Indian families, living on computer-generated and geographically accurate landscapes, likely would have responded to changes in specific variables like precipitation, population size and resource depletion.
By comparing the results of agent-based models against real archeological evidence, anthropologists can identify past conditions and circumstances that led different civilizations around the world into periods of growth and decline.
‘Video game’ plays out to logical conclusion Agent-based modeling is also used to explore the impact humans can have on their environment during periods of climate change.
"It enables us to not only predict the effectiveness of growing different crops and other adaptations but also how human societies can evolve and impact their environment."
Bocinsky and d’Alpoim Guedes are using the modeling technique to identify little-used or in some cases completely forgotten crops that could be useful in areas where warmer weather, drought and disease impact food supply.
"Cultivating Hopi corn and other traditional, drought-resistant crops could become crucial for human survival in other places impacted by climate change."
"These millets are on the verge of becoming forgotten crops," d’Alpoim Guedes said.