Geostatistical analysis of historical contingency and land use footprints in the prehistoric settlement dynamics of the South Carolina Piedmont, North America

Publication date: July 2019

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 107

Author(s): Michael R. Coughlan, Donald R. Nelson


We present a high-resolution geostatistical analysis of prehistoric archaeological site locations and land use footprints for the South Carolina Piedmont of North America using archaeological survey data, multivariate logistic regression techniques, and fuzzy set theory. Our analysis uses archaeological site locations and generalizations about prehistoric economic systems to quantitatively model land use footprints and to test hypotheses derived from the archaeology of human-environment interactions. Specifically, we test the differential influence of landscape suitability and historical contingency as factors differentially influencing site location in immediate and delayed return economies. Our results highlight temporal variability in the influence of material factors (landforms and the residuum of previous occupations) on the selection of settlement and land use locations over the long term. We argue that our results indicate high potential for land use legacies beginning with the introduction of ceramic technologies. These landscape legacies were likely positive for human populations in that they improved the quality of ecosystems services and the reliability of provisioning.