Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 343–363 | Cite as

Social Cooperation and Resource Management DynamicsAmong Late Hunter-Fisher-Gatherer Societies in Tierra del Fuego (South America)

  • Ivan Briz i Godino
  • José Ignacio Santos
  • José Manuel Galán
  • Jorge Caro
  • Myrian Álvarez
  • Débora Zurro


This paper presents the theoretical basis and first results of an agent-based model (ABM) computer simulation that is being developed to explore cooperation in hunter–gatherer societies. Specifically, we focus here on Yamana, a hunter-fisher-gatherer society that inhabited the islands of the southernmost part of Tierra del Fuego (Argentina–Chile). Ethnographical and archaeological evidence suggests the existence of sporadic aggregation events, triggered by a public call through smoke signals of an extraordinary confluence of resources under unforeseeable circumstances in time and space (a beached whale or an exceptional accumulation of fish after a low tide, for example). During these aggregation events, the different social units involved used to develop and improve production, distribution and consumption processes in a collective way. This paper attempts to analyse the social dynamics that explain cooperative behaviour and resource-sharing during aggregation events using an agent-based model of indirect reciprocity. In brief, agents make their decisions based on the success of the public strategies of other agents. Fitness depends on the resource captured and the social capital exchanged in aggregation events, modified by the agent’s reputation. Our computational results identify the relative importance of resources with respect to social benefits and the ease in detecting—and hence punishing—a defector as key factors to promote and sustain cooperative behaviour among population.


ABM Cooperation Computer simulation Yamana Ethnoarchaeology 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Luis R. Izquierdo and Dr. F. J. Miguel Quesada for their helpful advice and comments on this paper. The authors acknowledge support from the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (projects CONSOLIDER-INGENIO 2010 SimulPast-CSD2010-00034 and HAR2009-06996) as well as from the Argentine Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (project PIP-0706) and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (project GR7846). The authors especially appreciate the help and cooperation of Dr. Natalie P. Goodall and the Bridges-Goodall family, who gave us the opportunity to access the diaries of Rv. T. Bridges. Sara Casamiquela and Javier Ruiz helped with the ethnographical sources. The fruitful discussions held during the SimulPast project enriched these pages. Finally, the authors wish to thank their anonymous reviewers for their valuable and constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan Briz i Godino
    • 1
    • 2
  • José Ignacio Santos
    • 3
  • José Manuel Galán
    • 3
  • Jorge Caro
    • 4
  • Myrian Álvarez
    • 5
  • Débora Zurro
    • 4
  1. 1.ICREA-IMF-CSIC, CASESBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of YorkYorkUK
  3. 3.INSISOCUniversidad de BurgosBurgosSpain
  4. 4.Dept. d’Arqueologia i Antropologia, CASESBarcelonaSpain
  5. 5.CONICET-CADICUshuaiaArgentina

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