The Southwest


The empirical component of our research involves five prehispanic sequences in the southwestern US and northern Mexico; these range from 500 to 750 years and represent climate, environmental, and cultural changes of varying magnitudes.


Project description

Map of LTVTP Case Study Areas

The Southwest Case in IHOPE is a product of research by the Long-term Vulnerability and Transformation Project (LTVTP), based at Arizona State University and involves researchers from many institutions.  The LTVTP uses the deep time of the archaeological record to develop general understandings of factors that contribute to resilience and vulnerability, to stability and transformation, and to the characteristics of various types of change, including transformations, that are costly and/or painful to the people and environments involved. It draws on the resilience perspective, as well as on recent literature on robustness-vulnerability tradeoffs. A recently funded initiative of the LTVTP project builds upon this research by examining how social and ecological diversity interact to influence the resilience of societies facing major changes in their social or environmental circumstances. The goal is to discover configurations of diversity in ecological landscapes and in forms of social organization that make systems more or less able to cope with significant environmental or social changes without undergoing an unpleasant transformation.

Empirically, the LTVTP focuses on five archaeologically known cases that together span the period from AD 450 to 1600 in the southwestern US and northern Mexico. The cases are investigated individually and comparatively, and theories about general processes affecting vulnerability and transformation are investigated by working iteratively between archaeological analysis, mathematical modeling, and institutional analysis. Thus the project involves collaboration among experts in archaeology, mathematical modeling, ecology, and institutional analysis.

Descriptions of the LTVTP cases, comparative data about the cases, the research team and key publications are all available at

Salinas area in central New Mexico. The Spainish mission of Quarai was built in the 1600s on the site of a pueblo initially constructed in the 1300s.


Project related publications in reverse chronological order:

Spielmann, Katherine A., Margaret C. Nelson, Scott E. Ingram, and Matthew A. Peeples. (2011) Mitigating Environmental Risk in the U.S. Southwest. In Sustainable Lifeways: Cultural Persistence in an Everchanging Environment. Edited by Naomi F. Miller, Katherine M. Moore, and Kathleen Ryan. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia.

Schoon, M., C. Fabricius, J. M. Anderies, and M. Nelson. (2011) Synthesis: vulnerability, traps, and transformations—long-term perspectives from archaeology. Ecology and Society 16(2): 24. [download pdf]

Spielmann, Katherine A., Margaret Nelson, Scott Ingram, and Matthew A. Peeples. (2011) Sustainable Small-Scale Agriculture in Semi-Arid Environments. Ecology and Society 16(1):26. [download pdf]

Anderies, John M. and Michelle Hegmon. (2011) Robustness and Resilience across Scales: Migration and Resource Degradation in the Prehistoric U.S. Southwest. Ecology and Society 16(2):22. [download pdf]

Nelson, M. C., M. Hegmon, S. Kulow, M. A. Peeples, K. W. Kintigh, and A. P. Kinzig (2011) Resisting Diversity: A Long-Term Archaeological Study. Ecology and Society 16(1):25. [download pdf]

Janssen, Marco (2010) Population Aggregation in Ancient Arid Environments. Ecology and Society 15(2): 19. [download pdf]

Nelson, Margaret C., Keith Kintigh, David R. Abbott, and John M. Anderies. (2010) The Cross-scale Interplay between Social and Biophysical Context and the Vulnerability of Irrigation-dependent Societies: Archaeology’s Longterm Perspective. Ecology and Society 15(2): 33. [download pdf]

Nelson, M. C., M. Hegmon, S. Kulow, M. A. Peeples, K. W. Kintigh, and A. P. Kinzig (2011) Resisting Diversity: A Long-Term Archaeoloical Study. Anderies, John M., Ben A. Nelson and Ann P. Kinzig. (2008) Analyzing the Impact of Agave Cultivation on Famine Risk in Arid Pre-Hispanic Northern Mexico. Human Ecology 36:409–422. [download pdf]

Hegmon, M., M.A. Peeples, A.P. Kinzig, S.A. Kulow, C.M. Meegan, M.C. Nelson. (2008) Social Transformation and Its Human Costs in the Prehispanic U.S. Southwest. American Anthropologist 110:313-324. [download pdf]

Anderies, J.M. (2006) Robustness, institutions, and large-scale change in socio-ecological systems: The Hohokam of the Phoenix Basin. Journal of Institutional Economics 2(2):133-155.

Nelson, M. C., M. Hegmon, S. Kulow, and K. G. Schollmeyer. (2006) Archaeological and ecological perspectives on reorganization: A case study from the Mimbres region of the US Southwest. American Antiquity 71:403-432. [download pdf]

Peeples, Matthew A., C. Michael Barton and Steven Schmich. (2006) Resilience Lost: Intersecting Landuse and Landscape Dynamics in the Prehistoric Southwestern U.S. Ecology and Society 11(2):22-40. [download pdf]




Margaret Nelson
David Abbott
J. Marty Anderies
Michelle Hegmon
Jon Norberg
Kieth Kintigh
Ann Kinzig
Ben Nelson
Katherine Spielmann

Graduate Students

Jacob Freeman
Scott Ingram
Stephanie Kulow
Catheryn Meegan
Matthew Peeples
Will Russell
Colleen Strawhacker