A spatially explicit agent-based model of central place foraging theory and its explanatory power for hunter-gatherers settlement patterns formation processes

Kaarel Sikk, Geoffrey Caruso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The behavioural ecological approach to anthropology states that the density and distribution of resources determines optimal patterns of resource use and also sets its constraints to grouping, mobility and settlement choice. Central place foraging (CPF) models have been used for analyzing foraging behaviours of hunter-gatherers and drawing a causal link from the volume of available resources in the environment to the mobility decisions of hunter-gatherers. In this study, we propose a spatially explicit agent-based CPF model. We explore its potential for explaining the formation of settlement patterns and test its robustness to the configuration of space. Building on a model assuming homogeneous energy distributions, we had to add several new parameters and an adaptation mechanism for foragers to predict the length of their stay, together with a heterogeneous environment configuration. The validation of the model shows that the spatially explicit CPF is generally robust to spatial configuration of energy resources. The total volume of energy has a significant effect on constraining sedentism as predicted by aspatial model and thus can be used on different environmental conditions. Still the spatial autocorrelation of resource distribution has a linear effect on optimal mobility decisions and needs to be considered in predictive models. The effect on settlement location choice is not substantial and is more determined by other characteristics of settlement location. This limits the CPF models in analyzing settlement pattern formation processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-397
Number of pages21
JournalAdaptive Behavior
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Agent-based model
  • central place foraging
  • hunter-gatherers
  • mobility
  • settlement choice

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