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Human Ecology

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 385–412 | Cite as

Ritual and self-regulation of the Tsembaga Maring ecosystem in the New Guinea highlands

  • Theodore C. Foin
  • William G. Davis
Article

Abstract

Rappaport's (1968) study of self-regulation in the Tsembaga Maring ecosystem is an important substantive contribution to human ecology. Rappaport hypothesized that the Maring pig festival cycle is the dominant mechanism by which the quality of the Tsembaga ecosystem is maintained. In this paper, we demonstrate that the pig festival cannot serve this function. Simulation models of the Tsembaga ecosystem show that a stable, self-regulating equilibrium of the kind proposed by Rappaport is highly dependent upon a carefully chosen set of parameters which do not represent the most accurate choice from the available data. In the simulation model of Rappaport's hypothesis constructed by Shantzis and Behrens, equilibrium depends upon fixed population growth rates that lead to regularly scheduled pig festivals, whose timing insures that a fixed rate of removal of Tsembaga individuals in warfare prevents net population growth. More realistic models uniformly suggest that the pig festival plays no essential role in ecosystem regulation. We conclude that the evidence provided does not support the hypothesis.

Key words

computer simulation population regulation ritual self-regulation Tsembaga Maring 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theodore C. Foin
    • 1
  • William G. Davis
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of Environmental StudiesUniversity of CaliforniaDavis
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavis

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