Settlement ecology in Bronze Age Messenia
© 2016 In this paper, we model patterns of expansion and contraction of settlement in Bronze Age Messenia (ca. 3100–1050 BCE) using the ideal free distribution (IFD). We rank potential settlement locations on the landscape using environmental and cultural variables, including watershed size, which is a proxy for fresh water availability, net primary productivity, and the distance to the location of the Palace of Nestor at Pylos, a central site of political importance throughout most of the Bronze Age. The settlement chronology for the region is derived from an existing database of survey data and conforms to the predictions of the IFD. The highest-ranked habitats were settled first and the population expanded to lower-ranked habitats as population density increased. The data also conforms to the IFD prediction that important political centers should follow the same pattern, expanding from higher- to lower-ranked habitats. This model helps to provide an understanding of the effects of the unique environmental and cultural landscape of the region on settlement prior to the rise of the major Mycenaean centers in mainland Greece. The application of the IFD to a sociopolitically complex case demonstrates its broad potential for understanding historical trajectories in settlement patterns throughout the world.
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