ABM workshop at CAA 2013

CAAworkshop_complexity_leafletI will be involved in an awesome workshop on agent-based modelling in Archaeology at CAA 2013 in Perth. Sound interesting? Hell yeah! Read the outline below and feel free to register you interest. Click here or on the image to the left to check out our awesome flyer (courtesy of Iza Romanowska).

Dear all,

We would like to draw your attention to a workshop on agent-based modelling in archaeology as part of the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) conference

Ever wondered what all this complex systems talk in archaeology is about, or how to design your own sophisticated simulation model? Then this might be for you:

We will organise a workshop on complex systems and agent-based simulations models in archaeology at the CAA Conference in Perth, Australia, this March. Places are still available but Early Bird Registration to the conference ends on Thursday February 7th, so hurry up to get a discount! The workshop itself is free of charge.

The workshop will take place on Monday March 25th and will consist of a morning and an afternoon session. At the end of the day you will be able to design and program your own simulation model to help you answer your research questions in archaeology or related social sciences – guaranteed …

Registration for the conference at:


Registration to the workshop will be announced on the CAA website soon, but you can already reserve a seat by contacting Carolin at cv275@cam.ac.uk

For further information see the abstract below. A flyer with a detailed programme is attached.

Hope to see you there.

Best wishes,

Carolin, Iza, Tom and Eugene

Carolin Vegvari (Department of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge)
Iza Romanowska (Institute for Complex Systems Simulation, University of Southampton)
Tom Brughmans (Archaeological Computing Research Group, University of Southampton)
Eugene Ch’ng (IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre, University of Birmingham)


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.

Identities & Islam: registration open

Screen shot 2013-01-23 at 14.29.01On 19 and 20 April 2013 my colleagues will organise a cool new UK early career symposium on Islamic Archaeology at the University of Southampton: Identities & Islam: Material Culture, Self and Society in the Pre-Modern Muslim World. The conference sounds great and the sessions look interesting. Registration is free (!!!) and is open now. You can also express an interest in attending the event virtually. Like the conference on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. More info can be found on their blog, but here their mission statement as a teaser:

The archaeology of the Islamic world is by no means a wholly neglected field in Europe. On the contrary the field has been growing in recent years, and there are now significant numbers of scholars dispersed in European universities specialising in this area and adopting a wide range of approaches and geographical specialisations. Yet it has often been commented that we should perhaps expect the field to be more developed – considering the growth of the discipline of archaeology more generally and the immense size and temporal scope of the Islamic world, as well as the prominence of Islam itself in world politics (e.g .Petersen 2005).

The reasons that Islamic Archaeology has not achieved similar prominence to Classical archaeology, or even that of the archaeology of the medieval Christian world, are no doubt too complex to be fully explored here. However, part of the problem is perhaps a lack of dedicated and broad academic forums for the field.

The first journal devoted to Islamic Archaeology at its most general, Archéologie Islamique, published in 1990, never reached a wide readership outside France and ceased publication in 2001. In general, research in the field is disseminated across different institutional journals, usually with a regional focus – such as Annales Islamalogiques (an inter-disciplinary journal published by Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale) focussing predominantly on Egypt and the Levant.

In terms of regularly occurring conferences, the academic community in the field is served by the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (ICAANE), which has had sessions and papers dedicated to Islamic Archaeology since its first meeting in 1998. ICAANE attracts many high profile scholars, making an invaluable contribution to the academic community, though it remains less accessible for researchers early in their career due to high registration costs.

It is hoped that a UK Early Career Symposium on Islamic Archaeology will act as a more open academic forum. It will be open in its content, encouraging not only research regarding the Near East but the entirety of the Islamic world including the Indian sub-continent, sub-Saharan Africa, and Europe. It will be also encourage disciplines beyond archaeology to participate, embracing all approaches based on material culture. It will also be open in terms of accessibility – being free to attend, and with the future aim to offer financial support to those who would like to attend. We also aim to maintain a web presence through use of islamicarch.com, as well as through social media to encourage a community to develop online.

‘A Connected Island?’: measuring academic influence

By Iza Romanowska and Tom Brughmans

This second blog post about the Connect Island project, funded by a sotonDH small award, discusses the relative influence of Central European Palaeolithic researchers using the H-index measure.

hindex all

Figure 1: H-index scores of Central European Palaeolithic researchers (left) versus Iron Age (right) researchers.

It has been claimed that Central European archaeologists specializing in Stone Age studies are quite well-known in the West compared to their colleagues leading research in later epochs. To test this anecdotal supposition we analysed the H-index of Central European Palaeolithic researchers.

The H-index (Hirsch 2005) is a measure of an author’s academic impact that takes into account both the number of papers published by the author and the number of citations to these papers (Bornmann and Daniel 2005; 2007). Its main advantage is that it balances the effects of a small number of high hitting papers and a large number of rarely cited publications. Neither a researcher with a one-hit-wonder paper, nor one producing hundreds of mediocre publications will score high. The H-index therefore favours enduring performance both in terms of quality and quantity. We used publications and citations recorded in Google Scholar as it covers a higher number of publications than ISI Web of Knowledge, especially for the fields of Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities (Kousha and Thelwall 2008). In contrast to ISI Web of Knowledge, however, Google’s bibliographic indexing is automated and not routinely manually edited by Google staff making it prone to inconsistencies and duplication. We noticed that the H-index results for archaeologists were unrealistically low when only taking publications in Web of Knowledge into account, and Google Scholar was therefore considered the lesser of two evils.

To provide a benchmark, we compared the results with a large sample of Central European Iron Age researchers. The Central European Iron Age is quite extensive, well-studied and some of its main proponents are well-known internationally. Arguably, the fact that we are using Iron Age researchers for this benchmark is irrelevant, any sub-discipline within archaeology would have done the job. In order for the anecdotal statement we are trying to test to be true, however, the H-index scores of the Palaeolithic researchers should be close to or higher than the Iron Age researchers’.

The results strongly confirm the intuitive observation (see Table 1 and Figure 1). Compared to a test sample of Iron Age specialists, Central European Palaeolithic researchers have been quoted more extensively and their papers were more influential abroad (as reflected in Google Scholar), indicating that they had a higher direct impact (as measured by the H-index) on the discipline globally.

Palaeolithic researchers   Iron Age researchers  
Karel Absolon 9 Kazimierz Bielenin 4
Viola Dobosi 5 Anna Bitner-Wróblewska 2
Boleslaw Ginter 7 Éva Bónis 3
Jan Fridrich 4 Jaroslav Böhm 6
 Bohuslav Klíma 10 Miloš Čižmář 3
Michal Kobusiewicz 8 Jana Čižmářová 1
Janusz Krzysztof Kozlowski 10 Sylwester Czopek 2
Stefan Kozlowski 9 Petr Drda 4
Gábori Miklós 5 Jan Filip 11
Martin Oliva 9 Kazimierz Godlowski 7
Romuald Schild 22 Eszter Istvánovits 2
Josef Skutil 5 Libuše Jansová 3
Jiří Svoboda 14 Fitz Jenő 9
Karel Valoch 14 Piotr Kaczanowski 5
László Vértes 11 Andrzej Kokowski 3
Jerzy Kmieciński 4
Valéria Kulcsár 2
Karel Ludikovský 1
Henryk Machajewski 2
 Renata Madyda-Legutko 3
Magdalena Mączyńska 3
Jiří Meduna 4
Szabó Miklós 5
Karla Motyková-Šneidrová 2
Jerzy Okulicz-Kozaryn 2
Emanuel Šimek 4
Jaroslav Tejral 8
Andrea Vaday 3
Natalie Venclová 5
Jiří Waldhauser 3
Ryszard Wołągiewicz 2
Table 1: all Palaeolithic and Iron Age researchers included in the analysis with their H-index scores.

The Matthew effect?

We suspect that we are dealing here with a good example of the “Matthew effect” in science. Coined by Robert K. Merton (1968), the term refers to a passage from the Gospel of Matthew: “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” – Matthew 25:29.

In simple terms it can be referred to as the “rich get richer” effect. Applied to academia it describes the phenomenon of more established, better-known scholars receiving disproportionately more credit than their lesser-known colleagues for equal or even smaller contributions to the research. Thus, they are more likely to spread their results wider and to have a higher impact on the discipline. Lower Palaeolithic archaeology had an additional boost when it came to creating a strong Matthew effect. The few irregularly distributed Lower Palaeolithic sites could be studied and published by only a handful of specialists. As a result, only a limited number of archaeologists were drawn into Palaeolithic studies and those who did were exempt from the fierce competition that their colleagues working on later epochs faced.

This also meant that invitations to conferences, scientific collaboration and co-authoring would be shared within a smaller cluster of scholars creating a self-propelling positive feedback loop and strengthening the natural Matthew effect. Combined with the nature of Palaeolithic data which is of global relevance and the high demand for Palaeolithic researchers in the second half of the 20th century, this could have contributed to a better recognition of Central European Palaeolithic researchers in the West, giving them more opportunities to collaborate, publish and spread their results in the international research community. Such a process could account for the higher H-index compared to their colleagues specializing in later epochs.


Bornmann, L., H.-D. Daniel. 2005. “Does the h-index for ranking of scientists really work?” Scientometrics 65 (3): 391-392. doi:10.1007/s11192-005-0281-4.
Bornmann, L., H.-D. Daniel. 2007. “What do we know about the h-index?” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 58 (9): 1381-1385. doi:10.1002/asi.20609.
Hirsch, J. E. 2005. “An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102 (46) (November 15): 16569-16572. doi:10.1073/pnas.0507655102.
Kousha, K., M. Thelwall. 2007. “Sources of Google Scholar citations outside the Science Citation Index: A comparison between four science disciplines.” Scientometrics 74 (2): 273-294. doi:10.1007/s11192-008-0217-x.
Merton, Robert K. 1968. “The Matthew Effect in Science.” Advancement of Science 159 (3810): 56-63.
Merton, Robert K. 1988. “The Matthew Effect in Science II. Cumulative Advantage and the Symbolism of Intellectual Property.” Sociology. The Journal of the British Sociological Association 159: 606-623.

Happy New Year! and CAAUK

Screen shot 2013-01-15 at 17.10.32Happy New Year all! There are a couple of events in 2013 I am really looking forward to, including the CAA conference in Perth and the SAAs in Hawaii, more about those later. The first conference of the year for me will be CAAUK in London, on 22-23 February. The programme sounds great, with a keynote by Mark Lake discussing the special issue of World Archaeology he recently edited on Open Archaeology. Registration is now open but almost full, so hurry up if you wanna be part of it!

I will present a poster on a project Iza Romanowska and I have set up: ‘A Connected Island?: how the Iron Curtain affected archaeologists’. We are touring Central Europe’s libraries for this project, collecting publications by Central European Palaeolithic archaeologists. We hope to be able to evaluate the interactions between Western and Central European archaeologists, and we hope our methodology of citation network analysis will help us do this. More about the project in later posts! The poster will be presented by Iza at the Unravelling the Palaeolithic conference in Cambridge this weekend. Here is the abstract:

‘A Connected Island?’: How the Iron Curtain affected Palaeolithic Archaeologists in Central Europe

Iza Romanowska (Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins, University of Southampton)
Tom Brughmans (Archaeological Computing Research Group, University of Southampton)

After the Second World War the Iron Curtain sliced through the very centre of Europe. The Soviet regime introduced a new structure to the academic institutions in countries like Poland, Hungary and former Czechoslovakia, including restrictions on contacts with the Western world and ideological pressure. How did this situation affect researchers on both sides? Was Central European Academia really isolated from western influences?

It is difficult to quantitatively determine to what degree these limitations affected archaeologists. The project team argues that citation data might allow (at least in part) for such a quantitative evaluation. Citations are like handy formal proxies for tracing lines of knowledge dissemination and academic influence, obviously not fully representative for these very complex processes, but well suited to quantify the ‘awareness’ of other peoples’ research.

The project will initially focus on the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic of Poland, former Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Citations have been extracted from publications of a synthetic nature (i.e. not field reports) and a citation network analysis has been performed on that data. Our preliminary results indicate that a lot of common presumptions regarding the research behind the Iron Curtain, like the dominance of Russian or national languages in Academic writing, are in fact false.

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