Ortman, S. G.,Coffey, G. D.

The contemporary relevance of archaeology would be greatly enhanced if archaeologists could develop theory that frames human societies of all scales in the same terms. We present evidence that an approach known as settlement scaling theory can contribute to such a framework. The theory proposes that a variety of aggregate socioeconomic properties of human networks emerge from individuals arranging themselves in space so as to balance the costs of movement with the benefits of social interactions. This balancing leads to settlements that concentrate human interactions and their products in space and time in an open-ended way. The parameters and processes embedded in settlement scaling models are very basic, and this suggests that scaling phenomena should be observable in the archaeological record of middle-range societies just as readily as they have been observed in contemporary first-world nations. In this paper, we show that quantitative scaling relationships observed for modern urban systems, and more recently for early civilizations, are also apparent in settlement data from the Central Mesa Verde and northern Middle Missouri regions of North America. These findings suggest that settlement scaling theory may help increase the practical relevance of archaeology for present-day concerns.