Large-scale effects of migration and conflict in pre-agricultural groups: Insights from a dynamic model
The debate on the causes of conflict in human societies has deep roots. In particular, the extent of conflict in hunter-gatherer groups remains unclear. Some authors suggest that large-scale violence only arose with the spreading of agriculture and the building of complex societies. To shed light on this issue, we developed a model based on operatorial techniques simulating population-resource dynamics within a two-dimensional lattice, with humans and natural resources interacting in each cell of the lattice. The model outcomes under different conditions were compared with recently available demographic data for prehistoric South America. Only under conditions that include migration among cells and conflict was the model able to consistently reproduce the empirical data at a continental scale. We argue that the interplay between resource competition, migration, and conflict drove the population dynamics of South America after the colonization phase and before the introduction of agriculture. The relation between population and resources indeed emerged as a key factor leading to migration and conflict once the carrying capacity of the environment has been reached.