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.

An enchantment of digital archaeology

Dreamers, necromancers and modellers in archaeology rejoice: an enchantment of digital archaeology is published.

Shawn Graham’s new book is about simulation, agents, gaming, AI and archaeology. What? I was sceptical as I started reading, but the huge value of Shawn’s enchantment message dawned on me half way through the first chapter. I’m allowed to wonder, to be in awe, to dream, whilst doing good computational archaeology. In fact, Shawn argues we should do more of it. At the very least, we should avoid the disenchantment that can be invoked by traditional data collection and analysis, which we do just because we feel we have to as ‘serious’ academics.

Raising the Dead with Agent-Based Models, Archaeogaming and Artificial Intelligence

by Prof. Shawn Graham

Here are my thoughts on the book.

This book discusses and illustrates how digital archaeology can and should be enchanting. The focus on enchantment justifies the many personal thoughts and stories throughout the book: it is really the personal experience of and engagement with digital experiments that leads to enchantment. The author does a great job in transmitting his enthusiasm and is not afraid to highlight his failures. Indeed, in many parts of the book failed experiments take centre stage to showcase that the scholars’ learning process and surprise matters hugely when doing digital archaeology. But also that the author’s engagement with traditional data collection and attitudes to doing archaeology led to disenchantment. Many readers of this book might share this disenchantment: they will find in this book inspiration and encouragement to pursue those ideas they previously discarded as wacky, frivolous or “not academic”; they are allowed to play, fail and be enchanted. There is huge value in this message.

Submit your micro presentation for CUDAN satellite at NetSci, and I get to keynote yay :D

NetSci is an awesome conference. Everyone interested in network science can find something of interest there. Max Schich and colleagues have established a long tradition of hosting art and humanities satellite events to NetSci: my kinda thing! This year, there will be a cultural data analytics satellite at this virtual event, and I get to do a tiny micro keynote, yay 😀

Submit a single slide by 15/09/2020

Conference date: 20/09/2020

Call, via Max Schich:

Dear Friends of Arts, Humanities, and Complex Networks at NetSci,

The CUDAN satellite on Cultural Analysis at NetSci2020 will take the format of an “inverted conference session” to maximize Salon-style personal interaction. To participate, we ask you to submit a single slide by 2020-09-15 to The symposium will happen on Sunday 2020-09-20. Details can be found at The keynote will be presented by archaeologist Tom Brughmans (Arhus University). To participate you need to register for NetSci2020, at least for a day pass:

If you are on Twitter, please spread the word by retweeting this:

PS: This will likely be the last email from this account. I will transfer the AHCN contact list to the CUDAN Open Lab list, where we will post announcements related to our ongoing research on Cultural Data Analytics. The scope will be broader, aiming towards a systematic science of art and culture, including but not limited to NetSci relevant issues. If you are not interested, this is a good moment to unsubscribe from this list. The website of the CUDAN Open Lab is

Greetings, Max

Prof. Dr. Maximilian Schich
ERA Chair for Cultural Data Analytics at Tallinn University &

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