Factors of production: investigating land and labour as limiting factors in agricultural production in the Dutch Roman limes zone via agent-based modelling.

Jamie Joyce, Philip Verhagen


In this paper, we investigate the role of land and labour availability in the rural economy of the Dutch Roman limes region via agent-based modelling. The availabilities of land and labour pose limits on agricultural production and are regarded in economics as two of the primary factors or inputs in the production process determining the quantity of output. Although recent research has now prompted a departure from the previously held view that surplus production in the region was not possible (see Kooistra et al. 2013; van Dinter et al. 2014), we still don’t know how the shift from subsistence farming to surplus production occurred. The likely methods of surplus production undertaken by local farmers, the limiting factors in agricultural production within different temporal and geographic scales and possible mitigation strategies have hitherto only been dealt with in generalist terms.
To investigate these topics, we have produced an agent-based model in NetLogo to simulate the rural economy of the region with land and labour costs as primary outputs. We have simulated methods and strategies in the three most significant elements of this economy: animal husbandry, arable farming and wood-fuel acquisition. By comparing the model results against archaeological data of the natural and cultural landscapes in the region, we are able to test the scenarios for plausibility. In addition, the model has enabled us to investigate the elements of the rural economy not only as separate activities but in combination, reflecting the mixed agriculture practiced in the region in this period. Lastly, we are able to simulate a dynamic economy both temporally and geographically by imposing on agents conditions known from the region. We present here therefore the initial results from the model and our conclusions in defining the limits of production in the Dutch Roman limes zone.