CAA 2018 is coming up

The CAA (Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods) Conference has been for the last few years the main venue to modelling archaeologists. Next year does not disappoint either. In fact, CAA Tubingen features what may be the largest selection on simulation, complexity and ABM yet. The CfP closes on midnight,  29th of October (Sunday). Follow this link to submit an abstract.

To spare you some time here’s a quick selection + summary; You will find full session abstracts further below.

S19 Agents, networks and models – the overarching session for all things complexity, simulation, networks etc. If in doubt submit here.

S10 Expanding horizons – roundtable on computational models of large scale human/hominin movement, such as migrations, colonisations, etc.

S17 Early human land use – if your agents lived in Pleistocene Europe and had big noses chances are you will fit in this session.

S9 Show your code – want to demo your ABM? Have an ingenious snippet of code that streamlines the data analysis? Share your genius with us! Note that submission to this session does not count towards your ‘one podium presentation’.

S22 Social Theory after the spacial turn – how could we account for cognitive, social, and agency-like factors in our spatial models? Discuss! Or write an ABM to show how.

S16 Play, Process and Procedure – a session on archaeo-gaming but also on artificial worlds so it would be a shame if it didn’t feature a couple of ABMs.

S34 R as an archaeological tool – some of us write our simulations in R. Others use it to analyse their outcomes or wrangle the inputs. Either way this will be an interesting session for any archaeological modeller.



S19 Agents, networks and models: formal approaches to systems, relationships and change in archaeology

Even if much ink has already been spilled on the need to use formal, computational methods to represents theories, compare alternative hypotheses and develop more complex narratives, the idea is still far from being firmly established in archaeology. Complexity Science provides a useful framework for formalising social and socio-natural models and it is often under this umbrella term that formal models are presented in archaeology. It has a particular appeal for researchers concerned with humans, thanks to its bottom-up focus, which stresses the importance of individual actions and interactions as well as relations between system elements. Equally, archaeology is a discipline where long-term, large-scale shifts in social change, human evolution, or interactions with the environment are at the heart of our interests. Complexity Science offers an arsenal of methods that were developed specifically to tackle these kind of research questions. This session will provide a forum for archaeological case studies developed using Complexity Science toolkits as well as for more methodological papers. We invite submissions of models at any stage of development from the first formalisation of the conceptual model to presenting final results. Possible topics include but are not limited to applications or discussions of the following approaches: – Agent-based and equation-based modelling, – Network science, – System dynamics, – Game theory, – Long-term change in social systems, – Evolutionary systems, – Social simulation in geographical space, – Complex urban systems, space syntax, gravity models.

Iza Romanowska, Tom Brughmans, Benjamin Davies 


S10 Expanding horizons: confronting issues of scale, resolution, and representation in the study of human expansions

Panelists of this roundtable session will discuss theoretical and methodological issues associated with the study of prehistoric human expansions and computational methods used to represent them. From the earliest hominin expansions in Africa and Eurasia, to the settlement of Australia and the New World, to explorations of the world’s oceans: the historical record of humanity is structured by the movements of people over the earth. Human expansions have been facilitated by changing environmental conditions, technological innovations, and shifts in the social relationships between different human groups, all of which have consequences for patterning observed in the archaeological record. Many major human movements occurred at spatial and temporal scales that differ from that of both archaeological investigations and many conceptions of human culture, leaving room for a good deal of uncertainty and presenting challenges to the construction of prehistoric narratives. Computational modelling approaches like GIS, network analyses, and agent-based models, offer opportunities to place these narratives in a framework where different potential historical processes can be assessed and uncertainty can be quantified. How we represent our ideas about the past in computational form involves trade-offs between realism and generality, as well as negotiations between different areas of expertise. This roundtable will include panelists from a range of research specialisations in order to expose common issues in the field of modeling human expansions and generate ideas about how best to bring together these areas of expertise.

Benjamin Davies, Nicholas Conard

S17 Early human land use strategies during Middle and Late Pleistocene glacial and interglacial times in Europe

The transition from the Middle to the Late Pleistocene is characterised by the transition from a distinct glacial cold phase (MIS 6) to a distinct interglacial warm phase (MIS 5e; Eemian sensu stricto). While changes in climate, environment, vegetation and fauna are obvious, this session aims at identifying possible differences or continuities in Neanderthal hominin performances, resource space and range between MIS 6 and MIS 5e. Several research questions have been addressed by researchers of the project ‘The Role of Culture in Early Expansions of Humans (ROCEEH) and will be discussed during the session. What did climate, environment and vegetation look like during a distinct cold phase and a distinct warm phase? Did corridors and barriers change? Are resource space and dietary breadth greater during a warm phase? Did changes between glacial and interglacial times have any impact on Neanderthal lifestyles and behaviours? Is there a relationship between changing climatic and environmental conditions and the distribution of Neanderthal sites? Can we observe different site preferences in Middle and Late Pleistocene Neanderthals? Did human land use strategies change? Are tool diversity and mobility different between MIS 6 and MIS 5e? Does an interglacial – or rather a glacial with stronger challenges – trigger an expansion of cultural capacities and/or performances? Do glacial or interglacial phases lead to specific cultural adaptations? Several computer-assisted methods from different scientific fields that have been (or might be) applied to answer such questions shall be discussed. They include, among others, measurements of tool diversity, tool-flake-core ratios and artifact density; agent based modelling; modelling of climate and vegetation; GIS-based analyses and modelling of geographic parameters. Colleagues from all scientific fields are invited to contribute to the session.

Michael Bolus, Angela Bruch

S9 Show your code: task streamlining, reproducibility and replicability in archaeological computing

Once a fringe component of archaeology, digital data and methods are rapidly becoming commonplace, changing how we learn about and discuss the past (Bevan 2015). This presents many technical challenges, but also an opportunity to reshape archaeological science by automating many of the most tedious tasks while encouraging reproducibility and replicability of computer applications. This session will be part seminar and part live-coding demonstration to which we invite anyone with a working piece of code that automates or streamlines any task that may be undertaken by an archaeological practitioner. We ask participants to show their code, explaining what the code does and how it works to make it easier for others to use it (Eglen et al. 2017). In doing so the session will showcase the principles and benefits of open science (sensu Nosek et al. 2015). We invite demonstrations from all points in the production of knowledge, from building and using archaeological databases, to statistical analyses and modelling (simulation, GIS, etc), to dissemination and public engagement. We also welcome more traditional papers that can bear on the following issues: -Improving usability and discoverability of code; -Communicating coding results with non-experts; -Managing concerns regarding intellectual property and data ownership; -Maintaining code and data in the long term; -Using code examples for teaching archaeology. Whether you are producing grand-scale syntheses of big data or those bits of programming that make life just a little easier, we want to see your code! All programming languages welcome. References: Bevan, Andrew. 2015. “The Data Deluge.” Antiquity 89 (348): 1473–84. doi:doi:10.15184/aqy.2015.102. Eglen, Stephen J., Ben Marwick, Yaroslav O. Halchenko, Michael Hanke, Shoaib Sufi, Padraig Gleeson, R. Angus Silver, et al. 2017. “Toward Standard Practices for Sharing Computer Code and Programs in Neuroscience.” Nature Neuroscience 20 (6): 770–73. doi:10.1038/nn.4550. Nosek, B. A., G. Alter, G. C. Banks, D. Borsboom, S. D. Bowman, S. J. Breckler, S. Buck, et al. 2015. “Promoting an Open Research Culture.” Science 348 (6242): 1422–25. doi:10.1126/science.aab2374.

Benjamin Davies, Iza Romanowska

S22 Social theory after the spatial turn

The past has always offered new and interesting insights that could be simulated, modelled and evaluated with computational approaches. In recent years the applications of advanced geospatial statistics, as well as modelling have become a central methodological framework to analyse past human behaviour and societies in general. However, often archaeological applications falls short on the capacities of these methods or massively overestimate their potential. On the one hand it is clearly related to the pursuit of model and test assumptions. On the other hand causal expectations are strongly simplified and in general more basic statistics are used. Predominantly, this leads to rather simple, purely environmentally constraint versions of reality, neglecting the presence of more than a topographical landscape with certain resources. Other factors, such as a “landscape of ancestors”, differing perception of space, or unknown human factors are mostly ignored in the models. The social sciences have constantly stressed the complexity of human decision making and have successfully implemented complex statistical procedures, such as sophisticated self-learning algorithms in order to achieve a better representation of reality. However, societies modelled in archaeology are often devoid of this cognitive human factor, which cannot be represented in the predominantly deterministic, almost Darwinian models. Furthermore – if at all – theoretical frameworks which were long since updated in social sciences are used to retrospectively interpret the model’s outcome. In this session we wish to address and discuss this problem in current archaeological human behavioural research with an interdisciplinary approach of archaeology and sociology. We welcome theoretical as well as practical contributions on the inclusion of social theory in geospatial analyses and predictive modelling, new ideas for a theoretical framework, and how archaeology can deal with the fuzziness of human decision making, which is never purely environmentally driven.

Chiara G. M. Girotto, Lennart Linde

S16 Play, Process, and Procedure: An Experiential Digital Archaeology

Videogames and virtual worlds have increasingly become areas in which archaeological research is situated. These emerging venues straddle the divide between analogue past and digital present, asking the archaeologist to consider where that divide exists in their own archaeology, or whether it exists at all. Through this session, researchers are asked to look towards these new settings for how process, procedure, and play are being incorporated into digital archaeology, and what challenges to traditional archaeological practice can be overcome by embracing spaces of play as research arenas. Designed as an experiential exercise, each participant is asked to condense their presentation into 15 minutes, and one digital slide. Immediately following the presentation of papers, a working session to incorporate the themes of the session into prototype archaeological experiences of play will see participants creating together, and making the results of their collaboration available for further comment and discussion during the conference.

Meghan Dennis, Lennart Linde, Megan von Ackermann, Tara Copplestone


S34 R as an archaeological tool: current state and directions

In recent years, R has silently become the workhorse for many quantitative archaeologists. It’s open source, platform-independent and can be linked very well with other programming languages. As an interpreted language with simple and flexible syntax it is easy to learn but hard to master. Due to its huge community, spanning from hobbyist to commercial data scientists and researchers from scientific fields like statistics, ecology or linguistics, the catalogue for freely available packages is enormous and continuously growing. The foundation of the R-Consortium, a group of corporations highly invested in R, including Microsoft, IBM and Google, pushed the language and its abilities further ahead. Nevertheless, there are still many colleagues who have not yet realised the potential of the language and how easy it is today to conduct high quality research with the available tools. This is reflected by the fact that the workflow of many students of archaeology is at best still limited to Excel or SPSS. The solutions for archaeological problems in R are already manifold — although maybe developed for a different purpose. For example spatial analysis, multivariate statistics and scientific visualisation are well reflected within popular R packages, which makes it a very useful tool for archaeological research, teaching and publication. R also provides an advanced environment to produce truly reproducible research, which will be of growing importance in the future of scientific dialogue. Within this session we would like to explore the state of the art and the potential application of R in archaeology. We invite presentations for this session that explore questions like (but not limited to): * What are the specific benefits of this statistical framework in the eyes of its users? * What are the possibilities? What are the limits? * What future directions might the usage of R in archaeology have? * Which archaeological package has been developed, and which package still has to be developed to improve the usability of the software for archaeologists? * What has to be considered to optimise the workflow with R? We especially would like to attract colleagues who might present archaeological R packages that are ready or in the making and demonstrate their relevance for archaeological analysis. Also we would like to encourage potential presenters to demonstrate their research approaches via live coding, for which we would support them in ensuring that their presentations will work offline and on foreign hardware. If desired, we would like to publish the session and the code in an open online book embedded with runnable code. We hope to foster a productive and inclusive exchange between both young and experienced users from all backgrounds.

Clemens Schmid, Ben Marwick, Benjamin Serbe, Camille Butruille, Carolin Tietze, Christoph Rinne, Daniel Knitter, Dirk Seidensticker, Franziska Faupel, Joana Seguin, Manuel Broich, Martin Hinz, Moritz Mennenga, Nicole Grunert, Nils Müller-Scheeßel, Oliver Nakoinz, Wolfgang Hamer, Karin Kumar, Kay Schmütz 




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