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Notes on Economic Uncertainty and Human Behavior in the Prehistoric North American Southwest
ByPaul E. Minnis
Pages 22

All human populations have faced problems of economic uncertainty, and all have developed a range of ingenious behaviors to reduce risk. In this chapter, the author focuses on provisioning problems as an important nexus of uncertainty and risk in the prehistoric North American Southwest. He breaks diversification down into three types: polyculture, multiple field locations/production technology, and low-preference foods. Perhaps one of the most common, least understood, and least appreciated coping strategies is the use of alternative foods, usually low-preference foods that would not otherwise be consumed. Paul Halstead and John O’Shea classified coping strategies into four more inclusive categories. These are: mobility, diversification, physical storage, and exchange that “exploit favourable aspects of temporal and spatial structure of variability to mitigate the risk of scarcity”. Warfare and raiding could be considered a form of either diversification or social interaction. This response type is often ignored by southwestern archaeologists.