As obligate tool users, humans habitually reconfigure resource distributions on landscapes. Such resource restructuring would have played a nontrivial role in shaping hunter-gatherer mobility decisions and emergent land-use patterns. This paper presents a model of hunter-gatherer mobility in which the habitual deposition of material resources at places on landscapes biases the future mobility decisions of energy-optimizing foragers. Thus foragers effectively construct the environments to which they adapt. With the aid of an agent-based model, this simple niche-construction model is used to deduce four predictions for emergent structure in hunter-gatherer settlement patterns. The predictions are tested against archaeological data from a hunter-gatherer settlement system in the Lake Titicaca Basin, Peru, 7,000–5,000 cal BP. Good agreement is found between the predicted and empirical patterns, demonstrating the model’s efficacy and suggesting a behavioral explanation for structural properties of hunter-gatherer settlement systems. The niche-construction behavior and its self-organized properties may have been key components in the emergence of socioeconomic complexity in human societies.
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