Human Behavioral Ecology and the Use of Ancient Landscapes

Authored by: Douglas Bird , Brian Codding

Handbook of Landscape Archaeology

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781598742947
eBook ISBN: 9781315427737
Adobe ISBN: 9781315427720


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The most basic components of human life revolve around how we utilize landscapes. We create and move across space in order to find and use resources to interact with and avoid conspecifics and to evaluate and evade risks. Landscapes are thus the context for decisions that critically impinge on individuals’ survival and reproductive success; they form the ecology of human life—the social history, individual development, and local environmental circumstances that constrain our behavior. Moreover, behavior relative to these constraints is usually temporally and spatially patterned, and it often has material consequences whose traces archaeologists use as a matter of routine to reconstruct the human past. The issue at hand is how to account for the patterns thus reconstructed. Human behavioral ecologists with an archaeological eye attempt to do so by employing hypotheses about behavioral adaptation and its material effects under specific ecological conditions (e.g., O’Connell 1995).

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