Landscape of Fear: Indirect effects of conflict can account for large-scale population declines in non-state societies

Daniel Kondor. James S Bennett, Detlef Gronenborn, Peter Turchin
SocArXiv Preprint October 19, 2023 Journal Link


The impact of inter-group conflict on population dynamics has long been debated, especially for prehistoric and non-state societies. In this work, we consider that beyond direct battle casualties, conflicts can also create a “landscape of fear” in which many non-combatants near theaters of conflict abandon their homes and migrate away. This process causes population decline in the abandoned regions and increased stress on local resources in better protected areas that are targeted by refugees. By applying analytical and computational modeling, we demonstrate that these indirect effects of conflict are sufficient to produce substantial, long-term population boom-and-bust patterns in non-state societies, such as the case of Mid-Holocene Europe. We also demonstrate that greater availability of defensible locations, by acting to protect and maintain the supply of combatants, increases the permanence of the landscape of fear and the likelihood of endemic warfare.
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