Archaeology in the scanner

February 7, 2013

Screen shot 2013-02-03 at 14.06.17Southampton made the news last week with some of our scanning work. It turns out we have a massive room-sized scanner (misleadingly called a MICRO-CT scanner) at our imaging centre. It is capable of scanning stuff with a resolution of less than 0.1mm and given its size it can do this for quite big objects. Our Archaeological Computing Research Group could not wait to get their hands on this new toy, and collaborated with the British Museum to scan a large cauldron excavated at Chiseldon. The cauldron itself is actually not excavated since it is too fragile. Instead, the archaeologists lifted the big find encased in its soil matrix to preserve it until technologies come along that can tell us more about this fragile find. It seems that this time has now come! With this scanner the archaeologists were able to explore the cauldron by looking through the earth layers without excavating it.

Have a look at the video and read the article on the BBC website.


Portus and ACRG work on BBC 1

December 11, 2012

Visualisation of Harbour produced by BBC for Rome’s Lost Empire in collaboration with Portus Project

Visualisation of Harbour produced by BBC for Rome’s Lost Empire in collaboration with Portus Project

On Sunday a show called Rome’s Lost Empire featured loads of great work by Southampton archaeologists. Since 2007 a team led by Prof. Simon Keay and Dr. Graeme Earl has been excavating at Portus, the port of the city of ancient Rome. The BBC 1 show reveals some of their latest findings, as well as the 3D modelling work of our Archaeological Computing Research Group team.

You can watch the show on BBC iPlayer.

Read more about the computer models that were created for this show on the Portus blog. There you can also read a message by Prof. Simon Keay about the show.


CFP CAA 2013 Perth and our Complexity sessions

August 15, 2012

The CAA (computer applications and quantitative methods in archaeology) is one of those conferences I actually look forward to each year. It has a big community of genuinely great people, it’s always a good experience. Next year it will be held in Perth, Australia. The call for papers is just out, and it looks like there will be quite a few interesting sessions on quite diverse topics. Download the CFP and list of sessions here.

I am involved in one session and one workshop this year, both with Iza Romanowska, Carolin Vegvari and Eugene Ch’ng. Our papers session is entitled “S9. Complex systems simulation in archaeology” and our hands-on workshop “W1. Complex Systems and Agent-Based Modelling in Archaeology”. Feel free to submit an abstract to the session. We hope we will spark some interest in complexity and good discussion with both the session and workshop.

Here are the abstracts:

S9. Complex systems simulation in archaeology. Chairs: I. Romanowska, T. Brughmans. Discussants: E. Ch’ng, C. Vegvari Format: Paper presentation (LP)

A complex system is “a system in which large networks of components with no central control and simple rules of operation give rise to complex collective behaviour, sophisticated information processing, and adaptation via learning or evolution.” Mitchell 2009: 14. Complexity has been proclaimed as a new paradigm shift in science almost half a century ago. It developed as a response to the reductionist approach of René Descartes and the idea of a ‘clockwork universe’ that dominated past thinking for many centuries. Complexity brings a fresh alternative to this mechanistic approach. Complex Systems exist in every hierarchy of our world, from the molecular, to individual organisms, and from community to the global environment. This is why researchers in many disciplines, including archaeology, found particularly appealing the idea that global patterns can emerge in the absence of central control through interaction between local elements governed by simple rules (Kohler 2012). As a result, the unifying phrase ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ (Aristotle, Metaphysica 10f-1045a) became the common ground for scholars in many disciplines.
Due to the complex nature of interactions, the study of complex systems requires computational tools such as equation-based modelling, agent-based modelling (ABM) and complex network analysis. In recent years the number of archaeological applications of complex systems simulation has increased significantly, not in the least due to a wider availability of computing power and user-friendly software alternatives. The real strength of these tools lies in their ability to explore hypothetical processes that give rise to archaeologically attested structures. They require archaeological assumptions to be made explicit and very often force researchers to present them in quantifiable form. For example, vague concepts such as ‘social coherence’, ‘connectivity’ or even seemingly explicit ‘dispersal rates’, often have to be given numeric values if they are to be integrated into computational models. Computational tools also allow for testing alternative hypotheses by creating ‘virtual labs’ in which archaeologists can test and eliminate models which, although superficially logical, are not plausible.
The main contribution that complexity science perspectives have to offer archaeology is the wide set of modelling and analytical approaches which recognise the actions of individual agents who collectively and continually create new cultural properties. Indeed, it has been argued that a complexity science perspective incorporates the advantages of culture historical, processual and post-processual paradigms in archaeology (Bentley and Maschner 2003; Bintliff 2008). Quantifiable complex systems simulations and mathematical modelling can provide a way to bridge the gap between the reductionist approach and the constructionist study of the related whole (Bentley and Maschner 2003).
This session aims to reflect upon and build on the recent surge of complex systems simulation applications in archaeology. Innovative and critical applications in analytical modelling, ABM, network analysis and other methods performed in a complexity science approach are welcomed. We hope this session will spark creative and insightful discussion on the potential and limitations of complexity science, possible applications, tools as well as its theoretical implications.

W1. Complex Systems and Agent-Based Modelling in Archaeology. Chairs: E. Ch’ng, C. Vegvari. Discussants: I. Romanowska, T. Brughmans

Modelling in various forms has always been an integral part of archaeology. In the broadest sense, archaeology is the study of human activities in the past, and a model is a simplified representation of reality. As a map is a useful abstract of the physical world that allows us to see aspects of the world we chose to, so a computational model distils reality into a few key features, leaving out unnecessary details so as to let us see connections. Human societies in their environmental context can be considered as complex systems. Complex systems are systems with many interacting parts, they are found in every hierarchy of the universe, from the molecular level to large planetary systems within which life and humanity with its cultural developments occur. Formal modelling can help archaeologists to identify the relationships between elements within a complex socio-environmental system in that particular hierarchy. Simulating large populations and non-linear interactions are computationally expensive. In recent years, however, the introduction of new mathematical techniques, rapid advances in computation, and modelling tools has greatly enhanced the potential of complex systems analysis in archaeology. Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) is one of these new methods and has become highly popular with archaeologists. In Agent-Based Modelling, human individuals in ancient societies are modelled as individual agents. The interaction of agents with each other and with their environment can give rise to emergent properties and self-organisation at the macro level – the distribution of wealth within a society, the forming of cohesive groups, population movements in climate change, the development of culture, and the evolution of landscape use are among the examples. Thus, the application of Agent-Based Models to hypothesis testing in archaeology becomes part of the question. The ability to construct various models and run hundreds of simulation in order to see the general developmental trend can provide us with new knowledge impossible in traditional approaches. Another advantage of agent-based models over other mathematical methods is that they can easily model, or capture heterogeneity within these systems, such as the different characteristics (personalities, gender, age, size, etc), preferences (coastal, in-land, food, fashion), and dynamics (microstates of position and orientation).
We would like to invite archaeologists new to complex systems and Agent-Based Modelling for an introductory workshop on Complex Systems and Agent-Based Modelling in archaeology. The workshop introduces the concept of Complexity in archaeology, drawing relationships between Information, Computation and Complexity. The practicality of the workshop leads beginners in building simple agent- based models and provides a means to build more complex simulations after. Participants knowledgeable in Complexity wishing to gain insights on real-world applications of Complexity will benefit from this workshop. Participants will get the opportunity to experiment with simple models and draw conclusions from analysis of simulations of those models. Programming experience is not required as the workshop leads beginners from the ground up in modelling tools.


CAA2012 timetable out

January 3, 2012

We received an incredible number of abstracts for this year’s CAA conference. I think the Southampton crew did a great job in processing all these and making sure we have an exciting schedule. The full session timetable is now available on the CAA website. The amazing spatial networks session John Pouncett and I are chairing will be the afternoon of Wednesday 28 March. Here is the general outline of all days:

Monday 26th March – workshops 10am-3pm; plenary session 3pm-6pm; conference opening reception in Southampton Old Town

Tuesday 27th March – sessions 9:00am-6:30pm. National chapter meetings 6:30-7:30pm. Drinks receptions.

Wednesday 28th March – sessions 9:00am-6:15pm. CAA Committee meeting at lunchtime. CAA AGM 6:15-7:15pm. Followed by the Conference Dinner at Highfield Campus 7:15pm until 1:30am.

Thursday 29th March – sessions 9:00am-6:15pm.

Friday 30th March – conference trips.


Call for papers Spatial Networks CAA 2012

November 9, 2011

The CAA 2012 call for papers has just opened! I will be chairing a session with John Pouncett on spatial network approaches in archaeology. Have a look at the abstract below. Please send abstracts of up to 500 words before 30 November to the conference’s submission system.

This session aims to disprove the apparent divide between geographical and network-based methods by providing a discussion platform for archaeological research at the intersection of physical and relational space. This session will welcome contributions addressing the following or related topics: network analysis in GIS, past spatial networks, spatial network evolution, complex networks and spatial models, exploratory network analysis, network-based definitions of spatial structure, agent-based modelling and networks, and space syntax.

ABSTRACT

Geography and-or-not topology: spatial network approaches in archaeology

Archaeologists’ attempts to explore geographical structure through spatial networks date back to at least the late 1960s. Pioneering studies introduced some of the core principles of graph theory which underpin network analysis, principles which are fundamental but yet seldom acknowledged in many recent applications. The introduction of GIS-based network techniques has allowed for easier analysis of the characteristics of spatial structure, particularly with regard to large or complex network datasets, but at the same time has severely limited the diversity and scope of archaeological applications of network analysis. Commercially available GIS-based network software is often limited to a few applications with clear modern-day relevance like the calculation of least-cost pathways and the analysis of hydrological networks. Archaeologists have been forced to adapt these popular tools and have been successful in doing so, but have left a wealth of alternative applications largely unexplored.

It has been argued that the interpretative potential of GIS-based network techniques can be realised by incorporating new views of networks developed in physics and by drawing upon complexity. By doing so it is possible to both move beyond the confines of traditional definitions of space structure and explore the realm of network growth and evolution. A number of archaeologists have taken their work on spatial networks along this route, exploring the dynamics between physical and relational space. Complex network models and methods are ever more frequently used for exploring the complexity of past spatial networks. Dynamic network models, for example, have been developed to explore the hypothetical processes underlying the interactions between past regional communities. Agent-based techniques have been coupled with complex network models or applied to archaeologically attested spatial networks.

These developments do not seem to have influenced GIS technologies, at least not in the discipline of archaeology. In fact, the archaeological use of GIS seems to suggest that formal methods for exploring past topological and geographical spaces are mutually exclusive.

This session aims to disprove the apparent divide between geographical and network-based methods by providing a discussion platform for archaeological research at the intersection of physical and relational space. This session will welcome contributions addressing the following or related topics: network analysis in GIS, past spatial networks, spatial network evolution, complex networks and spatial models, exploratory network analysis, network-based definitions of spatial structure, agent-based modelling and networks, and space syntax.


Call for papers: the connected past

September 13, 2011

Finally after months of planning Anna, Fiona and I can reveal to you the most amazing conference of 2012 :)

We would like to announce ‘The connected past: people, networks and complexity in archaeology and history’, a two-day symposium at the University of Southampton 24-25 March 2012 (the two days before CAA2012 in Southampton). Confirmed keynote speakers include Professor Carl Knappett and Professor Alex Bentley.

The call for papers is now open and we would like to invite you to send in abstracts of up to 250 words by November 20th 2011. Feel free to circulate the call for papers and the attached poster, which you can download here. More information on the event is available on the website.

Tom Brughmans, Anna Collar and Fiona Coward

CALL FOR PAPERS

The Connected Past: people, networks and complexity in archaeology and history

University of Southampton 24-25 March 2012

http://connectedpast.soton.ac.uk/

Organisers: Tom Brughmans, Anna Collar, Fiona Coward

Confirmed keynote speakers: Professor Carl Knappett and Professor Alex Bentley

Over the past decade ‘network’ has become a buzz-word in many disciplines across the humanities and sciences. Researchers in archaeology and history in particular are increasingly exploring network-based theory and methodologies drawn from complex network models as a means of understanding dynamic social relationships in the past, as well as technical relationships in their data. This conference aims to provide a platform for pioneering, multidisciplinary, collaborative work by researchers working to develop network approaches and their application to the past.

The conference will be held over two days immediately preceding the CAA conference (Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology), also hosted by the University of Southampton (http://caa2012.org), allowing participants to easily attend both.

The conference aims to:
· provide a forum for the presentation of multidisciplinary network-based research
· discuss the practicalities and implications of applying network perspectives and methodologies to archaeological and historical data in particular
· establish a group of researchers interested in the potential of network approaches for archaeology and history
· foster cross-disciplinary dialogue and collaborative work towards integrated analytical frameworks for understanding complex networks
· stimulate debate about the application of network theory and analysis within archaeology and history in particular, but also more widely, highlight the relevance of this work for the continued development of network theory in other disciplines

We welcome contributions addressing any of (but not restricted to) the following themes:
· The diffusion of innovations, people and objects in the past
· Social network analysis in archaeology and history
· The dynamics between physical and relational space
· Evolving and multiplex networks
· Quantitative network techniques and the use of computers to aid analysis
· Emergent properties in complex networks
· Agency, structuration and complexity in network approaches
· Agent-based modelling and complex networks
· Future directions for network approaches in archaeology and history

Please email proposed titles and abstracts (max. 250 words) to:
connectedpast@soton.ac.uk by November 20th 2011.
Visit the conference website for more information: http://connectedpast.soton.ac.uk/


Interview at the Global Lab

August 22, 2011

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Martin Zaltz Austwick of University College London’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) for his podcast ‘The Global Lab’. It was good fun talking to Martin. Initially we thought the only thing an archaeologist and an modern-day urban specialist had in common was that we can both talk about bricks (and we did). But our conversation soon turned into something that other people might actually be interested in, or so I hope.

You can check out the interview on the Global Lab homepage (episode 2) or via my bibliography page.

Do have a look at the CASA website as well. It produces fascinating research by world-leading researchers (like Mike Batty) that is very relevant to archaeologists. Especially those of us of the Complexity Science persuasion.


Interface workshop

July 29, 2011

Yesterday I chaired a workshop with Marco Büchler at the Interface conference in London. It was well attended and the discussion we got going was stimulating. You can download the presentation slides here or through the bibliography page. We also prepared handouts with a summary of the workshop and some software and bibliographic resources, download it here.

The workshop aimed to give an introduction to networks as a way of thinking. We covered some basic network ideas, visualisation and analysis. As an example we explored seven different English translations of the Holy Bible. Using networks we could see what sections were reused throughout the translations and what not. It turned out that throughout the centuries subtle and less subtle differences seeped into the translations, fascinating stuff!

Like everyone else at the conference I also gave a two minute lightning talk, really cool but challenging experience! Download the slides here or on the bibliography page.


Awesome art by Aaron Koblin

May 27, 2011

Just saw this TED talk by Aaron Koblin, a digital artist who’s work has inspired me for a while now. His art shows stunning examples of the fact that we have so much data available everywhere that relates in unsuspecting ways. If we bother to add things up, like he does for hand-drawn sheep, Johnny Cash still images, flight patterns, $100 bills and even voice samples, we see surprising things emerge that you would not expect by just looking at a single image or sample. His work on flight patterns is stunning and has been exhibited in the New York MOMA recently.

Check out his work online. And check out his talk below. Believe me, you’ll be surprised!


Workshop historical network research in Saarbrücken

May 15, 2011

From 26 to 28 May a workshop on historical networks will be held at the Universität des Saarlandes, organised by the people of the ‘Historical network research’ platform. The scope seems pretty wide, covering theoretical papers, geographical networks, software and social, cultural, political and trade networks in historical case-studies. Although there are no explicit archaeological applications, these papers should be extremely relevant to what we are doing as archaeological network analysts.

Read the full list of papers in this programme.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,160 other followers