The environment of the mountain-steppe-taiga of northern Mongolia is often characterized as marginal because of the high altitude, highly variable precipitation levels, low winter temperatures, and periodic droughts coupled with severe winter storms (known as dzuds
). Despite these conditions, herders have inhabited this landscape for thousands of years, and hunter-gatherer-fishers before that. One way in which the risks associated with such a challenging and variable landscape are mitigated is through social networks and inter-family cooperation. We present an agent-based simulation, Ger Grouper, to examine how households have mitigated these risks through cooperation. The Ger Grouper simulation takes into account locational decisions of households, looks at fission/fusion dynamics of households and how those relate to environmental pressures, and assesses how degrees of relatedness can influence sharing of resources during harsh winters. This model, coupled with the traditional archaeological and ethnographic methods, helps shed light on the links between early Mongolian pastoralist adaptations and the environment. While preliminary results are promising, it is hoped that further development of this model will be able to characterize changing land-use patterns as social and political networks developed.
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