Agents, networks and models: formal approaches to systems, relationships and change in archaeology
Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Spain
University of Oxford, United Kingdom
University of Auckland, New Zealand
Even if much ink has already been spilled on the need to use formal, computational methods to represent theories, compare alternative hypotheses and develop more complex narratives, the idea is still far from being firmly established in archaeology.
Complexity Science, the study of systems consisting of a collection of interconnected relationships and parts, provides a useful framework for formalising social and socio-natural models and it is often under this umbrella term that formal models are presented in archaeology. It has a particular appeal for researchers concerned with humans, as it stresses the importance of individual actions and interactions, as well as relations between individuals and wider system elements. Archaeology is a discipline that studies long-term, large-scale shifts in social change, human evolution, and relationships with the environment; how these phenomena emerge through the actions and interactions of individuals are questions that lie at the heart of our interests. Complexity Science offers an arsenal of methods that were developed specifically to tackle these kind of mulitscalar, multifaceted research questions.
This session will provide a forum for archaeological case studies developed using Complexity Science toolkits as well as for more methodological papers. We invite submissions of models at any stage of development from the first formalisation of the conceptual model to presenting final results.
Possible topics include but are not limited to applications or discussions of the following approaches:
- Complexity science,
- Network science,
- Agent-based and equation-based modelling,
- System dynamics,
- Long-term change in social systems,
- Social simulation in geographical space,
- Complex urban systems, space syntax, gravity models.
We invite papers for a session on complexity science/advanced data analysis/formal modelling at the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference (TRAC, Edinburgh, 12-14 April 2018). Please find the abstract below. This is a double session, the first part ‘Exploring Complex Systems’ will focus on finding patters, defining relationships and exploring past complexity, while the second part ‘Understanding Change’ will showcase applications of formal methods to understand social and economic processes and change.
To submit an abstract (300 words), please complete the submission template available here: http://trac.org.uk/events/conferences/trac-2018/
Tom Brughmans, John W. Hanson, Matthew J. Mandich, Iza Romanowska, Xavier Rubio-Campillo
Call for papers, session at Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, Edinburgh 12-14 April 2018:
Formal Approaches to Complexity in Roman Archaeology: Exploring Complex Systems and Understanding ChangePart 1: Exploring Complex Systems
Part 2: Understanding Change
Session Organisers: Tom Brughmans (University of Oxford) – John W. Hanson (University of Colorado) – Matthew J. Mandich (University of Leicester) – Iza Romanowska (Barcelona Supercomputing Center) – Xavier Rubio-Campillo (University of Edinburgh)
In recent years archaeologists have increasingly employed innovative approaches used for the study of complex systems to better interpret and model the social, political, and economic structures and interactions of past societies. However, for the majority of Roman archaeologists these approaches remain elusive as a comprehensive review and evaluation is lacking, especially regarding their application in Roman archaeology.In brief, a complex system is made up of many interacting parts (‘components’ or ‘agents’) which form a whole that is more than the sum of its parts – i.e. the interactions of these parts lead to emergent behaviors or outcomes that cannot be (easily) predicted by examining the parts individually. While such systems are characterized by their unpredictable, adaptive, and/or non-linear nature, they are (often) self-organising and governed by observable rules that can be analysed via various methods. For example, many past phenomena, such as urbanism or the functioning of the Roman economy, are complex systems composed of multiple interacting elements and driven by the diverse processes acting upon individuals inhabiting the ancient world. Thus, they can be explored using the approaches and methods of complexity science.The study of complex systems has primarily been undertaken in contemporary settings, in disciplines such as physics, ecology, medicine, and economics. Yet, as the complex nature of ancient civilizations and their similarity to present-day systems is being steadily realized through ongoing analysis, survey, and excavation, archaeologists have now begun to use methods such as scaling studies (e.g. settlement scaling theory), agent-based modeling, and network analyses to approach this complexity. Since these methodologies are designed to examine the interactions and feedback between components within complex systems empirically, they can provide new ways of looking at old data and old problems to supply novel conclusions. However, such methods have only been applied sporadically in ancient settings, and even less so in a Roman context or using Roman archaeological data.Thus, in this two part session we aim to bring these methods, and the Roman archaeologists using them, together by offering a critical review of the theoretical and empirical developments within the study of past complex systems and their interplay with existing ideas, before investigating how we might capitalize on the new opportunities afforded by them in the future. Part I of this session, ‘exploring complex systems’, is concerned with examining and unraveling the underlying structures present in the archaeological record using the formal tools provided by the complex systems framework. Part II, ‘understanding change’, will focus on applications exploring the dynamics of change that generated the patterns observed in existing evidence. In particular, we invite contributions using formal methods including computational modelling and simulation, GIS, and network analyses, as well as diverse theoretical approaches to better understand ancient complex systems.
The European social networks conference will host its third edition in Mainz. Historical and archaeological networks have been represented every time, and it’s a good venue to get technical feedback on your work. This year a session on historical and archaeological networks will be chaired by Aline Deicke, Martin Stark, and Marten Düring. I can definitely recommend presenting your work there.
Deadline CFP: 31 March 2017
CfP: EUSN 2017 in Mainz with session on historical and archaeological networks, deadline: March 31stOrganized session at the 3rd European Conference on Social Networks at JohannesGutenberg-University Mainz, 26.-29. September 2017Call for Presentations“Networks in Archaeology and History”Over the last decades, network analysis has made its way from a fringetheory to an established methodology in archaeological and historicalresearch that goes beyond a purely metaphorical use of the network term. Asubstantial number of studies on different topics and periods have shownthat network theories and methods derived from other disciplines (e.g.sociology, economics, physics) can be fruitfully applied to selected bodiesof historical and archaeological sources. Yet in many of these initialstudies, important methodological concerns regarding the underlying sources,missing data, data standardization and representation of networks in spaceand time have not been adequately acknowledged and sometimes even completelyneglected.In recent years, archeologists and historians – often in collaboration andin exchange with scholars from other disciplines – have taken on thechallenge to address these methodological concerns and to adapt and refinenetwork methods and network theory for archaeological and historicalresearch. The aim of this session is to further develop suchtransdisciplinary collaboration between historians, archaeologists and theEUSN research community.The session invites contributions from researchers applying methods offormal network analysis in archaeological or historical research. A specialemphasis of the session will be on the unique challenges that arise in thedomain- specific application of these research methods. We welcomesubmissions on any period, geographical area or topic. The authors may behistorians or archaeologists as well as scholars from other disciplinesworking with historical or archeological data.Abstract submission:Please hand in your abstract via the conference website (http://www.eusn2017.uni-mainz.de/) and indicate the name of the session: “Networksin Archaeology and History”.Abstract submission deadline is March 31st.Session organizers:Aline Deicke (Academy of Sciences and Literature | Mainz)Martin Stark (ILS Research Institute, Aachen)Marten Düring (University of Luxembourg)
Do you have something to say about the way network methods are used in archaeology? Maybe you have some networky research lying around somewhere, begging to be presented. Or maybe you just need an excuse to come to Oslo and hang out with awesome academics! These are all good reasons to submit a paper to our networks session at CAA 2016 in Oslo (although I prefer the first two reasons to the third)! Together with Mereke van Garderen and Daniel Weidele, I will chair a session that aims to work towards best practice in archaeological network science. Since network methods are still very new in our discipline, there is a need to explore how they can be usefully and critically applied and developed to lead to insights that could not have been gained through any other approach. We believe there is a need to develop guidelines for best practice for archaeological network science that will help archaeologists explore the potential use of network science techniques for achieving their own research aims. Come join us and add your thoughts to the discussion!
Deadline call for papers: 25 October 2015
Session code: S16
Dates conference: 29 March – 2 April 2016
More CFP info: CAA website
For those interested in getting their hands dirty and learning how to use the awesome network science software Visone: we will also host a workshop at CAA Oslo!
Networking the past: Towards best practice in archaeological network science
The full diversity of network perspectives has only been introduced in our discipline relatively recently. As a result we are still in the long-term process of evaluating which theories and methods are available, the ‘fit’ between particular network perspectives and particular research questions, and how to apply these critically. How can network science usefully contribute to archaeological research by enabling archaeologists to answer important questions they could not have answered through other approaches? In what circumstances is the use of network science techniques appropriate? There is a need to address these questions by working towards guidelines to best practice in archaeological network science. This is a goal that should be achieved by a community of scholars in collaboration, drawing on the lessons learned from applying network science critically and creatively in a diversity of archaeological research contexts.
This session aims to build on the growing interest in and maturity of archaeological networks science to lay the foundations of guidelines for best practice in archaeological network science. It invites papers debating best practice in archaeological network science, addressing methodological and theoretical challenges posed by the archaeological application of network science, or presenting archaeological case studies applying network science techniques. It particularly welcomes papers presenting work in which the use of network science techniques was necessary and well theoretically motivated, and papers applying network science to exploring ‘oceans of data’.
I have attended the Sunbelt Social Network Analysis conference only once, in Hamburg two years ago. But it was a brilliant experience and so different from archaeological conferences (and not just because of the traditional two evenings of unlimited open bar). The conference is attended by mainly sociologists and statisticians with a good proportion of mathematicians, computer scientists and physicists. In the last few years there have been annual historical and archaeological network science sessions. So the number of historians and archaeologists attending the event are increasing. I can definitely recommend attending Sunbelt, and of course you should present in our session 🙂
I would like to bring the session ‘Challenges in Archaeological Network Science’ to your attention. The session will be held at the Sunbelt Social Network Analysis conference in Brighton on 23-28 June 2015. We welcome all abstracts that address the challenges mentioned in the session abstract below.
The deadline for submissions is 31 March 2015. Please visit the Sunbelt website for more information and to submit an abstract: http://insna.org/sunbelt2015/?page_id=607
Please ensure to select the session ‘Challenges in Archaeological Network Science’ during the submission process. Feel free to notify us if you decide to submit an abstract.
We look forward to meeting you in Brighton,
Termeh Shafie and Tom Brughmans
Challenges in Archaeological Network Science
The application of network analysis in archaeology has only become more common in the last decade, despite a number of pioneering studies in the 1960s and 70s. The use of different techniques for the analysis and visualisation of network data has already led to new insights into past human behaviour. However, this renewed interest in network science is also accompanied by an increasing awareness of a number of methodological challenges that archaeological network scientists are faced with. These include, but are not limited to the following:
– How to deal with spurious data?
Sampling strategies in archaeology are often dominated by the geopolitical and financial constraints of excavation campaigns. Moreover, differences in the preservation of different materials provide a very fragmented picture of past human behaviour. As a result, networks constructed from archaeological data can be very sparse with apparent uncertainties.
– How to introduce more complex assumptions concerning tie dependency in the reconstruction of archaeological networks?
Network modelling is based on hypotheses from archaeological theory which in turn is based on archaeological evidence. A major challenge is how to infer the structure of an archaeological network given a set of assumptions regulating the occurrence of ties.
– How to deal with the poor chronological control of archaeological data?
The contemporaneity of observations and the exact sequence of events are often uncertain. This is problematic for network science techniques that assume node contemporaneity or require knowledge of the order of events.
– How to consider complex socio-spatial phenomena?
Archaeologists commonly study the spatial distribution of their data and evaluate to what extent spatial constraints influenced human behaviour. A limited number of spatial network techniques are currently available and many of these are not or hardly applicable in archaeology (e.g. network analysis of road networks).
This session invites papers that address these or other methodological challenges that network scientists in archaeology are faced with.
This session is organized by and will be chaired by:
Termeh Shafie, Termeh.Shafie@uni-konstanz.de, Department of Computer & Information Science, University of Konstanz.
Tom Brughmans, Tom.Brughmans@uni-konstanz.de, Department of Computer & Information Science, University of Konstanz.
The call for papers for the 2015 edition of the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology conference is now open. There are some great sessions and workshops planned, check out the program here.
I want to draw your attention to a number of sessions and workshops I’m involved in or that are of interest if you bothered reading this blog post until here 🙂 I want to invite everyone to consider submitting a paper or attending these! Full abstracts below.
Workshop 5: Introduction to exploratory network analysis for archaeologists using Visone
Workshop 8: First steps in agent-based modelling with Netlogo
Roundtable 5: Simulating the Past: Complex Systems Simulation in Archaeology
Formal network techniques are becoming an increasingly common addition to the archaeologist’s methodological toolbox. Archaeologists have adopted these techniques mainly from the fields of social network analysis, physics and mathematics, where they have been developed and applied for decades. However, network science techniques for the analysis or visualisation of geographical and long-term temporal phenomena have seen far less development than those for social and technological phenomena. Conversely, archaeology has a long tradition of studying long-term change of socio-cultural systems and spatial phenomena, a research focus and tradition that is a direct consequence of the nature of archaeological data and our ambition to use it as proxy evidence for past human behaviour. We believe this spatial and temporal research focus so common in archaeology could inspire the development of innovative spatial and temporal network science techniques.
This session welcomes archaeological applications of formal network science techniques. It particularly encourages elaboration on the geographical and temporal aspects of applications. What are the implications of working on large time-scales for the use of network science techniques and the interpretation of their outputs? How can the study of long-term change of social systems inspire the development of innovative network science techniques? What advantages do geographical network approaches offer over other spatial analysis techniques in archaeology? How can the long tradition of studying spatial phenomena in archaeology inspire the development of innovative network science techniques?
Archaeology has largely moved forward from the simplistic ‘dots-on-the-map’ and ‘arrows-on-the-map’ approaches when it comes to studying large-scale human movements. Current models regarding spatio-temporal distribution and migration of humans often highlight the complex nature of such phenomena and the limitations that any particular data type impose on the reconstruction, be it environmental (paleoclimate, paleotopography, paleofauna and -flora), archaeological (site distribution, patterns in material culture) and other types of data (genetics, isotopes etc). Similarly the, often very coarse, resolution of the data coupled with the difficulty of integrating different types of information within one framework make the task of researching large-scale human dispersal challenging. Nevertheless, a number of recent applications employing different computational techniques show that this can be achieved. From the data acquisition, cataloguing and storing, to spatial analysis and identifying patterns and distributions in the data to building abstract and semi-realistic simulations of the processes behind the dispersals, computational techniques can aid the process of investigating human movement on various scales and allow researchers to tackle the underlying complexity of the studied systems moving the debate beyond simple intuitive models.
This session aims to summarise the recent progress in the topic, discuss major challenges and provide a base for establishing further directions of research. We invite contributions from researchers studying human movements on the meso- and macro-scale and employing any of the wide variety of techniques and theoretical frameworks within the following three themes:
DATA: spatio-temporal data acquisition and integration (for example, data types, quantifying uncertainty and biases of the data, large-scale databases, cross-platform integration);
PATTERN: spatio-temporal analysis and modelling (statistical modelling, GIS, C14 among others);
PROCESS: modelling of processes and mechanisms underpinning dispersal through simulation (agent-based and equation-based modelling, cellular automata, system-dynamics modelling, (social) network theory) and other techniques.
Workshop 5: Introduction to exploratory network analysis for archaeologists using Visone
Network science techniques offer archaeologists the ability to manage, visualise, and analyse network data. Within different archaeological research contexts, network data can be used to represent hypothesised past social networks, geographically embedded networks like roads and rivers, the similarity of site assemblages, and much more.
A large number of software programs is available to work with network data. Visone is one of them and offers a number of advantages:
• Free to use for research purposes
• A user-friendly interactive graphical user interface
• Innovative network visualisations
• Exporting publication-quality raster and vector files
• The incorporation of statistical modelling techniques
This workshop introduces the basics of network data management, visualisation and analysis with Visone through practical examples using archaeological research questions and datasets. The workshop is aimed at archaeologists with no required previous experience with network science.
Participants should bring a laptop with Visone installed (download Visone: http://visone.info/ )
Maximum 20 participants.
Workshop 8: First steps in agent-based modelling with Netlogo
Following on the success of the simulation workshops at CAA2012 in Perth and CAA2013 in Paris, we would like to continue the beginner course in NetLogo – an open-source platform for building agent-based models. NetLogo’s user-friendly interface, simple coding language and a vast library of model examples makes it an ideal starting point for entry-level modellers, as well as a useful prototyping tool for more experienced programmers. The first part of the workshop will be devoted to demonstrating the basics of modelling with NetLogo through a set of worked examples. This should give each participant enough skills and confidence to tackle the second exercise: building an archaeologically-inspired simulation in a small group. Finally, the last two hours will consist of a ‘drop-in’ clinic for anyone who would like to discuss their ideas for a simulation, needs help developing a model, or would like direction to further resources for modellers.
No prior knowledge of coding is required but we will ask the participants to bring their own laptop and install NetLogo beforehand: https://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/
Roundtable 5: Simulating the Past: Complex Systems Simulation in Archaeology
In the last few years approaches commonly classified as computational modelling (agent-based and equation-based modelling, and other types of simulation etc.) are becoming increasingly common and popular among the archaeological computing community. Almost all research activity could be termed ‘modelling’ in some sense, for example, in archaeology we create conceptual models (hypotheses, typologies), spatial models (GIS), virtual models (3D reconstructions) or statistical models to name but a few. Most of them, however, investigate either the elements of the system (individual pots, skeletons, buildings etc.) or the pattern produced by the system elements (cultural similarities, settlement distribution, urban development etc.) and only theorize about the possible processes that led from the aggregated actions of individual actors to population-level patterns. In contrast, simulation allows us to approach such processes in a formal way and tackle some of the past complexities. It helps us to create ‘virtual labs’ in which we can test and contrast different hypotheses, find irregularities in the data or identify new factors which we would not suspect of having a significant impact on the system. In short, complexity science techniques have great potential for diverse applications in archaeology and may become a driving force for formalisation of descriptive models for the whole discipline.
The aim of this roundtable is to discuss the potential and challenges of complex systems simulation, including but not restricted to:
the epistemology of computational modelling (what it can and cannot do);
data integration and its use for model validation;
system formalisation and the role of domain specialists;
replicability and reuse of code;
lessons learnt from other disciplines commonly using simulation (ecology, social science, economics etc.)
communication between modellers and the wider archaeological public;
further directions of research.
Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to propose the creation of a new Special Interest Group (SIG) under the auspices of CAA (named: ‘CAA Complex Systems Simulation SIG’), and to discuss a preliminary plan of the proposed activities of the SIG and an outline of how the SIG is to be organised.
The Sunbelt series of conferences is the traditional venue for the Social Network Analysis community to showcase their new work. Last year it featured an archaeological session for the very first time, organised by Angus Mol and Ulrik Brandes. At this year’s Sunbelt there will again be an archaeological session, this time organised by Viviana Amati and Termeh Shafie. Let’s hope this will become a tradition! If you happen to be in Florida and have the time, drop by the sunbelt conference: 18-23 February in St. Pete Beach, Florida.
The line-up for this session sounds great. You can download the full schedule on the Sunbelt website. Here is the schedule for the archaeology session:
Friday 21 February, 8:40 – 10:20 AM, Blue Heron room
Emma Blake: Networks and ethnicities in early Italy
Jessica Munson: Sociopolitical networks and the transmission of ritual practices in Classic Maya society
John Roberts, Jr., Ronald Breiger, Matthew Peeples, Barbara Mills: Sampling Variability in Archaeological Network Measures
Jonathan Scholnick: Investigating cultural transmission among historic New England gravestone carvers with social network analysis
Mark Golitko: Procurement and distribution of obsidian in prehispanic Mesoamerica, 900 BC – AD 1520: an economic network analysis
My favourite conference of the year, the CAA, will take place in Paris on 22-25 April 2014! The call for papers has now opened and the organisers put up an impressive list of sessions. I want to advertise three in particular: the ones I am involved in 😉
We will organise a workshop on network analysis for archaeologists, using a cool dataset on the Eurasian Silk Road. Those who missed The Connected Past network analysis workshop might be interested in joining this one in stead!
W11: Introduction to network analysis for archaeologists
Tom Brughmans, Ursula Brosseder, Bryan Miller
Secondly, we will host a cool new concept for a workshop: one hour, one model! The idea is that people get together, discuss a common generic archaeological research topic and spend an hour or so designing multiple computational models representing this topic.
W12: One hour, one model: Agent-based Modelling on-the-fly
Iza Romanowska, Benjamin Davies, Enrico Crema, Tom Brughmans
Finally, we will also host a session on agents, networks, equations and complexity. Exciting!
S25: Agents, Networks, Equations and Complexity: the potential and challenges of complex systems simulation
Benjamin Davies, Iza Romanowska, Enrico Crema, Tom Brughmans
Please find the full abstracts on the CAA2014 website. The deadline for abstract submissions is 31 October 2013. Don’t miss out on this cool event!
I have some big news! You might remember that last year we organised The Connected Past conference here in Southampton. The event was very well received and it seemed very timely given the increased interest in network approaches in archaeology and history. Some suggested we should build on this momentum to foster a wider community of scholars that could share and discuss network-related ideas at future events. Since then we have been busy setting up an international steering committee and planning future events and publications. I am now delighted to announce the second Connected Past event: a session at the Society for American Archaeologists conference (SAA) 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii. I will chair this session together with Prof. Barbara Mills (University of Arizona), a member of The Connected Past international steering committee who also gave a great presentation about her research group’s network analysis work at last years Connected Past conference. Prof. Ian Hodder (Stanford University) will act as a discussant for the session. His recent book ‘Entangled’ discusses many approaches to relationships between people and material culture, and I am sure he will stimulate a critical discussion at the session.
The abstract of the SAA session can be found below, along with a full list of presenters. More information including all abstract of the presentations can be found on The Connected Past website and on the SAA2013 page of this blog. We are delighted that this list of presenters includes many scholars that were not able to attend last year’s event. The presentations range from practical archaeological case studies, to critical discussions of theoretical and methodological issues.
Session 57: Evening Thursday April 4 at SAA 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii
Download the full SAA programme here.
Chaired by Tom Brughmans (University of Southampton) and Barbara Mills (University of Arizona)
Discussant: Ian Hodder (Stanford University)
Mark Golitko and Gary Feinman
Herb Maschner, Jennifer Dunne and Spencer Wood
Barbara Mills, Matthew Peeples, Wm. R. Haas, Jr., Lewis Borck, and Jeffery Clark
Tom Brughmans, Simon Keay and Graeme Earl
Tim Kohler, Stefani Crabtree and Michael Berry
Angus Mol, Corinne Hofman and Menno Hoogland
Over the last decade the number of published archaeological applications of network methods and theories has increased significantly. This session will build on this increasing interest in networks among archaeologists by highlighting a number of research themes that deserve further exploration. Firstly, it aims to illustrate how particular archaeological research contexts can drive the selection and adaptation of formal network methods from the wide range of existing approaches, where possible through interdisciplinary collaboration. Secondly, papers in this session will address the role archaeological data can play in network methods, the decisions we are faced with when defining nodes and ties, and how our theoretical approaches can be expressed through formal methods incorporating empirical data. Thirdly, the session will address the compatibility of network theories and methods. Lastly, the potential of incorporating materiality within existing network approaches and the study of long-term network evolution will be discussed.
This session will address these themes through methodological or theoretical papers, and will further illustrate the potential of a networks perspective for archaeology in a number of innovative case-studies. It hopes to illustrate that approaches with an interdisciplinary scope but dominated by archaeological research contexts yield the most critical and useful archaeological network studies.