Resisting diversity: A Long-Term archaeological study

Margaret Nelson, Michelle Hegmon, Stephanie R. Kulow, Matthew Peeples, Keith Kintigh, Ann Kinzig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The value of "diversity" in social and ecological systems is frequently asserted in academic and policy literature. Diversity is thought to enhance the resilience of social-ecological systems to varied and potentially uncertain future conditions. Yet there are trade-offs; diversity in ecological and social domains has costs as well as benefits. In this paper, we examine social diversity, specifically its costs and benefits in terms of decision making in middle range or tribal societies, using archaeological evidence spanning seven centuries from four regions of the U.S. Southwest. In these nonstate societies, social diversity may detract from the capacity for collective action. We ask whether as population density increases, making collective action increasingly difficult, social diversity declines. Further, we trace the cases of low diversity and high population density across our long-temporal sequences to see how they associate with the most dramatic transformations. This latter analysis is inspired by the claim in resilience literature that reduction of diversity may contribute to reduction in resilience to varied conditions. Using archaeological data, we examine social diversity and conformity through the material culture (pottery styles) of past societies. Our research contributes to an enhanced understanding of how population density may limit social diversity and suggests the role that this association may play in some contexts of dramatic social transformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011


  • Archaeology
  • Long-term
  • Resilience
  • Social diversity
  • Vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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