Presentation at EAA tomorrow: pre-print online

Tomorrow at the EAA virtual conference I will present in session 487: A NETWORK FOR AGENT-BASED MODELLING OF SOCIO-ECOLOGICAL

I will be presenting seven claims about why we should simulate Roman economies. And if you’re not into Romans, that’s OK: the claims are very generalisable to all of archaeology 🙂

The presentation will be based on a paper that is in print, in an entire volume dedicated to simulating Roman economies. Check out the preprint of the paper on Academia.

And if you can’t wait, here’s the seven claims already 🙂

  1. Formal modelling and computational simulation are necessary techniques for explicitly representing our complicated theories (or aspects of them), and for testing them against historical and archaeological evidence.
  2. Complex systems simulation is the only suitable approach for identifying emergent properties in complex systems.
  3. The Roman economy was a highly complex system. Theories describing this system are necessarily extremely complicated.
  4. Building complicated models is a step-by-step cumulative process, where simplification is key.
  5. Simulation should be integrated as one of our tools of the trade. This is an addition to and enrichment of current practice; it is not in conflict with current practice.
  6. There are many different and competing views on the nature of the Roman economy. Simulation studies will enhance constructive multivocality of these theoretical debates.
  7. Good simulation studies of the Roman economy necessarily rely on collaboration across specialisms (where simulation is a specialism in the same way as ceramology or osteology). Encouraging this means integrating the basics of simulation approaches into education in classical studies.

Present in our session at the Limes congress in Nijmegen, August 2022

Present in our computational modelling session! Submit your abstract by 1 September 2021. Session 31. More information here and below:

We draw your attention to the call for papers for the postponed 21st Limes Congress, that (we sincerely hope) will be held in Nijmegen from 21-27 August 2022 (, submission deadline 1 September). Last year, we submitted a session on computational modelling that we hope will still be of interest to you, either as a presenter, or as attendant (Session 31 – Simulating the Limes. Challenges to computational modelling in Roman Studies).

If you are interested in presenting, please contact us in advance of submitting your paper proposal, so we can try to coordinate things as much as possible. We would also be very grateful if you could spread this call in your own networks,

Looking forward to seeing many of you in Nijmegen,

With best wishes,

Philip Verhagen
Iza Romanowska
Tom Brughmans
Marek Vlach

31. 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. Suggested 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.

Call for Papers 

The LIMES Congress XXV Scientific Committee is pleased to invite you to submit paper proposals that will present new discoveries and ideas in the field of Roman Frontier Studies. Paper proposals should include the following information:

  • Title of Presentation
  • Speaker information (organization/company, e-mail address)
  • Co-authors information (organization/company, e-mail address)
  • Themed session selection (Please choose general session if paper does not fit in offered session selections) 
  • Abstract of the paper (max 300 words)

Each proposed paper must be submitted online through the LIMES Congress XXV website no later than the 1st of September 2021. Paper proposals will be reviewed by the Session Organisers and the Scientific Committee. The presenter of the paper will be informed by email by mid-February 2022. The congress schedule will be announced by March 2022. Please be aware of the following:

  • To create a well-balanced and diverse congress program only one paper per person is allowed.
  • Presentation time is limited. We advise you to prepare for a ± 15 min presentation. The exact timing and time slot will be communicated once the program is complete.
  • A short Q & A with the audience will be held at the end of each presentation.
  • Session Chairs are also eligible to present one paper or poster.
  • The official congress languages are English, French, and German.
  • In case your paper was not selected for presentation you can be invited to present it in poster format.

Please find below the proposed sessions. If you have any questions please contact us at: 

CFP social network analysis Middle Ages

This event will be of interest to readers of the blog.



International Medieval Congress,

University of Leeds,

4-7 July 2022

Social Network Analysis Researchers of the Middle Ages (SNARMA) is looking for proposals for a strand entitled ‘Network Analysis for Medieval Studies’ at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in 2022. The precise number of sessions and themes of each session will be decided based on the submissions. We would like to encourage the submissions to be as interdisciplinary as possible: the strand is very much open to those working on networks in language, literature, archaeology, etc., as well as history. We would also like to encourage submissions spanning the whole breadth of the Middle Ages chronologically. Papers may be focussed on particular case studies or on methodological questions such as the challenges proposed by fragmentary sources. We hope to present sessions which showcase a variety of different historical source types, such as charters, letters, chronicles, literary sources, and so forth. Papers should engage with either mathematical social network analysis or the theory of social network analysis.

Please email with a title and abstract up to 250 words, as well as you name, position, affiliation, and contact details, by 1 Sept. 2021

Topics may include but are not confined to:

  • Using SNA to define borders within datasets
  • Temporal, dynamic, or stochastic networks
  • Geographical networks
  • Diffusion models of disease spread
  • Diffusion models of religious beliefs
  • Data modelling with historical sources
  • Opportunities and challenges of assigning motivations to historical actors using social network theory
  • Digital prosopography and SNA
  • Advantages and disadvantages of particular software packages
  • SNA as a visualization tool
  • SNA as an heuristic tool
  • ‘Learning curve’ issues in the Humanities
  • Networks of:
    • Objects or artefacts
    • Manuscripts or texts
    • Political elites
    • Kinship and marriage
    • Trade and commerce
    • Block modelling with medieval communities
    • Religious dissent or pilgrimage/ cults of saints
    • Literary worlds; eg. Norse sagas or French chansons de  geste

New MA in Digital and Computational Archaeology, Cologne

There’s not a lot of degree programmes dedicated to computational archaeology specifically. And I can certainly recommend this new programme in Cologne: delivered by the amazing and inspiring Prof. Dr. Eleftheria Paliou, a very diverse range of modules, and completely in English.

Do share this with your colleagues and students. Application deadline 30 June.

From the website:

Digital and Computational Archaeology is concerned with the development and application of digital technologies and computational methods in archaeology. The MA Digital and Computational Archaeology is designed to equip archaeology graduates with practical, theoretical and critical skills in a variety of established and emerging digital technologies, and support a career in academia, cultural resource management, museums as well as public and private cultural heritage organisations. Students of this programme are offered the opportunity to use the facilities of the Cologne Digital Archaeology Laboratory (CoDArchLab), which is equipped with teaching, research and study spaces, numerous workstations, a variety of commercial and open source software programs, as well as specialised computational imaging equipment.

Students of the MA Digital and Computational Archaeology will have the opportunity to:

  • Develop core computing skills in Data Science (database theory and design, data visualisation and representation, network science) and Web technologies and become acquainted with current issues in archaeological data management and policy.
  • Familiarise themselves with the use of state-of-the-art 3D technologies and media and learn which techniques are best suited for data capture, documentation and analysis in different situations and contexts (e.g. fieldwork, museum, research projects).
  • Think critically on the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), spatial analysis, and computational modelling in archaeology, and learn how to best apply computational methods to gain insights into human behaviour and socio-political organisation in past natural and built environments.
  • Learn to identify current issues, problems and developments in the field of Digital Humanities and gain practical experience in the application and development of methods and tools that can benefit Humanities research more broadly.
  • Take work placements (Praktika) in excavations, museums, or cultural heritage management organisations and test their practical skills in real life situations.

Admission requirements

Applicants for the MA Digital and Computational Archaeolgy should hold a bachelor’s degree (with at least 180 CP) in archeology or an archaeological sub-discipline, such as Prehistoric Archaeology, Classical Archaeology, Ancient West Asian Studies, Archaeology of Roman Provinces, Egyptology or similar. Bachelor graduates of neighboring subjects may also be admitted after case-by-case-review, if at least 60 CP have been obtained in an archaeological sub-discipline during the BA studies. A decision upon the admission of students will be made by the Admissions Committee.

The MA Digital and Computational Archaeology is fully taught in English. Knowledge of English needs to be certified at the C1 level in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Knowledge of German is not required for admission or the completion of the Master programme, but students will have the opportunity to choose from a number of German electoral courses, should they wish to.

Programme online historical networks conference out now

A must-attend for historians and archaeologists interested in networks. This conference brings together English-, French-, and German-language communities, to offer a rich and inspiring programme. CANNOT WAIT!!!!

Via the HNR conference team:

The conference „Historical Networks – RĂ©seaux Historiques – Historische Netzwerke“ co-organised by the Historical Network Research group and RĂ©seaux et Histoire will take place from Wednesday, June 30th until Friday, July 2nd, 2021. The complete programme is now online and registration is open. For more information about the programme, registration and more details about the conference, please visit our conference website (

Questions, suggestions, notes regarding the conference? Write us at 


On Wednesday, June 30th, HNR+ResHist 2021 will offer four workshops for beginners as well as advanced network researchers:

Analysis of Two-Mode Networks with Python
Demival Vasques Filho

Exponential Random Graph Models: Theory and Applications on Historical Networks
Antonio Fiscarelli

From historical source to network data
Claire Lemercier

Introduction to Social Network Analysis: Basics and Historical Specificities
Martin Grandjean

Registration for the workshops takes place through EventBrite. Please note that the number of participants per workshop is limited and that the deadline for registering is 23 June (23:30 pm CEST).


HNR+ResHist2021 is proud to present two keynotes which will be delivered by Marion Maisonobe (CNRS, Paris) and Matteo Valleriani (MPIWG, Berlin). You can find their abstracts here below. To attend the keynotes, please register for the conference (deadline: 23 June, 23:30 pm CEST).



The lecture will first provide an overview of the corpus and of its historical meaning from the perspective of the main research question of the project, namely the question concerned with the mechanisms of knowledge homogenization in the early modern time and, therefore, with those processes that allowed for the emergence of a scientific identity of Europe.

Secondly, the major results concerned with the semantic analysis of the corpus and based on a formalization of the data in terms of a multiplex network will be shown. In particular it will be shown a) how a family of historical sources was detected that then executed a hegemonic role all over Europe therefore greatly contributing to the process of homogenization, b) how treatises, denominated “great transmitters”, allowed for the perpetuation of traditional knowledge for about 200 years however in the context of continuous innovation, and c) how different treatises were identified that are the main responsible for the impactful and enduring innovations.

Third, the lecture will present a new network model able to display the process of knowledge transformation in its social and economic context. The lecture therefore concludes by showing analyses conducted in order to understand correlations between families of treatises (semantic knowledge) on one side and societal groups on the other.



We identify three traditional ways of integrating places in network analysis. Firstly, it is common to start from relationships between individuals, families and businesses and to aggregate these relationships to consider the interactions between places that they create (A). Secondly, places can be the instrument of network construction. In other words, the co-presence in certain places makes it possible to deduce relationships between entities (B). Thirdly, the network can be immediately „spatial“ in the sense that the entities in relation as well as their links are materially anchored in space (for example, a hydrographic network, a metro map or a road network) (C). We will see that the sources, analytical issues and methods, and types of visualisation associated with these different networks vary. Our presentation will focus more specifically on type A and B networks by taking up, detailing and updating the methodological proposals of a collaborative research work on the visualization of scholarly worlds from Antiquity to the present day (Andurand et al., 2015).


Nous distinguons trois maniĂšres classiques d’intĂ©grer les lieux en analyse de rĂ©seaux. PremiĂšrement, il est frĂ©quent de partir de relations entre individus, familles, entreprises et d’agrĂ©ger ces relations pour considĂ©rer les interactions entre lieux qu’elles dessinent (A). DeuxiĂšmement, les lieux peuvent ĂȘtre l’instrument de la construction du rĂ©seau. Autrement dit, c’est la co-prĂ©sence en certains lieux qui permet de dĂ©duire des relations entre entitĂ©s (B). TroisiĂšmement, le rĂ©seau peut ĂȘtre immĂ©diatement « spatial Â» au sens oĂč les entitĂ©s en relation ainsi que leurs liens sont matĂ©riellement ancrĂ©s dans l’espace (par exemple, un rĂ©seau hydrographique, un plan de mĂ©tro ou une trame viaire) (C). Nous verrons que les sources, les enjeux et mĂ©thodes d’analyse ainsi que les types de visualisation associĂ©es Ă  ces diffĂ©rents rĂ©seaux varient. Notre exposĂ© se concentrera plus particuliĂšrement sur les rĂ©seaux du type A et B en reprenant, dĂ©taillant et actualisant les propositions mĂ©thodologiques d’un travail de recherche collaboratif sur la visualisation des mondes savants de l’AntiquitĂ© Ă  nos jours Ă  partir de diffĂ©rentes sources (Andurand et al., 2015).

We look forward to welcoming you online!

The Historical Networks – RĂ©seaux Historiques – Historische Netzwerke 2021 Organisers:
Laurent Beauguitte (CNRS | Paris)
Aline Deicke (Academy of Sciences and Literature | Mainz)
Marten DĂŒring (University of Luxembourg)
Antonio Fiscarelli (University of Luxembourg)
Claire Lemercier (CNRS | Paris)
Ingeborg van Vugt (University of Utrecht)

The Connected Past registration, PhD bursaries, and PhD school

Registration for The Connected Past conference is now open. Moreover, we will award bursaries to six excellent PhD students to attend the conference, and we announce a two-day PhD school and workshop preceding the conference.

The Connected Past conference will feature the best of archaeological and historical network research in 25 presentations and a keynote by Prof. Juan Barceló. The event will take place in-person on 29-30 September 2021 at Aarhus University (Denmark), but virtual attendance is possible (please register for virtual attendance). Registration open now.

We are also delighted to announce that bursaries to cover travel, accommodation and registration are available for six excellent PhD students attending The Connected Past conference in person. Please note that conference registration is a requirement for bursary applicants. Deadline: June 21st 2021 at 23:00 CET. Apply now! 

PhD students who plan to attend The Connected Past conference can register for free for a two-day PhD school (27-28 September 2021) awarding you 1.5 ECTS by Aarhus University. The PhD school will take place on Aarhus University’s Moesgaard Campus, but virtual participation is possible. This two-day workshop teaches you practical skills in network research for archaeologists and historians, with expert advice by practitioners. More information and registration. 

We hope to see many of you in lovely Aarhus!

The #TCPAarhus team

Tom Brughmans
Lieve Donnellan 
Rubina Raja 
SÞren SindbÊk 

Job: senior lecturer Classical and Mediterranean studies Vanderbilt

Rolling deadline.

More info:

The Department of Classical and Mediterranean Studies invites applications for a full-time Lecturer for the 2021-22 academic year starting August 16, 2021.  Possibility of renewal conditional upon performance and enrollment. Responsibilities will include teaching 3 courses per semester. Applicants should be prepared to teach survey courses in Greek, Roman, Mediterranean civilization and/or in Greek myths, as well as introductory, intermediate, and advanced courses in Latin and Greek. Ph.D. and teaching experience are required. 

Dossiers should include a cover letter, curriculum vitae, evidence of teaching excellence, a brief writing sample (20 pages) and three letters of recommendation. Candidates should apply via Interfolio at this link: .   Review of applications will begin on 15 May 2021. 

Vanderbilt University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.  Women and minority candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.

New publication: sensitivity analysis in archaeological simulation

Read about the necessary but terrifying process of having our MERCURY model replicated. How robust were our previously published results? Hilde Kanters’ excellent work! With Iza Romanowska and myself.

Read the open access paper here

Jeroen Poblome and I published the MERCURY model in 2016
 We performed a selected set of experiments that allowed us to explore the model’s behaviour. But how robust were the results that we published there?

Our original experiments suggested that weak market integration (low availability of reliable non-local information), equal production capacities of pottery manufacturers, and equal demands at settlements throughout the roman world were unlikely to explain tableware distributions. We came to these conclusions by performing 34 experiments where we changed the relevant parameters of the MERCURY model that represented key explanatory factors. These experiment settings are shown in detail in our 2016 paper in JASSS:

34 experiments is pretty good for an archaeological model, I tell myself. And certainly they suggest how the model behaves. But they do not reflect the full range of theoretically possible scenarios: we did not originally explore the full possible parameter space.

In comes the fantastic Hilde Kanters, who independently performed a replication of the MERCURY model in Repast Symphony (the original was coded in Netlogo) using only our publications. Her MSc thesis at Leiden University. Imagine my terror/excitement when I heard.

The replication study came to substantively the same conclusions as we did *massive sigh of relief* and made some very critical but constructive recommendations *massive collegial handshake*

This replication study is available open access

The replication was made possible because not only did we publish the technical side of the model in detail in JASSS but mainly because we made the model code openly available on Comses OpenABM

We were so impressed with Hilde Kanters’ work and delighted when the opportunity arose for her to do an internship in project MERCURY when I was at UBICS in Barcelona (such a great place to be as a complexity scientist). And Iza Romanowska luckily co-supervised this internship, which really set it up for excellent outputs. But what to do? I had loads of fun ideas to expand MERCURY: transport routes, equilibrium model, pots in spaaaaaaaaaice.

But in the end we knew we needed to do the responsible thing: check how robust the previously published results of MERCURY were by exploring the parameter space. We did a sensitivity analysis! See the results in our new paper in JASR. We now understand the model so much better, and I can be very confident of two key conclusions: the explanatory power of limited availability of reliable non-local information, and of strong differences in production capacity. But crucially, the sensitivity analysis also revealed I should be more cautious about the explanatory power of differences in demand throughout the Roman world: this was a new unexpected result, and will inform how I develop MERCURY in the future for sure.

Another thing that became painfully clear when working on this paper was the sad fact that ARCHAEOLOGISTS DON’T DO SENSITIVITY ANALYSES… But hey, we can help you on your way. We published a script for performing sensitivity analyses of ABM that can be reused by anyone, hurray!

Read more in the paper:


Computational modelling is increasingly gaining attention in archaeology and related disciplines. With the number of new models growing it is often difficult to evaluate their significance and the generality of the results. This is partially due to the narrow reporting of the model’s results, which are often limited to those directly relevant to the research question posed in the first place. Although this is not an issue per se, models, if explored exhaustively, can provide a much wider perspective on the studied system. Sensitivity analysis is a widely recognised model exploration method for assessing the importance of different parameters on the model’s behaviour. Such systematic exploration helps in unravelling the dynamics that drive the model and enable researchers to establish how robust the presented results are. Here we present a sensitivity analysis of MERCURY, a previously published archaeological agent-based model. The results show that two out of three of the original conclusions drawn on the basis of selective experiment design stand up to scrutiny. By describing in detail and providing a reusable script with detailed description of all steps of the sensitivity analysis we hope to promote this important model exploration technique among modellers and the wider archaeological audience.

Stanford lecture simulating Roman economies: register now

Want to hear how I simulate Romans? Then consider attending my lecture at Stanford’s Humanities Center, Data Scarcity Workshop. It’s at 10am pacific time, 7pm CET where I am in Europe.

You can register to attend for free via this link:

And here’s what I will talk about 🙂

Simulating Roman Economies

Computational modelling and especially agent-based modelling (ABM) has been applied in Roman Studies to explore phenomena as diverse as the structure of Roman social networks, the supply of troops on the Limes, flows on the Roman transport system, and the agricultural productivity of regions. This paper will argue that Roman Studies should add modelling approaches as tools of the trade, and will reflect on the potential and challenges of doing so.

The arguments will be illustrated through examples from studies of the Roman economy and my personal experiences as a romanist modeler. I will focus in particular on attempts at explaining the changing distribution patterns of tableware in the eastern Mediterranean. What explanatory factors might be key drivers of this change: the structuring effect of social networks on the flow of information, transport costs, differences in urban population size, the economic strategies of tableware salespeople? A set of increasingly elaborate computational models will be presented to explore the explanatory potential of these factors.

Tom Brughmans is an associate professor at the Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) and Classical Archaeology. His research interests include the study of Roman economic and urban phenomena, past social networks, and visual signalling systems. He performs much of his work by applying computational methods such as network science, agent-based simulation and geographical information systems. His research projects MERCURY and SIMREC developed educational resources and case studies to make simulation studies of the Roman economy more common (Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship and Marie-Curie Individual Fellowship). His ongoing project MINERVA aims to develop a highly detailed network model of the Roman road system, and perform simulation experiments to explore the centuries-long distribution patterns revealed by Roman tableware and amphora data.

Save the date: The Connected Past 2021 Aarhus

Interested in archaeological or historical networks? If you landed on this blog, you probably are. The Connected Past is our long-standing inter-disciplinary community for all those who share these interests. This year the conference will take place at Aarhus University on 29-30 September 2021 in a hybrid format. We have an awesome group of 25 papers on a wide range of topics lined up, and a keynote presentation by Joan Anton BarcelĂł.

So put the dates in your calendar and watch this space for more news. We hope to open registration in a few months, and will provide more information on the conference format closer to the date.




September 29-30 2021, Aarhus University

Artefactual Intelligence

Preceded by a two-day workshop 27-28 September (more information to follow).

Schedule to be announced

Read the abstracts for the 25 accepted presentations here.

Keynote speaker is Juan BarcelĂł on Artificial Intelligence in archaeology. 

Computational models used by archaeologists are becoming increasingly complex. We create and tackle ever larger datasets, include more parameters and make machines learn by themselves. Recent approaches to network theory in archaeology, and the historical sciences more generally, have embraced agents, agency and practice theory. But where does this leave objects? Since the earliest days of the discipline, objects have been at the core of the archaeologist’s enquiry. However, until recently, objects were left heavily undertheorised. With the advance of object-related theories, such as ANT or the New Materialism approaches, agency is extended not just to humans but to the objects and materials they handle as well. Does this mean that digital archaeologists and historians are to move from Artificial Intelligence to Artifactual Intelligence? And if so, how? 

Being a community of scholars interested in recent theoretical and methodological innovations in archaeology and the historical sciences, the Connected Past Conference provides a forum for presenting and discussing ongoing work on the intersection between archaeology,  history, digital approaches and theory. The conference will be preceded by a two-day practical workshop (limited capacity, open call for participants to follow soon). 

This year’s conference focuses specifically on the topic of artefacts, human and material agency, artificial and artefactual intelligence and their place within archaeological and historical network studies. In addition, we also welcome presentations on any topic related to archaeological or historical network research and complexity science. 

Conference organisers:

Lieve Donnellan 
Rubina Raja 
SĂžren SindbĂŠk 
Tom Brughmans 

Administrative support: 

Eva Mortensen

Get in touch!

Schedule (to be announced)

Venue and attendance details (to be announced)

Travel and accommodation (to be announced)

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