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Resilience of small-scale societies’ livelihoods: a framework for studying the transition from food gathering to food production

Carla Lancelotti, CaSEs - Complexity and Socio-Ecological Dynamics Research Group; Department of Humanities, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain
Debora Zurro, CaSEs - Complexity and Socio-Ecological Dynamics Research Group; Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, IMF-CSIC, Barcelona, Spain
Nicki J. Whitehouse, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Plymouth University, Plymouth, UK
Karen L. Kramer, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Marco Madella, CaSEs - Complexity and Socio-Ecological Dynamics Research Group; Department of Humanities, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain; Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, IMF-CSIC, Barcelona, Spain; ICREA, Barcelona, Spain
Juan José García-Granero, CaSEs - Complexity and Socio-Ecological Dynamics Research Group; Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, IMF-CSIC, Barcelona, Spain
Russell D. Greaves, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08757-210408

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Abstract

The origins of agriculture and the shift from hunting and gathering to committed agriculture is regarded as one of the major transitions in human history. Archeologists and anthropologists have invested significant efforts in explaining the origins of agriculture. A period of gathering intensification and experimentation and pursuing a mixed economic strategy seems the most plausible explanation for the transition to agriculture and provides an approach to study a process in which several nonlinear processes may have played a role. However, the mechanisms underlying the transition to full agriculture are not completely clear. This is partly due to the nature of the archeological record, which registers a practice only once it has become clearly established. Thus, points of transitions have limited visibility and the mechanisms involved in the process are difficult to untangle. The complexity of such transitions also implies that shifts can be distinctively different in particular environments and under varying historical and social conditions. In this paper we discuss some of the elements involved in the transition to food production within the framework of resilience theory. We propose a theoretical conceptual model in which the resilience of livelihood strategies lies at the intersection of three spheres: the environmental, economical, and social domains. Transitions occur when the rate of change, in one or more of these domains, is so elevated or its magnitude so large that the livelihood system is unable to bounce back to its original state. In this situation, the system moves to an alternative stable state, from one livelihood strategy to another.

Key words

ABM; resources; social-ecological dynamics; subsistence strategies; transition to agriculture

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087