Human Ecology and Social Theory in Utah Archaeology


Utah archaeology, human ecology, great basin, Fremont


Utah includes portions of both the Southwest and Great Basin culture areas. Although many Utah archaeologists work in both areas, most have a tendency to focus on one or the other. Southwestern and Great Basin archaeology have developed different research traditions, with large differences in what are considered mainstream theoretical approaches in each region. Southwestern archaeologists usually focus on small-scale horticulturalists, while Great Basin archaeologists more often emphasize hunter-gatherer archaeology. Despite the evidence that horticulture was important to Fremont peoples, archaeologists studying the Fremont have often relied on theoretical concepts and assumptions that emphasize human ecology and are rooted in Great Basin hunter-gatherer studies. Human ecology has been important in studying Southwestern horticulturalists, but Southwestern archaeologists have employed more socially oriented theoretical approaches that have been highly successful in documenting a history of social and adaptive change. In contrast, the predominantly ecological bent of Fremont studies has led to a focus on variability in subsistence and settlement strategies with relatively little attention to temporal change, and descriptions of subsistence and settlement variability have sometimes been exaggerated beyond what the archaeological record supports. Fremont studies would benefit from consideration of a broader range of theoretical approaches and a combination of ecological and social perspectives.

Original Publication Citation

James R. Allison 2008 Human Ecology and Social Theory in Utah Archaeology. Utah Archaeology 20(1):57-87.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Utah Archaeology




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor