Simulating Social Complexity to Understand the Archaeological Past

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Large scale patterns, we commonly detect in the archaeological record, are often not a simple sum of individual human interactions but a complex interwoven network of dependencies among individuals, groups, and the environment in which they live. Unraveling this web is a hard task. Complexity science's answer to the challenges of understanding such non-linear, unpredictable, complex systems is computational modelling. Tools such as Agent-based Modelling, System Dynamics Models, Network Analysis or Equation-based Models are extensively used in virtually every scientific discipline and in the last decade have also gained ground in social sciences, anthropology and archaeology.In this session we present computational approaches to understanding the past, showcasing the innovative ways archaeologists have used simulation and model building to understand the complex societies they study. The session aim is to provide platform to discuss the potential and limitations of computational modelling in archaeology and highlight specific areas where it can be linked to more traditional empirical research.