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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Endogenous Population and Resource Cycles in Historical Hunter-Gatherer Economies

  • Author(s): Szulga, Radek Szymon
  • et al.

This paper constructs a formal spatial model of a hunter-gatherer economy. By assuming that resource locations around a hunter gatherer camp can become congested I obtain the size of the area harvested as a function of population, resource density, gathering efficiency and time costs of commuting to locations. The model is then extended to include Malthusian and resource dynamics. The resulting dynamic properties are quite rich, with the possibility of stable steady states, as well as stable and unstable cycles. One result is that technological progress can actually cause such economies to collapse due to overharvesting of resources. Next, the model is extended to include the possibility of both group and individual migration. The former removes the possibility of collapse and exploding oscillations but introduces a new source of fluctuations in resources and population. Individual migration on the other hand, as long as there is no limit on new camp sites which can be settled by daughter colonies, will completely preclude the existence of oscillations.

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