Should I stay or should I go? The emergence of partitioned land use among human foragers

Jacob Freeman, John M. Anderies, Raymond P. Mauldin, Robert J. Hard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Taking inspiration from the archaeology of the Texas Coastal Plain (TCP), we develop an ecological theory of population distribution among mobile hunter-gatherers. This theory proposes that, due to the heterogeneity of resources in space and time, foragers create networks of habitats that they access through residential cycling and shared knowledge. The degree of cycling that individuals exhibit in creating networks of habitats, encoded through social relationships, depends on the relative scarcity of resources and fluctuations in those resources. Using a dynamic model of hunter-gatherer population distribution, we illustrate that increases in population density, coupled with shocks to a biophysical or social system, creates a selective environment that favors habitat partitioning and investments in social mechanisms that control the residential cycling of foragers on a landscape. Our work adds a layer of realism to Ideal Distribution Models by adding a time allocation decision process in a variable environment and illustrates a general variance reduction, safe-operating space tradeoff among mobile human foragers that drives social change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0218440
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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