Histoire numérique et l’historiographie

Spatial adaptive settlement systems in archaeology. Modelling long-term settlement formation from spatial micro interactions

Despite research history spanning more than a century, settlement patterns still hold a promise to contribute to the theories of large-scale processes in human history. Mostly they have been presented as passive imprints of past human activities and spatial interactions they shape have not been studied as the driving force of historical processes. While archaeological knowledge has been used to construct geographical theories of evolution of settlement there still exist gaps in this knowledge. Currently no theoretical framework has been adopted to explore them as spatial systems emerging from micro-choices of small population units.
The goal of this thesis is to propose a conceptual model of adaptive settlement systems based on complex adaptive systems framework. The model frames settlement system formation processes as an adaptive system containing spatial features, information flows, decision making population units (agents) and forming cross scale feedback loops between location choices of individuals and space modified by their aggregated choices. The goal of the model is to find new ways of interpretation of archaeological locational data as well as closer theoretical integration of micro-level choices and meso-level settlement structures.
The thesis is divided into five chapters, the first chapter is dedicated to conceptualisation of the general model based on existing literature and shows that settlement systems are inherently complex adaptive systems and therefore require tools of complexity science for causal explanations. The following chapters explore both empirical and theoretical simulated settlement patterns based dedicated to studying selected information flows and feedbacks in the context of the whole system.
Second and third chapters explore the case study of the Stone Age settlement in Estonia comparing residential location choice principles of different periods. In chapter 2 the relation between environmental conditions and residential choice is explored statistically. The results confirm that the relation is significant but varies between different archaeological phenomena. In the third chapter hunter-fisher-gatherer and early agrarian Corded Ware settlement systems were compared spatially using inductive models. The results indicated a large difference in their perception of landscape regarding suitability for habitation. It led to conclusions that early agrarian land use significantly extended land use potential and provided a competitive spatial benefit. In addition to spatial differences, model performance was compared and the difference was discussed in the context of proposed adaptive settlement system model. Last two chapters present theoretical agent-based simulation experiments intended to study effects discussed in relation to environmental model performance and environmental determinism in general. In the fourth chapter the central place foragingmodel was embedded in the proposed model and resource depletion, as an environmental modification mechanism, was explored. The study excluded the possibility that mobility itself would lead to modelling effects discussed in the previous chapter.
The purpose of the last chapter is the disentanglement of the complex relations between social versus human-environment interactions. The study exposed non-linear spatial effects expected population density can have on the system and the general robustness of environmental inductive models in archaeology to randomness and social effect. The model indicates that social interactions between individuals lead to formation of a group agency which is determined by the environment even if individual cognitions consider the environment insignificant. It also indicates that spatial configuration of the environment has a certain influence towards population clustering therefore providing a potential pathway to population aggregation. Those empirical and theoretical results showed the new insights provided by the complex adaptive systems framework. Some of the results, including the explanation of empirical results, required the conceptual model to provide a framework of interpretation.

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