, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 255-336

The Fremont Complex: A Behavioral Perspective

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Abstract

The Fremont complex is composed of farmers and foragers who occupied the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin region of western North America from about 2100 to 500 years ago. These people included both immigrants and indigenes who shared some material culture and symbolic attributes, but also varied in ways not captured by definitions of the Fremont as a shared cultural tradition. The complex reflects a mosaic of behaviors including full-time farmers, full-time foragers, part-time farmer/foragers who seasonally switched modes of production, farmers who switched to full-time foraging, and foragers who switched to full-time farming. Farming defines the Fremont, but only in the sense that it altered the matrix in which both farmers and foragers lived, a matrix which provided a variety of behavioral options to people pursuing an array of adaptive strategies. The mix of symbiotic and competitive relationships among farmers and between farmers and foragers presents challenges to detection in the archaeological record. Greater clarity results from use of a behavioral model which recognizes differing contexts of selection favoring one adaptive strategy over another. The Fremont is a case where the transition from foraging to farming is followed by a millennium of adaptive diversity and terminates with the abandonment of farming. As such, it serves as a potential comparison to other cases in the world during the early phases of the food producing transition.