An agent-based modelling approach to a complex problem: economics and demography of the first farming expansion in the Balkans

Andrea Zanotti, Richard Moussa, Jean-Pierre Bocquet-Appel


How can we see demo-economic processes in the archaeological record? How is the pioneer front of a Neolithic farming society demographically and economically structured? What are the differences in the structure of the population between zones of expansion and zones of increasing density? These questions become especially difficult to answer the farther back in time we study. Here we use an agent-based modelling approach to examine the spread of the first farmers through the Balkans during the Early Neolithic, specifically focusing on the demo-economic impacts of the spread of agro-pastoralism in this region.
In this model we combine archaeological records with ethnohistoric and paleodemographic inferences. These are layered on a realistic dataplane built by paleoclimate and soil fertility estimates. Agents interact on this landscape and follow a demographic and economic model in order to simulate the functioning of the Neolithic farming system.
Our results provide possible scenarios for the expansion of the first farmers in the Balkans. The agent-based modelling approach permits the exploration of demo-economic structures that are unobservable in archeological record.

Keywords: Agent-based model; Balkan Neolithic; farming system; pioneer front; geoenvironmental estimations; demo-economics