New grant to study the centuries-long functioning of the Roman economy through ceramics, road networks and computational modelling

Soooooo happy I got awarded a Sapere Aude research leader grant by the Independent Research Fund Denmark. This is like a Danish starting grant, allowing early career researchers to pursue their research interests for four years under great conditions (roughly 6.2 million DKK: 800.000EUR). This will allow me to do what I think the study of the Roman economy really needs: quantitative identification and description of centuries-long patterns in ceramics data, creation of a high-detail Roman transport network, and formal evaluation of theories that could explain these data patterns. I simply can’t wait to get my teeth into this work! Especially because it’s a collaboration with the amazing Pau de Soto for Roman roads, Vinnie Nørskov for museology and outreach, Andrew Wilson for Roman economy studies, and Adéla Sobotkova for archaeological data analysis. More news about this project will follow (and read our announcement on the UrbNet and DFF websites), but here’s a short description of the project:

MINERVA will explore how a massive integrated economy like the Roman Empire evolved over centuries, by combining archaeological ceramics and the Roman transport network in computational simulation experiments. The project will run for four years from 2021, and will apply UrbNet’s relational perspecitve to the study of the Roman economy.

At its peak the Roman Empire covered an area similar in size to the European Union, uniting almost 100 million inhabitants. But similarities do not end here: the different peoples, languages and religions within the Empire were united under a single political system with the Roman Emperor at its head, they used the same money, followed the same trade regulations, and were subject to the same legal system. Archaeologists uncover evidence that show the ups and downs of this bustling economy. Amphora containers, for example, were used for centuries to move vast quantities of necessities such as grain from Egypt or olive oil from Spain to the capital of Rome and everywhere else in the Empire. For centuries, the flow of goods and traders along the first European transport network went virtually uninterrupted, despite limited means of communication, and transport technology and infrastructure making sea and road voyages slow and dangerous.

The material remains they left behind offer us a unique glimpse at how huge integrated economies can change and evolve over centuries. But understanding how these complex economic processes emerge from everyday behaviour of individual Romans is not a mean feat. To make this possible, this project combines state-of-the-art computer simulations, archaeological ceramics evidence, and a detailed model of the Roman road network for the first time.

MINERVA addresses three challenges related to ceramics data, Roman roads and centuries-long simulations. First, what changes are visible over periods of centuries in the distribution and consumption of Roman plates, cups, bowls and containers? And what do they reveal about the long-term functioning of the Roman economy? MINERVA aims to quantitatively identify such patterns. Second, what was the structure of the Roman transport network through which such goods were distributed? We currently do not have a highly detained model of this network, and MINERVA aims to create this. And third, How does one simulate aspects of a large economy over a period of centuries? This has never been done before because for other large economies, like the integrated markets of the EU or the US, we simply do not have data for such long timespans. This will be an exciting challenge to explore that will benefit from collaboration with economic historians.

New grant establishes international network: complexity science for the study of the human past

Really delighted to let you know Dr. Stefani Crabtree and I just won an international networking grant from the Danish Agency for Science and Higher Education. First things first: time to celebrate!!!!!!!!!!!

Now that’s out of the way, here’s what the project is actually about. Over the coming two years we will host events at Aarhus University and the Santa Fe Institute to explore the application of complexity science in archaeology to study past complex systems. The scope is purposefully broad: we want to bring together archaeologists, physicists, computer scientists, sociologists, … anyone really who shares our passion for understanding past complex systems. Complexity science has been used for a while now in archaeology, but are there approaches that have great potential for studying past complex systems that have not yet been applied in archaeology? And what archaeological datasets can be studied in new ways thanks to complexity science approaches? What’s on our wishlist to unlock the potential of complexity science for archaeology?

Here’s a formal announcement from the UrbNet website:

Tom Brughmans has been awarded an International Network Programme grant by The Danish Agency for Science and Higher Education to establish new links between Aarhus University and the Santa Fe Institute. The project ‘Complexity science for the study of the human past’ is directed by Dr. Tom Brughmans and co-PI Dr. Stefani Crabtree (Santa Fe Institute, Utah State University). The project will run for 24 months in 2021 and 2022 and will host a number of workshops in Aarhus and Santa Fe, inviting national and international experts in archaeology and complexity science.

Improving our understanding of past complex systems is recognised as one of the grand challenges in archaeology. How and why do market systems and social inequalities emerge, persist and decline? How do small-scale human societies develop into large and politically complex entities? How do phenomena like cultural practices and viruses alike spread through these changing human social networks, get consolidated, and evolve? These are all complex phenomena that cannot be understood by scrutinizing their components in isolation, because these components behave entirely differently as a collective. These kinds of questions need to be addressed using the approaches and computational methods developed in complexity science. However, the use and critical evaluation of these approaches by archaeologists and historians are in their infancy.

This new international network aims to rise to this grand challenge, by exploring the issues and potential of the application of complexity science for the study of the human past. It will bring together Denmark- and US-based experts in archaeology, ecology, human health, history, physics, and computer science to set out key research lines, and to identify and develop missing methodological resources to enhance the use of simulation and network science methods in archaeology and history. It will establish strong ties between the global leader in complexity science (The Santa Fe Institute) and Aarhus University’s internationally-recognised strengths in archaeology and history, and most specifically in the relational perspective to past urban societies pioneered by Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet).

6 year Postdoc Classical Archaeology University of Vienna

Read more and apply here.

Deadline 10/12/2020

From the University of Vienna website:

An der Universität Wien (mit 20 Fakultäten und Zentren, 178 Studienrichtungen, ca. 9.900 Mitarbeiter*innen und rund 89.000 Studierenden) ist ab 01.03.2021 die Position eines/einer 

Universitätsassistent*in (“post doc”) 
am Institut für Klassische Archäologie 

bis 28.02.2027 zu besetzen. 

Kennzahl der Ausschreibung: 11501
Das Institut für Klassische Archäologie der Universität Wien ist eine der größten Einrichtungen dieses Fachs im deutschen Sprachraum und besitzt eine lange Tradition exzellenter Forschung. Wir verstehen die klassische Archäologie als das Studium der materiellen Hinterlassenschaften der antiken Mittelmeerkulturen und der benachbarten Kulturen. 

Die ausgeschriebene Stelle ist im Bereich der Griechischen Archäologie beheimatet und bietet einzigartige Möglichkeiten zur Durchführung interdisziplinärer Forschung und zur weiteren akademischen Qualifikation. Sie sollten während der Assistenz an Ihrem eigenen, unabhängigen Forschungsprojekt arbeiten mit dem Ziel der Habilitation. Sie werden auch zur akademischen Lehre beitragen und den Betrieb der Archäologischen Sammlung unterstützen. 

Ihre Bewerbung sollte auf Englisch oder Deutsch verfasst sein und folgende Dokumente enthalten: 

· Motivationsschreiben 

· Akademischer Lebenslauf (inkl. Publikationsliste, Verzeichnis Lehrveranstaltungen, Liste Vortragstätigkeiten) 

· Beschreibung der Forschungspläne oder des Habilitationsvorhabens (max. 2-3 Seiten) 

· Kontaktadressen möglicher Referenzgeber*innen (diese werden nur kontaktiert, wenn die Bewerbung in der engeren Auswahl ist). 

Dauer der Befristung: 6 Jahr/e 

Beschäftigungsausmaß: 40.0 Stunden/Woche. 
Einstufung gemäß Kollektivvertrag: §48 VwGr. B1 lit. b (postdoc) 
Darüber hinaus können anrechenbare Berufserfahrungen die Einstufung und damit das Entgelt bestimmen.
Ihre Aufgaben: 
Die Stelle erfordert die aktive Teilnahme an Forschung, Lehre und Administration. Dazu gehören: 
• Auf- und Ausbau eines eigenständigen Forschungsprofils; 
• Durchführung eines Habilitations- oder Buchprojektes (‚second book‘); 
• Beteiligung an Forschungsprojekten im Bereich der Griechischen Archäologie; 
• Arbeit in der archäologischen Sammlung des Instituts (z.B. Mitwirkung an der Organisation von Schulworkshops etc.; Mithilfe bei der Betreuung der Sammlung) 
• Projektbeantragung und Drittmittelakquise; 
• Selbständige Abhaltung von Lehrveranstaltungen im Ausmaß der kollektivvertraglichen Bestimmungen; 
• Aktive Teilnahme an Feldforschung und Betreuung von Studierenden im Feld 
• Mitwirkung in der Forschungs-, Lehr- und Institutsadministration. 

Ihr Profil: 
• Abgeschlossene Dissertation in Klassischer Archäologie; 
• Eine starke Forschungsbilanz, die sich aus Veröffentlichungen und Erfahrungen mit internationalen Präsentationen auf einem Niveau ergibt, das Ihrem Karrierelevel entspricht; 
• Erfahrungen in der Feldforschung; 
• Exzellente Deutsch- und Englischkenntnisse; 
• Teamfähigkeit 

• Lehrerfahrung 
• Kenntnis universitärer Abläufe und Strukturen 
• Auslandserfahrungen 
• Grundkenntnisse der altgriechischen Sprache (mit Nachweis) 


Hauptforschungsfach Spezielle Forschungsfächer Wichtigkeit 
Geschichte, Archäologie Klassische Archäologie Musskriterium 


Bildungseinrichtung Ausbildungsrichtung Spezielle Ausbildungsrichtung Wichtigkeit 
Universität Geisteswissenschaften Musskriterium 


Sprache Sprachniveau Wichtigkeit 
Deutsch Gute Kenntnisse Musskriterium 
Englisch Gute Kenntnisse Musskriterium 

Ihre Bewerbung: 
Wir freuen uns auf Ihre aussagekräftige Bewerbung mit Motivationsschreiben unter der Kennzahl 11501, welche Sie bis zum 10.12.2020 bevorzugt über unser Job Center (  an uns übermitteln. 

Für nähere Auskünfte über die ausgeschriebene Position wenden Sie sich bitte an Mac Sweeney, Naoise . 

Die Universität Wien betreibt eine antidiskriminatorische Anstellungspolitik und legt Wert auf Chancengleichheit und Diversität ( Insbesondere wird eine Erhöhung des Frauenanteils in Leitungspositionen und beim wissenschaftlichen Personal angestrebt. Frauen werden bei gleicher Qualifikation vorrangig aufgenommen.DLE Personalwesen und Frauenförderung der Universität Wien 
Kennzahl der Ausschreibung: 11501

My inaugural lecture on zoom

(First published on 9/11/2020 on the UrbNet blog)

Academia was different in February 2020: scholars travelled, people met face-to-face, conferences were held, plans were made. I had no reason to doubt this academic reality when I started my associate professorship at UrbNet on 1 February 2020. This was the first embedded tenured position at UrbNet and an inaugural lecture for the post was scheduled for 12 March. This was the day all in-person meetings at Aarhus University were cancelled and Denmark went into lockdown. Academic reality changed from one day to the next, and my inaugural lecture was postponed, what a shock! But surely we would just be in lockdown for a month or so, and then we could give talks again in April or May, right?

As it turned out, it would be slightly longer than that. In-person meetings remained impossible until the summer, and a spike in COVID cases in Aarhus resulted in a short second lockdown in August. But at the end of summer we had every reason to believe we could hold some events again if we followed all necessary restrictions. We rescheduled the event for 27 October in the large and beautiful auditorium of Moesgaard Museum, where social distancing would be easy. Unfortunately, it was not to be. A second wave of infections in Denmark really gathered speed in October, and all in-person events were again impossible from 26 October – a day before my inaugural lecture. Caught on the day of both waves and lockdowns in Denmark: what are the odds?

Luckily, we decided to go ahead with the lecture on Zoom instead. It was a bit disappointing I could not share this moment with all my colleagues in person, and it was rather odd to communicate big ideas and make strong statements to a computer screen full of tiled names. However, there was a really lovely advantage to this new format though: way more of my colleagues in Aarhus, Denmark and abroad could follow the lecture than would have otherwise been possible. In essence, I was able to share this moment with a much larger and diverse group of colleagues. A surprise gift I am really happy about. Thanks to all of you who attended the lecture!

So what were those big ideas and strong statements? None other than a definition of archaeological network research, an insistence to make it one of our tools of the trade, and a call to arms for making archaeological network research more ambitious and letting it contribute to our understanding of long-term change in interpersonal relationships.

Archaeological network research can make unique and powerful contributions to archaeology in cases where we formulate theories about how and why relationships mattered in the past. Did the import and export opportunities of three urban settlements change because of the roads that connected them? This is a relational theory! Did new roads get created as a direct desire to change these opportunities? This is also a relational theory!

As archaeologists, we formulate these kinds of relational theories all the time. But rarely do we apply the set of techniques designed to study them: network science. This should not only become common practice, but I would also argue that the potential of archaeological network research can only be achieved if we let our theories drive our network methods. Think through your relational theories, explore what network concepts and techniques are the best representations of these theories, and make archaeological arguments why this theory might be reflected in archaeological data or can be supported/refuted by it. Going through this research process will significantly diversify archaeological network research, and will lead to more interesting contributions to human knowledge.

But how can archaeological network research contribute to a better understanding of our species? That would be through what archaeological data allows us to do that no other network scientists can do: material data allows us to explore how interpersonal relationships between members of our species changed over extremely long time periods. We know social networks were not always the same as they are now. But in what ways were they different, and can this teach us something about our species and its future?

Archaeological network research is a really exciting and thriving subdiscipline, and I cannot think of a more appropriate place to explore its potential than UrbNet. I would like to thank UrbNet’s director Rubina Raja and deputy director Søren M. Sindbæk for encouraging big relational thinking in archaeology, and my colleagues in research and administration for the lovely collaborations. And for organising and listening to my inaugural lecture. If you listened in, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

CFP Historical Networks – Réseaux Historiques

Via the HNR mailing list:

Call for Papers Historical Networks – Réseaux Historiques – Historische Netzwerke 2021

The Historical Network Research community and the group Réseaux et Histoire (ResHist) are very pleased to announce the call for papers for the Historical Networks – Réseaux Historiques – Historische Netzwerke conference which will take place at the University of Luxembourg, from Wednesday 30 June until Friday 2 July, 2021. The conference will run over three days opening with a workshop day and two conference days. We hope that the participants will be able to meet in person. Depending on the course of the Covid19 pandemic, the conference will be either realised as a hybrid (on-site + remote attendance and presentation) or a full online event. The decision about the format will be announced on 15 March, 2021.

Note that if your proposal has already been accepted for HNR2020, it is still accepted for the 2021 conference. You may however, if you like, submit an updated version of your abstract which will not have to undergo review a second time.

Social network analysis theories and methods have emerged as a persuasive extension of purely metaphorical uses of network concepts in historical research. The HNR and the ResHist conference series explore the challenges and possibilities of network research in historical scholarship and serve as a platform for researchers from various disciplines to meet, present and discuss their latest research findings and to demonstrate tools and projects. 

The Historical Networks – Réseaux Historiques – Historische Netzwerke conference will be the first trilingual event in the field. The presenters will either speak English or offer extended abstract or slides in English, but those who wish to will be able to use French or German in presentations and discussions. The organizers and chairs will facilitate trilingual discussions.

The Historical Network Research community has its roots in the year 2009 when the first in a series of workshops on the application of network analysis in the historical disciplines took place. In 2019, the thirteenth workshop on „Networks Across Time and Space: Methodological Challenges and Theoretical Concerns of Network Research in the Humanities“ was hosted by the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz, Germany. For 2019, the originally planned conference had to be postponed due to Covid-19; instead, Marieke van Erp, Ruth Ahnert, and Petter Holme held their already confirmed keynotes in the form of a virtual keynote event. The presentations can still be viewed on the HNR youtube channel. The year 2017 saw the publication of the inaugural issue of the Open Access Journal of Historical Network Research ( JHNR is devoted to the study of networks (social or otherwise) from a specifically historical perspective and encourages the exchange between different areas of historical research (in the broadest sense), the (digital) humanities at large as well as the social, information and computer sciences. These events and activities are supplemented by the website Historical Network Research (, which provides a bibliography, a calendar of events and an email newsletter.

The French-speaking group ResHist ( has similarly organized five conferences. In Nice in 2013, historians studying all periods and topics, seasoned practitioners of network analysis as well as (mostly) beginners met for the first time. In Toulouse in 2014, invited speakers came from countries other than France; in Paris in 2015, they came from disciplines other than history. In each case, the general idea was to have them meet historians based in France who considered using or had only begun to use network analysis, be they doctoral students or more experienced researchers. Back in Nice, in 2016, the fourth conference focused on the question of sources – where to find information on past networks, and how to take into account the peculiarities of sources in network research. In Rennes, in 2018, presentations and discussions focused on entities – persons, and others ones (names of Gods, for example). We study networks, yes, but between whom/what exactly? It was also the first ResHist conference accompanied by a two-day workshop for beginners. In Aix-en-Provence in 2021, the main topic will be two-mode networks and a second beginners workshop will be organized.

For our joint 2021 conference, we welcome submissions for individual contributions discussing any historical period and geographical area. Authors may be historians, linguists, librarians, archaeologists, art historians, computer scientists, social scientists as well as scholars from other disciplines working with historical or archaeological data. Topics may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Cultural and intellectual networks
  • Geospatial networks                   
  • Citizen science, crowdsourcing and other forms of public engagement
  • Networks extracted from texts
  • Networks and prosopography
  • Methodological contributions with immediate relevance for Historical Network Research such as missing data, temporality, multilayer networks, ontologies, linked data 
  • Pedagogy, teaching, and digital literacy in Historical Network Research


Two confirmed keynotes will be delivered by Marion Maisonobe (CNRS, Paris) and Matteo Valeriani (MPIWG, Berlin). The third keynote will be confirmed shortly. 


Participants are invited to take part in one or two of four half-day-workshops. Two of the workshops will be aimed at beginners, two at advanced practitioners of network analysis.  Workshop titles will be announced shortly.


For this event we welcome three types of proposals: (1) individual papers; (2) software/tool demonstrations and (3) posters. Abstracts should clearly state the title, name and affiliation of the authors and the presenters; if you have one please include your Twitter username, too. 

1) Individual papers:

abstract (500-1000 words maximum, plus 3 citations) will be required for 30-minute papers (presentation 20 mins + 10 minutes for questions). The content of your abstract should be appropriate for the nature of the paper you intend to present. Your abstract should include:

  • Background – an overview of the topic and the research questions that will be addressed by your paper
  • Methods and data – an overview of the data used and the methods employed in your research
  • Findings – a description of the results of your research

You may also include a single figure that shows the key results or main argument of your paper. Figures should be submitted in a format that can be displayed in a standard web browser and should have a minimum resolution of 300 DPI. Citations should use the Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition Author Date style. 

2) Software/tool demonstrations:

HNR provides an opportunity for demonstrations of software and tools for historical network analysis. Accepted demonstrations and tools will be presented within a main conference session (presentations 20 minutes + 10 minutes for questions) and at demo booths during the poster presentations. Abstracts (200-500 words maximum) will be required and should include information on the novel contribution it makes, its state of development and licensing.

3) Posters:

Abstracts (200-500 words, plus 3 citations) will be required for posters. Your abstract should include:

  • Background – a brief overview of the topic or research questions addressed by the poster
  • Methods and data – a description of the data used and the methods employed
  • Discussion/findings – a discussion of the wider implications of your research for network analysis in history. 


Please submit your abstract by Friday 15 January, 2021 (23:59 CET) via EasyChair ( Papers for presentation will be selected following a double-blind peer review procedure. Notifications of acceptance/rejection will be announced by 15 March 2021. Submissions written in French or German are welcome, but please note that, if your proposal is accepted, you will have to provide a talk, an extended abstract or slides in English.

Selected papers and posters will be invited to prepare a submission  for a peer-reviewed publication in the Journal of Historical Network Research (

Please do not hesitate to contact the organising team for any questions you may have at Additional information on workshops, keynotes, and programme together with further practical information will be available shortly on the conference website.

Key dates

  • 15.01.2021: deadline for submissions via Easychair
  • 15.03.2021: notification of acceptance
  • 01.04.2021: registration opening
  • 25.06.2021: latest possible registration for participants
  • 30.06-02.07.2021: conference (1 day workshops, 2 days sessions)
  • 15.07.2020: invitation of selected articles to JHNR

Further information on the workshops will be provided shortly on the conference website and in the HNR slack channel (invite link:

Travel bursaries

If a hybrid conference format is possible, the organisers strive to secure funding for travel bursaries. Scholars without access to sufficient travel funds may apply for a travel bursary in parallel to submitting a paper or poster. A bursary will cover travel and accommodation costs for the duration of the conference. Please email a motivation letter together with a CV to before January 15, 2021 . Only authors of accepted papers are eligible for bursaries.

We look forward to receiving your submissions!

With best wishes,

The Historical Networks – Réseaux Historiques – Historische Netzwerke 2021 Organisers:

Laurent Beauguitte (CNRS | Paris)
Aline Deicke (Academy of Sciences and Literature | Mainz)
Marten Düring (University of Luxembourg)
Antonio Fiscarelli (University of Luxembourg)
Claire Lemercier (CNRS | Paris)
Ingeborg van Vugt (University of Utrecht)

Communities of Knowledge ( Tagging, Prosopography, and Networks

The below virtual conference sounds really interesting (info via Nathan Gibson):

Registration is now open for the virtual forum Jews, Christians, and Muslims as Colleagues and Collaborators in the Abbasid Near East, which will take place as 9 sessions (18 presentations) between October 20th and December 11th. The presentations listed below involve projects working with digital humanities and might be of particular interest to those on this list. Please see for the full program of the virtual forum.


Tuesday, October 20, 2020, 16:00 CET Project DemoCommunities of Knowledge ( Tagging, Prosopography, and Networks
Nathan P. Gibson, Nadine Löhr, Robin SchmahlUniversity of Munich (LMU)
The project “Communities of Knowledge: Interreligious Networks of Scholars in Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa’s History of the Physicians” aims to examine the social encounters of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish scholars in the Abbasid Near East, broadly defined as 750–1258. While the fact of exchange between scholars of many different communities during this period is well established, and their accomplishments are well known, the ways in which this exchange occurred are not as well researched. Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa’s (1203–1270 AD) biographical dictionary provides rich information about such interactions, which sometimes occurred directly between scholars, but other times involved much larger networks of people, including patrons, patients, family members, rulers, and slaves.The project asks, in general, how Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa depicts these networks, as well as, more specifically, which people, places, and types of communication were involved in them. This project demo will explain the different stages of this analysis. First, we identify and “tag” people and places in the source text. Next, we use these tags to create prosopographical nuggets called “factoids,” which encapsulate many different assertions throughout the text about the people involved and form the basis for mapping their relationships as a network. Finally, we analyze these networks, using quantitative metrics to focus our attention on the persons, places, or features in the network that call for in-depth qualitative study. We anticipate—and our preliminary results suggest—that this process will bring to light specific but underappreciated aspects of interreligious exchange.
The “Communities of Knowledge” project is funded by the “Kleine Fächer – Große Potentiale” program of the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education, 2018–2021.


Tuesday, November 24, 2020, 16:00 CET Research Paper DiscussionOff the Record: Networks of Lost Arabic Books
Nadine LöhrSaxon Academy of Sciences
Library records and manuscript catalogues are fundamental sources for historians, nevertheless, researchers are aware that a ​transmission process is determined by both the extant manuscripts as well as by a great number of texts which were lost in time. Historians of German literature claim that for every preserved work there are thousands of lost ones. While it is difficult to appreciate the number of lost sources, it is vital to consider the untransferred and lost knowledge in order to understand the exchange of ideas within a community.
To get a better insight into ​once well known scientific Arabic literature​, this article seeks to trace networks evolving around works which were ​produced and circulated between the 8th and 13th century and are ​presumed to be lost today​.
As a starting point, this study will be based on an analysis of the works mentioned in ​Ibn Abī Usaibiʿa​’s ​History of Physicians​. I wish to draw attention to the quantity of missing works still read, or at least heard of by ​Ibn Abī Usaibiʿa​. I examine ​general trends of what kind of books got lost and (if feasible) through what processes. ​Thereby it may be possible to observe certain regional, cultural, temporal or religious trends, and determine what the percentage of lost medical literature from a certain region is.
The second part of this article will ​focus on the afterlife of astronomical and astrological works lost after the 13th c. An analysis of networks evolving around the lost works will be backed up with further resources and literature. I wish to understand who were the authors and owners of books on the astral sciences now lost? Were these books according to ​Ibn Abī Usaibiʿa​’s insights shared, studied and discussed within various communities or were they held in so-called “small world communities”?


Friday, December 11, 2020, 16:00 CET Research Paper DiscussionLabeling Religious Affiliation in Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa’s History of Physicians: A QuestNathan P. GibsonUniversity of Munich (LMU)     
The biographical dictionary of Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa (1203–1270 AD), titled The Best Accounts of the Classes of Physicians (Arabic, ʿUyūn al-anbāʾ fī ṭabaqāt al-aṭibbāʾ) or History of Physicians for short, is perhaps unequaled in the extent to which it details the social interactions of scholars from many different religious communities. Ṭabaqāt literature in general tends to provide a kind of Who’s-Who resource collecting information about personages in particular categories, such as hadith transmitters or poets. Normally authors tended to make these categories applicable to a certain religious tradition, but Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa’s project broke the mold by outlining a profession (medicine and related areas) in which collaboration and exchange among communities was typical. The History of Physicians is thus an ideal target for large-scale analysis of interreligious exchange, as the project “Communities of Knowledge” is in the process of doing.
Nevertheless, incorporating “religious affiliation” as a factor in analyzing Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa’s text is fraught with complexity. First is the looming issue of what religion even means in this context. Second is the question of which terms or phrases the author uses to intentionally signal a particular affiliation. Third, which other characteristics may be taken to indicate religious affiliation, as perhaps certain titles, professions, actions, or (very cautiously) names? Finally, what should be done with mixed indications, whether these are due to inaccurate sources, ambiguous affiliation, or conversion?
I will present a case for recording these textual indications using the prosopographical tool of “factoids,” which can support a more nuanced analysis than simply recording a single affiliation for each person. Each factoid, representing an assertion by Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa or his sources, is one of several markers of religious affiliation, which may point toward different affiliations for the same person. The strength of these markers and their agreement or variance for a particular person provide specific data points that can be used to reconstruct networks of communities while also allowing for alternate scenarios.
The “Communities of Knowledge” project is funded by the “Kleine Fächer – Große Potentiale” program of the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education, 2018–2021.


Friday, December 11, 2020, 17:00 CET Project DemoIndexing a Shared Knowledge Culture from Many Perspectives: Historical Index of the Medieval Middle East (HIMME) as a Tool for Researching Diversity
Thomas A. CarlsonOklahoma State University
The medieval Middle East, at the crossroads of Africa and Eurasia, included more distinct yet intersecting literary traditions in more languages than any other part of the premodern world. While several of these literary traditions were religiously demarcated, others such as Arabic and Persian were multi-religious written cultures. Despite this, the religious diversity of this region is often conceptualized as separate communities who sometimes interacted. Religion was certainly a socially relevant category employed by medieval people to organize their world, and yet people from every religion wrote about the same government, the same society, and largely the same culture as expressed in religious multiplicity.
A new digital research project (HIMME: Historical Index of the Medieval Middle East) is developing a reference tool to demonstrate the shared culture and society of the diverse medieval Middle East. It will provide a union index to selected primary sources in Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Persian, and Syriac, indexing the people, places, and practices mentioned in each literary tradition. The result is that someone interested in, for example, the famous counter-Crusader (and sultan loyal to the Abbasid caliphate) Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn can search a database and discover relevant primary sources in unexpected Hebrew and Syriac as well as expected Arabic and Latin sources, while the later conqueror Timur Lenk is also mentioned in Greek and Armenian texts that might easily be missed. This presentation will offer a preview of the project (to be published officially on August 1, 2021), a discussion of its scope, and an exploration of its implications for the culture of knowledge shared among Jews, Christians, and Muslims of the medieval Middle East.
This project has been made possible in part by the (USA’s) National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation do not necessarily represent those of the (USA’s) National Endowment for the Humanities or of Oklahoma State University.
How it works
The virtual forum is conceived as an opportunity to discuss the state of research on interreligious knowledge exchange. Half-hour project demos will showcase ongoing projects in the area, while one-hour research paper discussions are a chance to interact on a deeper level with researchers who are in the process of formulating approaches to the subject.

  • Students, academics, and anyone else interested may register by clicking on any of the registration links. This will take you to a Zoom page, where you can select any or all of the nine sessions to attend virtually. The number of Zoom participants for each session is limited to 100.
  • Registered participants will be sent drafts of research papers to read and comment on ahead of time. We’ll use the web tool to do this collaboratively. You can get a free account here, and you’ll receive an email ahead of the session containing a link to read the paper and another link to join the private group where you can comment or ask questions.
  • During the live Zoom sessions, you’ll hear two presentations and, for research paper discussions, 1–2 responses from invited participants. The remainder of the time will be open for you to interact with the speaker, so come with questions!
  • Proceedings: Revised papers from the forum will be submitted to a special issue of medieval worlds: comparative & interdisciplinary studies, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ISSN 2412-3196).

All times are Central European Time (CET). Logistical support has been provided by team members Vanessa Birkhahn and Malinda Tolay.                 
From the eighth century to the thirteenth century and beyond, scholars in the Abbasid and neighboring realms pioneered study in medicine, mathematics, the astral arts, and many other disciplines. Scholarly treatises from that era together with biographical sources such as Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa’s History of Physicians and documentary texts from the Cairo Genizah show that this scholarly activity was not isolated to a single community. Instead, it emerged from a rich exchange between scholars affiliated with many different communities: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Hindu, Samaritan, and others. Sometimes this exchange occurred through books or letters while at other times it was face-to-face in formal, institutional settings, side-by-side in the workplace, or even mediated through patrons, servants, or family members.
In the framework of the project “Communities of Knowledge” (funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research), we are hosting  a series of discussions on the topic of person-to-person knowledge exchange among Near Eastern communities during Abbasid rule.

Learn the Vistorian with this video

The Vistorian is a really excellent tool for quickly visualising networks on a map and exploring their change over time: perfect for archaeologists and historians! A while ago I made a tutorial for The Vistorian with its creator Benjamin Bach. I recently presented this tutorial at Aarhus’ Centre for Digital History, and this was recorded.

So check out the tutorial on my resources page.

And you can follow along with this video 🙂

Webinars: social networks and cultural evolution in prehistoric hunter-gatherers

I strongly recommend this webinar series, running from late October through November. I’ve always felt social networks have huge potential for application in studies of hunter-gatherers, mainly after reading Clive Gamble’s ‘Palaeolithic Societies of Europe’, ideas of communities of practice, and especially after reading work by Migliano and colleagues working with present-day hunter-gatherers. My hopes are this seminar will push these ideas further! Great list of speakers!!!!!


Registration deadline October 16th.

More info:

The Paleodem Project is organizing a Webinar series that will bring together worldwide leading experts in archaeology, behavioral ecology, evolutionary anthropology and complex systems to foster cross-disciplinary discussions about structural dependence of cultural cumulative change, cultural dynamics on and social networks in the Human Past.The webinars, that will take place from October 27th to November 17th 2020, will focus on the application of social network analysis to understand human cultural evolution, with special focus on hunter-gatherer societies.The PALEODEM Webinar series will thus,

  1. Create a space that fosters an exchange of core knowledge about cultural cumulative change, cultural dynamics and social networks.
  2. Introduce recent case studies of social networks analysis to the study of human cultural evolution based on archaeological, ethnographic and experimental data.
  3. Foster discussion on cross-disciplinary theoretical frameworks about the structural dependence of cultural cumulative change, cultural dynamics on and social networks in the Human Past. 

Please visit the Paleodem Website ( to know more details about the event, such as panelists, detailed programme and registration. The registration is free and will be open till October 16th. registration is free and will be open till October 16th. 

Course: Roman urban mega-projects. Free online participation

My colleague Dr Emmanuele Intagliata is organising a great PhD course here at UrbNet about Roman urban mega projects, in which I will give a talk about roads. If you want to attend the morning of talks free of charge online, then just send an email to no later than October 15th specifying affiliation and (if relevant) the study programme in which they are enrolled. Everyone is welcome! The talk looks great, see below.

When? 10 November 2020

Where? Zoom

More info:

Urban mega-projects in the Roman period and Late Antiquity. 

New approaches and future directions

PhD course


Due to COVID-19-related health concerns, the course will be offered online (Zoom) in a shorter format on November 10th, 2020.

The morning session will be open to the public. Those wishing to attend should write to Dr Emanuele Intagliata ( by no later than October 15th specifying their affiliation and the study programme in which they are enrolled – if applicable. They will be issued a code that will allow access to the event. 

The Ph.D. students who have expressed their interest in participating by the 7th Nov. deadline will be invited to an additional afternoon session. 

Preliminary programme (final titles will follow soon)


09.00 – 9.15                Emanuele E. Intagliata: welcome and introduction

9.15 – 9.45                  Rubina Raja: City walls of Jerash

9.45 – 10.15                Søren Munch Kristiansen: Overview of analytical techniques and new                                techniques for the study of urban mega-projects

10.15 – 10.45              Catharine Hof: City walls of Resafa

10.45 – 11.00              BREAK

11.00 – 11.30              Riley Snyder: Mortar analyses

11.30 – 12.00              Simon Barker: Spolia in urban mega-projects

12.00 – 12.30              Tom Brughmans: Roman roads

12.30 – 13.00             Emanuele Intagliata:  Archival studies and urban mega-projects. A case study


14.00 – 16.00              Debate panel (PhD students and speakers only) 


Date: 10 Nov., 2020

ECTS credits (for those who submitted their applications before Nov. 7th): 2


Large-scale infrastructural projects, such as aqueducts and fortifications, were prerequisites for the existence of cities in the Roman and late antique periods. Their colossal size, however, could pose serious challenges for their construction. These could range from the necessity of maintaining a steady supply of resources over a long period, to the organization of large workforces. The study of the remains of these monuments is likewise not devoid of obstacles. On the one hand, their fragmentary state of preservation in modern urban settings poses significant problems for understanding their individual biographies. On the other, well-preserved monuments can be problematic to document owing to their size.

Despite these problems, the study of large-scale infrastructure remains of great importance. Water supply systems and fortifications can provide scholars not only with crucial details on the historical narrative of individual urban settlements, but also with insights into the ability of cities to deal with financially demanding infrastructural projects. Modern scholarship has traditionally approached the study of these monuments with an architectural perspective. However, the recent adoption of analytical approaches have considerably expanded the number of questions that archaeology can answer. These include, for example, changes in building processes and construction techniques and the impact of resource heavy infrastructural works on the surrounding natural landscape. This research-led course will provide the participants with an introduction to a diverse range of methodologies and approaches to the study of complex urban infrastructures, with specific focus on water supply systems, fortifications and roads in the Roman and late antique periods. In so doing, the course will provide a forum to discuss and reflect on how new research approaches are gradually transforming archaeology.


The course will offer research-led teaching on methods and techniques for the study of large-scale urban infrastructural projects and will focus on two main objectives:

  • To explore the importance of large infrastructural projects for urban archaeological research
  • To explore and discuss traditional and innovative approaches to monumental infrastructure. 

The aim is to encourage students from archaeology and related disciplines from the humanities to consider and discuss the potential of applying innovative approaches to their own research. The course structure consists of three modules, as detailed below. 


Professor Rubina Raja, CAS and UrbNet, Aarhus University;

Associate Professor Søren Munch Kristiansen, Aarhus University;

Associate Professor Tom Brughmans, UrbNet, Aarhus University;

Dr Riley Snyder, University of Edinburgh;

Dr Catharine Hof, Technische Universität, Berlin;

Dr Simon Barker, Universität Heidelberg;

Dr Emanuele Intagliata, UrbNet, Aarhus University.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, the participants should be able to:

  • Have an understanding of the benefits and limits of traditional and innovative approaches to the study of large-scale infrastructural projects.
  • Critically discuss and assess case studies.
  • Consider and assess the application of new approaches in their own work.


For program updates, please visit:

Modelling the Roman Limes. Present in our session

There is a conference dedicated to the study of the Roman Limes, you know, that region between the Roman Empire and “the rest”. My colleagues and I love this as a study region for exploring interactions but also for the highly specialised investments by the Roman government and the impacts this had on the people living in this border zone. And of course we do this with computers.

We will host a session on this at the Limes conference which will be held 22-28 August 2021 in Nijmegen.

Do submit your work and spread the word!

Submission deadline 1 November.

Simulating the Limes. Challenges to computational modelling in Roman Studies

Philip Verhagen

Affiliation: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Session Abstract: The increasing availability of large digital data sets requires archaeologists and historians to develop or adopt new analytical tools in order to detect and understand socio- economic and cultural patterns and to compare these at wider spatial and temporal scales. Simulation and other types of computational modelling are rapidly becoming a key instruments for this type of research. They are used to bridge the gap between theoretical concepts and archaeological evidence. These models can be of an exploratory nature, or attempt to closely emulate historical dynamics, and enable us to understand the mechanisms underlying, for example, e.g. population changes or economic systems.

Despite having access to large amounts of high-quality data, Roman studies have so far been relatively slow in adopting computational modelling, and Limes studies are no exception. The Limes is a particular case since each border region has its own characteristics, environmental setting, cultural background and specific relationship with the ‘core’ but also shares common features derived from being at the ‘outskirts’ of political, economic and cultural life. The interaction between these two dimensions is highly complex. Thus, the Limes constitutes an arena where formal modelling methods have particularly high potential. However, key challenges to this approach are i) the proper integration of archaeological and historical data sets; ii) a good understanding of what proxies to use, and iii) the computational power needed for modelling at larger scales.

We invite papers that showcase examples of modelling within the broader thematic setting of the Limes, taking these challenges into account. uggested topics of interest are the economy of the Limes, urbanisation and settlement dynamics, demography, military campaigns, and relationships between the Limes, the rest of the Roman Empire and the zones beyond the frontier. Statistical modelling, GIS, simulation (e.g., Agent-based modelling), network models and other types of formal approaches are all welcome. Comparative studies are especially welcomed.

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