Modeling Paleohydrological System Structure and Function

Kenneth E. Kolm and Schaun M. Smith

in Emergence and Collapse of Early Villages

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780520270145
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520951990 | DOI:
Modeling Paleohydrological System Structure and Function

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We present a new approach for quantitatively modeling drinking water suppliesin the central Mesa Verde region from AD 600 to 1300. We developed regional and site-specific conceptual models of the ground- and surface-water systems and quantitatively characterized the modern and paleohydrologic system using parameter-estimation techniques and mathematical modeling. The result is a quantitativeestimateof spring discharges associated with the groundwater system over definable periods of time. Important paleoprecipitation cycles at 6.25 and 12.5 years are identified, coinciding closely with 6- to 10-year cycles published for the southwestern United States. The complete depopulation of the central Mesa Verde region by the end of the thirteenth century does not appear to have been caused by a decline in drinking water supplies, due either toannual variability in precipitation or lower-frequencyvariability on the order of 6 to 12 years. We can calculate a rough upper bound of 5 km on how far the average household would have had to go for water by the population peak, though given the rearrangement of households to be close to water in the mid-AD 1200s, the actual average distance was probably much lower.

Keywords: paleohydrology; paleohydrological models; climate cycles; drinking water; Ancestral Pueblo people; groundwater; springs; depopulation; distance to drinking water; Village Ecodynamics Project

Chapter.  5137 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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