Modelling approaches to analyse the socio-economic context in archaeology II: defining the limits of production

Philip Verhagen, Monica de Cet


At CAA2015, we organized a fruitful and stimulating session on spatio-temporal modelling of socio-economic processes in archaeology. At this year’s conference, we want to continue the debate, and in particular focus on the issue of establishing boundaries of production. Past societies, whether they were hunter-gatherers or complex state societies, were all forced to deal with the problem of producing sufficient food and other resources to meet economic as well as social demands.

The debate on the limitations of socio-economic systems for the production of resources is currently more often based on educated guesses than on a good understanding of the processes involved. The interplay between the (potential) availability of resources, and the necessary workforce, technology and socio-economic structures (like land ownership, taxation or access to markets) is a complex field of study, in which significant steps forward are being made through the combined use of GIS, statistical simulation and dynamical systems and agent-based modelling.

We are, however, still far removed from a common modelling approach to these issues that will allow us to easily make cross-regional, multi-scalar and diachronic comparisons. In this session, we want to address questions such as:
- what data sources and variables to include
- what modelling techniques and analysis protocols to use
- what theoretical frameworks to apply
- how to model at different scale levels
- and how to interpret the results of our models.

We therefore specifically want to invite papers dealing with one or more of the following issues:

- demographic processes and their socio-economic impact
- competition for resources at different scale levels, from the household to the state
- settlement patterns, territories, accessibility and control of resources
- the role of socio-economic and cultural constraints
- the utility of ethnographic data and comparisons
- sensitivity analysis of modelling approaches
- modelling with large data sets