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Settlement scaling and increasing returns in an ancient society.

Ortman SG, Cabaniss AH, Sturm JO, Bettencourt LM - Sci Adv (2015)

Bottom Line: Recent theoretical work proposes that this phenomenon is the result of general network effects typical of human social networks embedded in space and, thus, is not necessarily limited to modern settlements.Estimated scaling parameter values and residual statistics support the hypothesis that increasing returns to scale characterized various forms of socioeconomic production available in the archaeological record and are found to be consistent with key expectations from settlement scaling theory.As a consequence, these results provide evidence that the essential processes that lead to increasing returns in contemporary cities may have characterized human settlements throughout history, and demonstrate that increasing returns do not require modern forms of political or economic organization.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309-0233, USA. ; Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA.

ABSTRACT
A key property of modern cities is increasing returns to scale-the finding that many socioeconomic outputs increase more rapidly than their population size. Recent theoretical work proposes that this phenomenon is the result of general network effects typical of human social networks embedded in space and, thus, is not necessarily limited to modern settlements. We examine the extent to which increasing returns are apparent in archaeological settlement data from the pre-Hispanic Basin of Mexico. We review previous work on the quantitative relationship between population size and average settled area in this society and then present a general analysis of their patterns of monument construction and house sizes. Estimated scaling parameter values and residual statistics support the hypothesis that increasing returns to scale characterized various forms of socioeconomic production available in the archaeological record and are found to be consistent with key expectations from settlement scaling theory. As a consequence, these results provide evidence that the essential processes that lead to increasing returns in contemporary cities may have characterized human settlements throughout history, and demonstrate that increasing returns do not require modern forms of political or economic organization.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

The BOM.(A) Location within Mexico. (B) Settlements dating to the Formative period (outline shows surveyed area; circle size is proportional to population; colors denote elevation; gray area shows the extent of Mexico City in 1964). Today, settlement covers the entire basin, and the lake has been drained. See the Supplementary Materials for imagery sources.
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Figure 1: The BOM.(A) Location within Mexico. (B) Settlements dating to the Formative period (outline shows surveyed area; circle size is proportional to population; colors denote elevation; gray area shows the extent of Mexico City in 1964). Today, settlement covers the entire basin, and the lake has been drained. See the Supplementary Materials for imagery sources.

Mentions: An important aspect of these ideas is that the theoretical derivation of scaling relations does not invoke specific characteristics of modern economies, industrialization, or global trade, but instead relies only on basic self-consistent characteristics of human social networks embedded in space. Consequently, these models are potentially applicable to ancient (and even non-urban) settlement systems and make a set of integrated and novel predictions for the structure and function of these systems that can be tested using archaeological evidence. We have previously introduced settlement scaling theory and examined the extent to which spatial economies of scale characterized the pre-Hispanic Basin of Mexico (BOM) (7). Here, we review this previous work and discuss the relationship of settlement scaling theory to existing models of spatial economics. Then, we investigate two ways in which increasing returns to scale are expressed by archaeological data from the pre-Hispanic BOM (Fig. 1) by analyzing the scaling properties and statistics of monument construction and house sizes versus settlement population. We find not only that increasing returns were present in the pre-Hispanic BOM but also that the measure of such returns (elasticity) has the same numerical value predicted by settlement scaling theory and observed in modern urban systems. On the basis of these combined results, we propose that scaling phenomena in all human societies emerge from the same essential processes, and that settlement scaling theory provides a unifying view of these patterns and a novel theoretical framework for the interpretation of archaeological data.


Settlement scaling and increasing returns in an ancient society.

Ortman SG, Cabaniss AH, Sturm JO, Bettencourt LM - Sci Adv (2015)

The BOM.(A) Location within Mexico. (B) Settlements dating to the Formative period (outline shows surveyed area; circle size is proportional to population; colors denote elevation; gray area shows the extent of Mexico City in 1964). Today, settlement covers the entire basin, and the lake has been drained. See the Supplementary Materials for imagery sources.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4644079&req=5

Figure 1: The BOM.(A) Location within Mexico. (B) Settlements dating to the Formative period (outline shows surveyed area; circle size is proportional to population; colors denote elevation; gray area shows the extent of Mexico City in 1964). Today, settlement covers the entire basin, and the lake has been drained. See the Supplementary Materials for imagery sources.
Mentions: An important aspect of these ideas is that the theoretical derivation of scaling relations does not invoke specific characteristics of modern economies, industrialization, or global trade, but instead relies only on basic self-consistent characteristics of human social networks embedded in space. Consequently, these models are potentially applicable to ancient (and even non-urban) settlement systems and make a set of integrated and novel predictions for the structure and function of these systems that can be tested using archaeological evidence. We have previously introduced settlement scaling theory and examined the extent to which spatial economies of scale characterized the pre-Hispanic Basin of Mexico (BOM) (7). Here, we review this previous work and discuss the relationship of settlement scaling theory to existing models of spatial economics. Then, we investigate two ways in which increasing returns to scale are expressed by archaeological data from the pre-Hispanic BOM (Fig. 1) by analyzing the scaling properties and statistics of monument construction and house sizes versus settlement population. We find not only that increasing returns were present in the pre-Hispanic BOM but also that the measure of such returns (elasticity) has the same numerical value predicted by settlement scaling theory and observed in modern urban systems. On the basis of these combined results, we propose that scaling phenomena in all human societies emerge from the same essential processes, and that settlement scaling theory provides a unifying view of these patterns and a novel theoretical framework for the interpretation of archaeological data.

Bottom Line: Recent theoretical work proposes that this phenomenon is the result of general network effects typical of human social networks embedded in space and, thus, is not necessarily limited to modern settlements.Estimated scaling parameter values and residual statistics support the hypothesis that increasing returns to scale characterized various forms of socioeconomic production available in the archaeological record and are found to be consistent with key expectations from settlement scaling theory.As a consequence, these results provide evidence that the essential processes that lead to increasing returns in contemporary cities may have characterized human settlements throughout history, and demonstrate that increasing returns do not require modern forms of political or economic organization.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309-0233, USA. ; Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA.

ABSTRACT
A key property of modern cities is increasing returns to scale-the finding that many socioeconomic outputs increase more rapidly than their population size. Recent theoretical work proposes that this phenomenon is the result of general network effects typical of human social networks embedded in space and, thus, is not necessarily limited to modern settlements. We examine the extent to which increasing returns are apparent in archaeological settlement data from the pre-Hispanic Basin of Mexico. We review previous work on the quantitative relationship between population size and average settled area in this society and then present a general analysis of their patterns of monument construction and house sizes. Estimated scaling parameter values and residual statistics support the hypothesis that increasing returns to scale characterized various forms of socioeconomic production available in the archaeological record and are found to be consistent with key expectations from settlement scaling theory. As a consequence, these results provide evidence that the essential processes that lead to increasing returns in contemporary cities may have characterized human settlements throughout history, and demonstrate that increasing returns do not require modern forms of political or economic organization.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus