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Are historic events inevitable based on the conditions in which they arise, or are they a unique result of particular actions? SFI Omidyar Fellow Scott Ortman, an anthropologist applying a transdisciplinary, quantitative approach to his studies of the interactions between natural and human histories, explores this thought in a brief "Big Questions" video profile.

Watch Scott Ortman discuss the inevitability of historic events (SFI video, 4 minutes)

Ortman's research focuses on modeling of coupled natural and human systems over long periods, especially in the U.S. Southwest. He also is interested in the integration of historical linguistics, human biology, archaeology, and oral tradition to better-understand the histories of non-literate societies; applications of concepts and methods from cognitive linguistics in historical linguistics and archaeology; and the role of political processes in the evolution of human diversity.

He is author of the award-winning "Winds from the North: Tewa Origins and Historical Anthropology" (University of Utah Press, February 2012), in which he proposes a compelling explanation of shifting populations in the Southwestern U.S. through and investigation of the genetic, linguistic, and cultural heritage of the Tewa Pueblo people of New Mexico.

More about Ortman's work

Watch Scott Ortman ask 'Are historic events inevitable?' (SFI video, 4 minutes) 

Why and how the Santa Fe Institute asks big questions (SFI video, 5 minutes)

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