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Archaeology Roundup

September 30, 2005

Mathematicians have come up with a computer model that predicts the decline of civilizations that don’t use their resources wisely.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
The math of societal collapse. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

For three centuries, tiny and remote Easter Island supported an advanced civilization of ten thousand people. But when Europeans discovered the island in the late 1700’s, there was just a small and primitive population. Now, mathematicians have created a computer model that shows exactly how the society over-exploited its resources and declined. The computer model could reveal how other ancient civilizations collapsed, and may help modern civilizations avoid a simlar fate.
In other archaeology news, Harvard researchers have completed a computer analysis of "khipu"—bundles of knotted string made by the ancient Inka. They’ve confirmed the khipu were a form of three-dimensional writing, allowing people to record data related to finance, censuses and the military.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.