Crow Canyon

New VEP Website Launched

Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National ParkA newly launched educational website will enable the public to learn about the Village Ecodynamics Project (VEP) from the scientists who designed and conducted the research.

The VEP is a multidisciplinary collaboration among researchers at several different institutions, including the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, to reconstruct the human past and explore its relevance to today’s world.

Beginning in 2001, archaeologists, geologists, hydrologists, geographers, computer scientists, and economists from institutions across the U.S. and Canada have worked together to develop sophisticated computer-simulation programs based on geographic information systems (GIS) technology. The programs allow them to create “virtual” Pueblo families living on computer-generated, geographically accurate landscapes, and then to observe how both people and environments respond to changes in specific variables such as precipitation, population size, and resource depletion.

By comparing the results of the computer simulations with real archaeological evidence, researchers are able to identify conditions and circumstances in the past that might have produced the archaeological patterns actually observed in the field.

Mark Varien, executive vice president of the Crow Canyon Research Institute and a co-principal investigator on the VEP, worked with researchers to build a database of all known archaeological sites in two study areas, in southwestern Colorado and northern New Mexico, and then analyze the data to reconstruct population history.

“The Village Ecodynamics Project has been recognized as one of the world’s most important archaeological research projects, and this educational website allows the public to learn about project directly from the scientists who conducted these studies.”

The new website includes introductions to the researchers and five video “chapters” that describe different components of the VEP.

In a series of short video clips, VEP scientists talk about a variety of topics:

  • The overarching goal of the VEP
  • The types of analyses conducted by the VEP, including how researchers created these studies and accomplished their research
  • A summary of the results of the VEP, with researchers answering questions about what was learned from the many studies conducted by this project
  • The connections between ancestral Pueblo people and their modern descendants
  • The relevance of VEP research to modern questions about population growth, climate change, conflict, and economic organization

The website also includes maps, photos, graphs, and other illustrations.

The Village Ecodynamics Project was funded by the National Science Foundation through grants awarded to Washington State University.


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