Forum ReSoc        21st March 2019

Agent-based Models in Archaeology: Are there Limits?

Featuring Edmund Chattoe-Brown & Marc Vander Linden
Panel Members Iza Romanowska & Michael Roos
Maja Gori & Frederik Schaff

  • Date 21st March 2019 starting 14.00h, end approx. 17.00h
  • Location Haus der Archäologien (Hörsaal), Am Bergbaumuserum 31, 44791 Bochum
  • Registration is free. Please register here to help our planning!
  • Organised by Maja Gori & Frederik Schaff (Ruhr-Universität Bochum) 
  • Speakers Edmund Chattoe-Brown (University of Leicester) & Marc Vander Linden (University of Cambridge)
  • Panel Members Michael Roos (University Bochum),  Iza Romanowska (Barcelona Supercomputing Center)

Representing archaeology’s full complexity or too many assumptions about things you cannot know?

Agent-based Modelling (ABM), a simulation method that allows modelling the interaction of individual "agents" in explicit space and time, is recently gaining momentum in Archaeology (Rogers & Cegielski 2017, Lake 2014). Proponents of ABM emphasize that it allows representing archaeology’s full complexity (Barceló & Castillo 2016). At the same time, the preconceptions that are often associated with formal modelling are amplified by ABMs (Cegielski & Rogers 2016). One may summarize these preconceptions with the claim that ABMs make too many assumptions about things you cannot know. Should this methodology be rejected, if so many ad-hoc assumptions are necessary? Quite the opposite argues Edmund Chattoe-Brown (2013, §9.1): "ABM gives us a perspective from which to unpick preconceptions (based on existing research methods)". Especially in situations where we do not have enough evidence yet – and probably never will – using ABMs can be paramount as a tool for theory building: “models are not depictions of reality, but formal thought experiments designed to test and explore specific research questions” argue Drost and Vander Linden (2018). 


The Speakers

"ABM gives us a perspective from which to unpick preconceptions (based on existing research methods)"

“Models are not depictions of reality, but formal thought experiments designed to test and explore specific research questions”

Agent-based Models in Archaeology:
Are there Limits?

March 21st 2019 - Haus der Archäologien in Bochum

14:00 to 14:10



14:10 to 14:30

Introduction (slides)

Maja Gori & Frederik Schaff, Ruhr-University Bochum

14:30 to 15:15

Toughening the Methodology of Agent Based Modelling by Working Across Disciplines (slides)

Edmund Chattoe-Brown, University of Leicester

15:15 to 16:00

The Fallacy of Holism: Views on Practising ABM in Archaeology (slides)

Marc Vander Linden, University of Cambridge

16:00 to 16:30

Panel Discussion

Edmund Chattoe-Brown (University of Leicester)
Marc Vander Lindern (University of Cambridge)
Iza Romanowska (Barcelona Supercomputing Center)
Michael Roos (Ruhr-University Bochum)

Moderation: Maja Gori & Frederik Schaff
(Ruhr-University Bochum)

16:30 to 17:00

Open Discussion

Questions and comments from the local audience. This part is excluded from the streaming.

after 17:00


Snack & Chat open to all participants

Discussion panel

Maria Ivanova-Bieg

Michael Roos
Complexity Economist
Ruhr-University Bochum

Iza Romanowska

Iza Romanowska
Computational Archaeologist
Barcelona Supercomputing Center

Organising Committee

"Resources in Society" (ReSoc) is a Leibniz founded cooperative project of the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum and the Ruhr-Universität Bochum.

Maja Gori

Maja studied prehistory in Rome. In 2007 moved to Germany to gain her PhD in Pre- and protohistory and Aegean archaeology (cotutelle de thése Heidelberg – Paris). She has worked at the Universities of Mainz, Amsterdam and Heidelberg, and at the Italian CNR (National Research Council). Since 2017 she works in the project ReSoc with a project focusing on mobility in the Balkans and Central Mediterranean. 

Maja Gori, Ruhr-University Bochum
Prehistoric Archaeologist
Frederik Schaff

Frederik studied economics in Trier, including classes in Sociology and Management Science. After his studies he worked as an environmental economist at University of Hagen, where he became facinated by the methodology of agent-based modelling. He received his PhD on "Pure Agent-based Computational Economics ..." in August 2016. Since June 2017 he works together with archaeologists in the project ReSoc and develops a vision of "Pure Agent-based Archaeology"

Frederik Schaff, Ruhr-University Bochum
Computational Economist

Abstract References

Barceló JA & F del Castillo (2016): Simulating the Past for Understanding the Present. A Critical Review. Chapter 1. In JA Barceló, F del Castillo (eds.): Simulating prehistoric and ancient worlds. Cham, Switzerland: Springer (Computational social sciences).

Drost CJ & M Vander Linden (2018): Toy Story. Homophily, Transmission and the Use of Simple Simulation Models for Assessing Variability in the Archaeological Record. In Journal for Archaeological Method and Theory 122 (2): 1087–1108.

Chattoe-Brown E (2013): Why Sociology Should Use Agent Based Modelling. In Sociological Research Online 18 (3): 1–11.

Cegielski, Wendy H.; Rogers, J. Daniel (2016): Rethinking the role of Agent-Based Modeling in archaeology. In Journal Of Anthropological Archaeology 41: 283–298.

Lake, M. W. (2014): Trends in Archaeological Simulation. In Journal of Archaeological Methodology and Theory 21 (2), pp. 258–287.

Rogers, J. Daniel; Cegielski, Wendy H. (2017): Opinion. Building a better past with the help of agent-based modeling. In PNAS 114 (49): 12841–12844.

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