Tag Archives: network analysis

Keep the MODELLING revolution going! CAA2015, Siena

The CAA (Computing Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology) conference has always been the number one destination for archaeological modellers of all sorts. The motto of the next meeting (to be held in lovely Siena, Italy! 30/03-5/04 2014) is ‘Keep the revolution going‘ and given the outstanding presence of simulation, complexity and modelling last year in Paris, I thought it will be a tall order.
Fear no more! The revolution keeps on going with a number of hands-on workshops and sessions on modelling scheduled for Siena. From modelling dispersals to network application complexity science is well represented. What is, perhaps, worth particular attention is the roundtable: Simulating the Past: Complex Systems Simulation in Archaeology which aims to sketch out the current place within the discipline and the future direction of simulation in archaeology. It’s also a call for a formation of a CAA Special Interest Group in Complex Systems Simulation (more about it soon). Follow the links to the abstracts for more details.

The call for papers is now open (deadline: 20 November). Follow this link to submit: http://caaconference.org/program/ .


5L Modelling large-scale human dispersals: data, pattern and process

Michael Maerker, Christine Hertler, Iza Romanowska

5A Modelling approaches to analyse the socio-economic context in archaeology

Monica De Cet, Philip Verhagen

5H Geographical and temporal network science in archaeology

Tom Brughmans, Daniel Weidele


RT5 Simulating the Past: Complex Systems Simulation in Archaeology

Iza Romanowska, Joan Anton Barceló


WS8 First steps in agent-based modelling with Netlogo

Iza Romanowska, Tom Brughmans, Benjamin Davies

WS5 Introduction to exploratory network analysis for archaeologists using Visone

Daniel Weidele, Tom Brughmans


Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Siena5.jpg

The Connected Past @Imperial

For all of you who missed the Connected Past at Imperial College London, you can get the gist of this fantastic event from this storify: https://storify.com/RuthFT/the-connected-past-2014

Also, check out the slides: http://archaeologicalnetworks.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/slides-connected-past-london-available/

Also, since we’re on the topic of networks and network analysis; if you would like to try it out for yourself but you’re unsure how, a new Coursera module on Social Network Analysis, led by Leda Adamic (University of Michigan), starts on 6th October: https://www.coursera.org/course/sna. All coursera modules are open and this one doesn’t require any prior knowledge.


Top image: “Internet map 1024” by The Opte Project http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Internet_map_1024.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Internet_map_1024.jpg

Review: Simulating Social and Economic Specialization in Small-Scale Agricultural Societies

Photo of adze head, Mesa Verde National Park. Author’s hands in picture for scale.

Humans are really good at doing multiple different things. If you look at Homo sapiens we have a vast amount of different types of jobs—we hunt, we gather, we farm, we raise animals, we make objects, we learn. Some individuals might be good at one job, and some individuals might be better at another. This is okay, though, because by specializing in what each individual does well we can have a well-rounded society.

But where do we get a switch from generalist to specialist behavior? In small-scale societies, where is the switch from every household making ceramics, to one household making ceramics for the whole village? Specialization only works when there is enough exchange among the individual nodes of the group, so that each specialist can provide their products to the others.

Cockburn et al. in a recent paper for the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation (JASSS) explore the effects of specialization via agent-based modeling. While the degree to which agents specialize is in some instances unrealistic (Ancestral Puebloans were not able to store 10-years of grain—it would have rotted; also nobody probably specialized in gathering water), Cockburn et al. are aware of this, and state that by using “unrealistic assumptions, we hope to, as Epstein (2008: 3-4) says, “illuminate core dynamics” of the systems of barter and exchange and capture “behaviors of overarching interest” within the American Southwest.”

So, what are these behaviors of overarching interest? Well, for one, specialization and barter lead to increasing returns to scale, allowing for denser and larger groups as well as higher populations than when individuals do not specialize. Also, the networks that formed in this analysis were highly compartmentalized, suggesting that certain individuals were key to the flow of goods, and thus the survival of many people. Cockburn et al. suggest that the heterogeneity of the networks may have helped individuals be more robust to critical transitions, as Scheffer et al. (2012) suggest that modular and heterogeneous systems are more resilient.

This paper should be of interest to our readers, as it combines both agent-based modeling and network analysis, trying to shed light on how Ancestral Puebloans lived. One key drawback to this article is its lack of comparison (in goodness-of-fit measures) to the archaeological record, leaving the reader wondering how well the systems described would fit with archaeological output. Kohler and Varien, in their book on some of the early Village Ecodynamics Project work, develop various goodness-of-fit measures to test the model against archaeology. Perhaps Cockburn et al. intend to use their work with some of these goodness-of-fit measures in the future.

However, despite this drawback, the article does help illustrate highly debated questions of specialization vs. generalization in the archaeological record. Could people have specialized? Yes. Does specialization confer a benefit to individuals? Yes. Taking this article in tandem with debates on specialization may help us to come to a consensus on how specialized people were in the past.

Please read the open access article here:



–Stefani Crabtree

Connected Past in Paris

For all you network analysis fanatics out there, a quick reminder that the Connected Past Conference is happening for the second time this April. Since the  beginnings as a TAG (Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference) session in 2011 in Birmingham the Connected Past team has been bringing together researchers working on network analysis and successfully promoting this core complexity science technique among archaeologists.

Looking at the conference programme there is a good mix of applications typical to archaeology such as modelling ancient trade  (Eivind Heldaas SelandFrancisco Apellaniz) or interpreting the distribution of archaeological finds (Henrik Gerding and Per ÖstbornHabiba, Jan C. Athenstädt and Ulrik Brandes), but also quite a lot of historical case studies ranging from ancient writers (Thibault Clérice and Anthony Glaise) to early modern financial networks (Ana Sofia Ribeiro) to modern academic networks (Marion Beetschen).

Thanks to a leak from one of the organisers  we know that there are literally only a few places left so book asap to avoid disappointment: http://connectedpast.soton.ac.uk/conference-2014/.

Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology conference

CAA is currently the largest annual conference focusing on computing in archaeology. It usually hosts a session about computational modelling and/or simulations but this year seems to be particularly prolific for complexity science. Here’s a quick tour of what we particularly look forward to:


(W12) Workshop: One hour, one model: Agent-based Modelling on-the-fly”

Organised by myself, Ben Davies, Tom Brughmans and Enrico Crema this workshop will aim at brining together researchers working with complexity science tools. We will divide into small groups and work in parallel on the most common building blocks of archaeological simulations (diffusion of an idea, innovation, environmental change etc) to see how different our approaches are and if different models could produce  different outcomes. We also hope to build a small library of code snippets.

(W11) Workshop: Introduction to network analysis for archaeologists

Run by Tom Brughmans, Ursula Brosseder and Bryan Miller it’s a half day hands-on workshop (so you can come to W12 as well) introducing the basic techniques of network analysis. No previous experience required.


(S25) Session:  Agents, Networks, Equations and Complexity: the potential and challenges of complex systems simulation

A full day session organised by the same team as the ‘One hour, one model’ workshop (Ben Davies, Iza Romanowska, Tom Brughmans, Enrico Crema). Last time I checked we had 18 papers in our session with presenters from all six continents and an enormous breath of applications, case studies and techniques. From Early Palaeolithic dispersals (that’s me! but also another paper by Dario Guiducci, Ariane Burke, James Steele which I’m really looking forward to) to Tierra del Fuego societies to  sea faring in Oceania to modelling 17th century Polish epidemics – you get 12 hours (!!!) of Agent-based Modelling, Network Analysis, Neural Networks and even a few theoretical papers. You can find the abstracts here:  S25. Agents, Networks, Equations and Complexity.

(S23) Session: Modelling approaches to investigate population dynamics and settlement patterns over the long term

Another giant session, thankfully not overlapping with S25. Focused on population  dynamics, settlement patterns and land use this session takes a leap forward from the traditional static, GIS approaches and looks for more dynamic modelling techniques such as simulation.

(S24) Session: Modelling approaches to study early humans in space and time

I had a pleasure to participate in this session at the CAA2013 in Perth and it was a fantastic combination of papers showcasing various techniques (databases, least-cost path analysis, ABM) used to approach the topic of mobility in prehistory.

(S20) Session: (Re)building past networks: archaeological science, GIS and network analysis 

Network analysis seems to be getting a strong hold in archaeological computing. This session shows a few of the most common applications (inter-visibility, transport/trade, connectivity of islands) as well as some new ideas.

Satellite Event: The Connected Past

On Saturday, the Connected Past team will hold a satellite conference on Network Analysis in archaeology. You can find their call for papers and all the details here: The Connected Past.