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Department of Archaeology

Monday, 12 June, 2023 - 16:00 to 17:30
Event speaker: 
María Coto-Sarmiento, School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark

The dispersal of modern humans during the Pleistocene is a crucial aspect of our evolutionary history, and Central Asia with its extreme environments offers a unique context to investigate the role of human behaviour in dispersals under adverse conditions. However, sparse archaeological data in Central Asia makes reconstructing dispersal routes and chronology challenging. In such cases, computational models offer a powerful tool for simulating behavioural scenarios in the past.

In this study, we introduce an evolutionary Agent-Based Model that explores the effects of behavioural adaptations on human dispersals in Central Asia (Kazakhstan) during the Pleistocene, with a focus on the role of cooperation under climate constraints. Our model incorporates survey data from archaeological sites in the Altai and Tian Shan regions in Kazakhstan, collected during fieldwork from 2013-2022.

Using an evolutionary framework proposed by Henrich and Boyd, the model analyses cooperation strategies based on the maintenance cost of cooperation, the application of punishment to non-cooperators, and cultural transmission through conformist behaviour.

These mechanisms are tested within four theoretical climate scenarios based on average temperatures during glacial and interglacial periods.The selection of these climate temperatures corresponds to the reason for testing and comparing examples of temperatures more representative (extreme and non-extreme) during the Glacial and Interglacial periods.

The aim of this study is to analyse the impact of extreme climate scenarios and how each scenario affects human cooperation depending on the different regions and climates.

To achieve this, the model creates a simulated environment where groups of humans search for resources while facing challenging climate conditions and competing for survival.

Preliminary results suggest that a) population size influences the pressure to adopt cooperative or non-cooperative strategy, b) climate change has an impact to adopt cooperation, and c) that the degree of cooperation affects survival during extreme climatic conditions.

Our results shed light on the role of cooperation in hominin dispersals in Central Asia and contribute to a wider understanding of human evolution. The methods and results of this study are relevant to a broader audience interested in human evolution and can be applied to other topics in the study of the human past

Event location: 
McDonald Institute Seminar Room, Department of Archaeology, Downing Site.
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