Exploring Complexity in the Past: The Hohokam Water Management Simulation
AuthorMurphy, John Todd
AdvisorLansing, John S.
Committee ChairLansing, John S.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe Hohokam Water Management Simulation (HWM) is a computer simulation for exploring the operation of the Hohokam irrigation systems in southern Arizona. The simulation takes a middle road between two common kinds of archaeological simulation: large-scale, detailed landscape and environmental reconstructions and highly abstract hypothesis-testing simulations. Given the apparent absence in the Hohokam context of a central authority, the specific aim of the HWM is approaching the Hohokam as a complex system, using principles such as resilience, robustness, and self-organization. The Hohokam case is reviewed, and general questions concerning how the irrigation systems operated are shown to subsume multiple crosscutting and unresolved issues. Existing proposals about the relevant aspects of Hohokam society and of its larger long-term trajectory are based on widely varying short- and long-term processes that invoke different elements, draw different boundaries, and operate at different spatial and temporal scales, and many rely on information that is only incompletely available. A framework for pproaching problems of this kind is put forward. A definition of modeling is offered that specifies its epistemological foundations, permissible patterns of inference, and its role in our larger scientific process. Invoking Logical Positivism, a syntactic rather than semantic view of modeling is proposed: modeling is the construction of sets of assertions about the world and deductions that can be drawn from them. This permits a general model structure to be offered that admits hypothetical or provisional assertions and the flexible interchange of model components of varying scope and resolution. Novel goals for archaeological inquiry fall from this flexible approach; these move from specific reconstruction to a search for more universal and general dynamics. A software toolkit that embodies these principles is introduced: the Assertion-Based Computer Modeling toolkit (ABCM), which integrates simulation with the logical architecture of a relational database, and further provides an easy means for linking models of natural and social processes (including agent-based modeling). The application of this to the Hohokam context is described, and an extended example is presented that demonstrates the flexibility, utility and challenges of the approach. An attached file provides sample output.