Agrarian ecology and settlement patterns: An ethnoarchaeological case study.
AuthorStone, Glenn Davis.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractAlthough settlement patterns are a central topic of archaeological research, there is a paucity of general theory on the determinants of agrarian settlement. What passes for a theory of agrarian settlement in archaeology is a borrowed model which does not recognize the relationship between population density and agricultural intensity. This dissertation argues that the rules determining where farmers settle are inextricable from how they farm. Ethnohistoric and ethnoarchaeological data are used to investigate the relationship between agricultural change and the determinants of settlement location in the case of the Kofyar, a population of farmers colonizing a frontier area in the central Nigerian savanna. As they moved into an area with a low ratio of population to productive land, Kofyar agriculture was extensified in accord with the Boserup (1965) model. With potentially greater travel costs associated with domestic water than with farm plots, streams exerted a strong attraction to early settlements. With increasing land pressure, the attraction value of farmland eclipsed the attraction to water. Contrary to Boserup's theory that agricultural responses to land pressure cross-cut environments, analysis of settlement histories of over 1000 households shows that responses vary with soil type. Farmers on high-quality sandstone-derived soils tend to intensify cultivation, while farmers on inferior shale-derived and igneous-derived soils tend to abandon their farms when yields begin to decline. The location of Kofyar compounds with respect to each other is closely related to the labor demands of agricultural production. The restricted range of distances between residential compounds reflects the reliance on inter-household collaboration in agricultural production.