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Cultural ecological theory is applied to a spatially and temporally bounded archaeological data set to document long-term paleoecological processes and associated sociopolitical behaviors. Volumetric excavations, treating the material culture of an archaeological matrix similar to an ecological core, can yield quantifiable frequencies of surplus goods that provide a multiproxy empirical lens into incremental changes in land use practices, natural resource consumption, and, in this case, likely overexploitation. Archaeological methods are employed to quantify cultural ecological processes of natural resource exploitation, industrial intensification, sustainability and scarcity, and settlement collapse during the colonial transition between Carthaginian and Roman North Africa. The data indicate that overexploitation of olive timber for metallurgical fuel taxed the ecological metabolism of the Zita resource base, likely contributing to a collapse of the entire local economic system.