Archaeological and ecological perspectives on reorganization: A case study from the mimbres region of the U.S. southwest

Margaret Nelson, Michelle Hegmon, Stephanie Kulow, Karen Gust Schollmeyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Collapse and abandonment dominate the popular literature on prehistoric societies, yet we know that reorganization is a more common process by which social and ecological relationships change. We explore the process of reorganization using the emerging perspective of resilience theory. Ecologists and social scientists working within a resilience perspective have argued that reorganization is an important component of long-term adaptive cycles, but it remains understudied in both social science and ecology. One of the central assumptions to emerge from the resilience perspective is that declines in the diversity of social and ecological units contribute to transformations in social and ecological systems. We evaluate this assumption using archaeological data, which offer an opportunity to investigate a time span rarely examined in studies of resilience and reorganization. We focus on the 11th to 13th century in the eastern Mimbres area of southwestern New Mexico, a period within which a substantial reorganization occurred. Much is known about the regional-scale changes that resulted in the depopulation of nearly every large village in the Mimbres region, what some have referred to as the "Mimbres collapse." Our analyses examine both continuity and change in aspects of house- and village-level reorganization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-432
Number of pages30
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Museology


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