SAA 2015: Macroscopic approaches to archaeological histories: Insights into archaeological practice from digital methods

Ben Marwick and I are organizing a session for the SAA2015 (the 80th edition, this year in San Francisco) on “Macroscopic approaches to archaeological histories: Insights into archaeological practice from digital methods”. It’s a pretty big tent. Below is the session ID and the abstract. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, why don’t you get in touch?

Session ID 743.

The history of archaeology, like most disciplines, is often presented as a sequence of influential individuals and a discussion of their greatest hits in the literature.  Two problems with this traditional approach are that it sidelines the majority of participants in the archaeological literature who are excluded from these discussions, and it does not capture the conversations outside of the canonical literature.  Recently developed computationally intensive methods as well as creative uses of existing digital tools can address these problems by efficiently enabling quantitative analyses of large volumes of text and other digital objects, and enabling large scale analysis of non-traditional research products such as blogs, images and other media. This session explores these methods, their potentials, and their perils, as we employ so-called ‘big data’ approaches to our own discipline.


Like I said, if that sounds like something you’d be curious to know more about, ping me.

A Tale of Two Conferences: CAA UK and SAA 2011, as experienced on Twitter

Two conferences at the same time, opposite sides of the world (give or take), and you can’t get to either? There’s an app for that, and it’s called Twitter.

Nicolas Laracuente has been curating tweets relating to the Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting in Sacramento via Storify - you can see his reporting on the conference here.

Inspired by Nicolas’ work, Jessica Ogden performed the same service at the Computer Applications in Archaeology UK edition conference, here.

Some of the things going on in the UK in terms of digital archaeology are very exciting indeed. What with my own interest and work in agent based modeling, I’m perhaps a bit biased. But I was also excited to see (‘read about’) some interesting work being done in terms of using game engines for archaeological visualization and outreach. I’m working on a project at the moment using the Web.Alive product (it’s built on Unreal) to render archaeological knowledge in an immersive environment. I’ve applied for funding to see if I can procedurally generate immersive worlds from archaeological repositories such as Stay tuned!

Simulating Patronage & Resource Extraction: An Agent Based Roman Economic Model

International conference

Land and natural resources in the Roman World

Brussels, 2011, Thu. 26th – Sat. 28th May

My contribution bears the provisional title – ‘Simulating Patronage & Resource Extraction: an agent-based Roman economic model’

“Starting with the idea that the Roman economy was socially and politically embedded in networks of patronage, this paper explores the ramifications of that understanding for natural resource extraction, using an agent-based model. Agent models employ hundreds of autonomous, individual software agents, interacting in a digital environment, according to the rules we specify. In this case, the rules are drawn from our understanding of how patronage worked in Roman society. The initial pattern of interactions is based on resource-extraction networks visible in the archaeological record. The environment is one in which the agents extract a scarce, yet renewable, resource (coppiced woodland). Under what circumstances is such a system sustainable? When – and how – can it break down? The patterning of results suggests a framework for understanding archaeological patterns of resource exploitation in the Roman world.”

Still Mulling Playing with History

I was at the Playing with History unconference last week – my first unconference. Twitter’d comments findable at #pastplay

What a neat way to spend a couple of days! I’m still mulling it over, my fever’d brain brimming with possibilities, avenues to explore…  For excellent summaries of what went on, see Rob MacDougall and Geoffrey Rockwell‘s separate evaluations of the day. My discussion pieces on The NetherNet and ‘Rolling your own‘ went over well (though I could’ve made things a whole lot clearer with the latter by reminding everyone that my experience there – my glorious failure, I calls it – was in terms of an online class; no matter!)

Rob finishes his summary with,

I have some qualms about the “digital humanities” label, currently having its Elvis moment. (Not the label, I guess, just the way it’s exploded in the last year or so. The inevitable anti-DH backlash is currently scheduled for Spring 2011; watch this space.) But I have nothing but love for the people who do this kind of work. Historians powered up with coding chops and tech fu; geeks leavened with humanist soul. What could be better?

This reminded me of this week’s Escapist, where Jason Della Roca writes,

There will come a day in the near future when there will be no more gamers. Not because they’ll have killed each other in some Grand Theft Auto-induced mass rampage, but rather because the term “gamer” will be irrelevant. Much like how we do not call people who view TV shows “watchers,” or those that enjoy music as “listeners,” playing games will become similarly as pervasive and commonplace as to render the “gamer” distinction archaic.

Some day, in the same way, maybe we’ll all be digital humanists…

The Game’s the Thing

I’m headed of to the Niagara peninsula next month, for Playing With Technology in History.

Here’s what I thought I’d talk about :

Shawn Graham, “Rolling your own: On Modding Commercial Games for Educational Goals”

Making modifications to existing commercial games is a strong and vibrant sub-culture in modern video gaming. Many publishers now provide tools to make this easier, as part of their marketing strategy. In this paper, I look at the nature and quality of the discussions that occur on the fan mod sites as a form of participatory history. I also reflect on some of my own forays into modding commercial games in my teaching of ancient history: what works, what hasn’t, and where I want to take things next.

I’m looking at a lot of the literature on online learning right now, about how to assess the educational value of formal discussion fora (usually in the context of learning management systems), but I’m thinking it’s equally applicable to the fansites. Hmmm. Kevin’s also asked me to take everyone through the process of developing a mod or scenario in Civilization, ideally having something built at the end of the day. Again I say, hmmm. It’ll be fun, but I need to think how best to do that in a useful way that says something interesting and intelligent about history. Here’s Rob’s thoughts about the same conference and the idea that the ‘funnest’ narrative is going to be the one that wins. Civilization as a game is certainly about crafting narratives through play.

I need to dust off my copy of Civ. With one thing or another (including a small fire in the power supply of my computer yesterday!) I haven’t had a solid block of time to play/craft in what feels like ages.

The spatial analysis of past built environments: call for papers

from my inbox:


Dear All,
We would like to let you know about an interdisciplinary and international
workshop on spatial analysis of past built spaces that will take place in
Berlin on the 1st and 2nd of April 2010 (please see details below). Our
two-day workshop aims to promote discussion between a range of researchers in the disciplines of history/archaeology, urbanism, architecture, and computer science who have an interest in the spatial analysis of the built environment, and especially of historic and prehistoric spaces.

A number of very interesting speakers will be participating, and we would
be happy to consider a few more paper abstracts from colleagues willing to
share their views on a topic relevant to the aims of the workshop. Some of
the discussants and speakers will be:

Prof. Bill Hillier (keynote speaker-The Bartlett School of Architecture,
University College London)
Dr David Wheatley (University of Southampton)
Dr Graeme Earl (University of Southampton)
Hannah Stoeger (University of Leiden)
Prof. John Bintliff (University of Leiden)
Dr. Akkelies van Nes (Delft university of Technology)
Piraye Haciguzeller (Université catholique de Louvain)
Dr Quentin Letesson (Université catholique de Louvain)
Ulrich Thaler (German Archaeological Institute Athens)
Dr. Eleftheria Paliou (Topoi Excellence Cluster)

If you are interested in participating please send us your abstracts
(30min for presentation +questions) at by the
20th of January 2010.

All the best,
The organisers
Eleftheria Paliou
Undine Lieberwirth
Silvia Polla

Interdisciplinary and international workshop on spatial analysis in past
built environments

The Area A-III (Archaeoinformatics) of Topoi Excellence Cluster, is
organising a two-day workshop on “Spatial analysis of past built spaces”.
The workshop is scheduled for the 1st and 2nd of April 2010, at the Topoi
building, Free University, Berlin. The two-day workshop aims to promote
discussion among a range of researchers in the disciplines of, history/archaeology, urbanism, architecture, and computer science who have an interest in the formal spatial analysis of past built environments. A
summary of the workshop can be found below. More information about the
Topoi Excellence Cluster can be found at:

The workshop is funded by the Topoi Excellence Cluster and there are no
registration fees.

Summary of the workshop:
Within archaeology, computer-based spatial analysis (for example,
GIS-based analysis) has been widely applied to the investigation of
historic and prehistoric space, both domestic and ritual. Typically,
however, the focus has been on larger spatial scales (‘landscapes’) rather
than urban spaces and buildings. More recently, a range of formal spatial
analytical methods have begun to be developed for the study of human
engagement, experience and socialisation within the built environment.
Many, although not all, of these emanate from the fields of architectural
and urban studies. Methodologies whose origins lie in Hillier and Hanson’s
Space Syntax, and in formal methods developed in the field of urban
studies (using, for example, axial and visibility graph analysis, are now gaining in popularity among researchers of historic and prehistoric urban environments; concepts such as visibility, movement, and accessibility within urban spaces have been given increasingly more weight in contemporary studies of built spaces
dated in a variety of periods, such as the Aegean Bronze Age, Iron Age,
Roman period, Byzantine and Medieval Eras. The application of these new
methods within the realms of history and archaeology therefore appears
promising. Archaeological and historical research would clearly have a lot
to gain from theoretical and methodological frameworks that aim to
investigate human-environment relationships and social aspects of built
space. Equally, archaeological and historical approaches may have a
distinct contribution to make to contemporary architectural theory and
urban design concepts. An interdisciplinary meeting that brings together a
variety of researchers including archaeologists, architects, urban
planners and computer scientists to discuss common areas of interest
could, therefore, encourage new directions of research in the study of
built environment.

Presentations and discussion will take place mainly at the first day of
the workshop. The program will be arranged so that around two-thirds of
time will be dedicated to pre-prepared material, and one third for open
discussion. The invited participants will be asked to make a presentation
on spatial analysis methods that are applicable in past built
environments, such as access analysis, visibility graph analysis, isovist
analysis, agent-based models of pedestrian movement, 3D visibility
approaches. These topics raise questions which would benefit greatly from
a collaborative framework of specialists. These include:

How can spatial analysis facilitate a better understanding of human
engagement, experience and socialization in prehistoric and historic

Can methodologies developed for the investigation of contemporary
environments be successfully applied in historical and archaeological
datasets? What are the limitations? Which research directions have greater
potential to prove fruitful in future research on historic and prehistoric
built spaces?

What, if anything, can archaeological and historical perspectives
contribute to research into contemporary architectural and urban studies?

Are there any human behavioral processes in the built environment that are
common to modern, historic and prehistoric people?

The second day will be partly dedicated to a series of ‘show and tell’
demonstrations of software and analytical methods. An open forum will be
organised, with both presentation and computational facilities available
to those that are interested in participating to this event. Researchers
will be able to demonstrate software, data sets or tools, to run ‘hands
on’ demonstrations and discussions about spatial analysis in built spaces.

Call for Papers: Complex Networks

Arts | Humanities | Complex Networks
– a Leonardo satellite symposium at NetSci 2010

is taking place at BarabásiLab – Center for Complex Network Research,
Northeastern University in Boston, MA, on Monday, May 10, 2010.


By means of keynotes, contributed talks and interdisciplinary discussion we will explore and identify important issues surrounding the convergence of arts, humanities and complex networks. On the one hand we will concentrate on network structure and dynamics in areas ranging from art history and archeology to music, film and image science. In the same time we are interested in the development and critique of network visualizations from medieval manuscripts to the latest tools, such as Cytoscape and Processing. Our dual focus is based on the opinion that the study of networks and the study of visualizations of these networks complement each other, much in the same way as archeology cannot live without self-reflective art history – studying the represented always presupposes the study of representation. Bringing together network scientists and specialists from the arts and humanities we strive for a better understanding of networks and their visualizations, resulting in better images of networks, and a better use of these images. Running parallel to the NetSci2010 conference, the symposium will also provide a unique opportunity to mingle with leading researchers and practitioners of complex network science, potentially sparking fruitful collaborations.

Confirmed keynote speakers include:
Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg (IBM Visual Communication Lab, Boston):
Ward Shelley (New York artist):

In addition to the keynotes we are looking for ten 15 minute contributions in order to cover a large territory around arts, humanities and complex networks.

Abstracts should not exceed 200-300 words. Applications should include one relevant URL and your most awesome figure. Please send a one page PDF not exceeding 500kb to:

Selected original papers will be published in the Leonardo Journal, MIT Press.
Proceedings will be published online.

Important dates:
The deadline for applications is January 22, 2010.
Decisions for acceptance will be sent out by February 7.

Possible subjects include:
* Multi-modal networks of features and meta-data in art, film, music and literature;
* Citation and transmission of motifs (Mnemosyne);
* Emergence and Evolution of canon in art, music, literature and film;
* Evolution of communities of practice in art and science;
* History of network visualization (genealogies, trees, matrices);
* Art history of taxonomy and evolutionary models (like Darwin‘s corals vs. Wallace‘s trees);
* Networks in architecture (from the Ekistics movement to modern traffic planning);
* Cultural exchange and trade networks (from the Neolithic to modern supply chains);
* Contemporary art and network science;
* Network structure in cultural heritage, film and music databases;…

Attending our symposium will be free of charge. As space is limited, we require registration. Registration will open on January 22, 2010 at

NetSci 2010 attendees can register directly now. For the NetSci 2010 registration fee and deadline please see

The symposium is organized by Maximilian Schich (Art Historian at BarabásiLab), and co-chaired by Roger Malina (Executive Editor at Leonardo journal) and Isabel Meirelles (Associate Professor at Dept. of Art + Design, Northeastern University).

The symposium is a satellite to NetSci 2010 and counts with the support of the BarabásiLab – CCNR and Dept. of Art + Design, both at Northeastern University in Boston, and Leonardo/ISAST.


Arts | Humanities | Complex Networks:
Dept. Art+Design:




2009 NAACSOS Annual Conference

October 23-24, 2009


This year our NAACSOS Annual Conference will he held on 23-24 October in Tempe, Arizona. It will be hosted by The Center of Social Dynamics and Complexity at Arizona State University.

Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity

Tempe, AZ 85287-4804

Over the past decade simulating social processes has achieved some level of credibility — and yet progress in this area is stifled because of the lack of agreement on several critical core features. The objective of the 2009 conference is to allow scientists the opportunity to present work in this area that extends and solidifies the legitimacy of this methodology. Specifically, the conference organizers are asking that presenters use their models to address some of the following:

· Platform selection

· Validation – using theoretical constructs or extant data

· Agent construction

· Designing social simulations experiments

· Integrating humans into simulations

· Integrating GIS and time into models

· Data reduction and analysis of simulation outcomes

· Integrating social network methods into simulation models

· Integrating feedback into agent behavior

· Agent and system evolution using agent cooperation and competition

· Integrating Individual based models from biology and ecology with agent based models

· Interfacing social simulation and social science theory construction

All fields of social and organizational inquiry are encouraged, including disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary work. Integrative research in computational social and organizational sciences is particularly encouraged.

Submission of Abstracts

Electronic submissions of abstracts (300 words maximum) will be through EasyChair ( The abstract should articulate the objectives of the presenter, a brief but thorough description of the research, and the expected gain by those attending the talk. Specific details about submission will posted on the conference website: .

Important Dates
July 15, 2009: Deadline for submission of abstracts or proposed posters.
August 15, 2009: Acceptance/Rejection notification.
October 15, 2009: Final camera-ready abstracts due in electronic form. Accepted abstracts will be distributed to the conference participants.

Review process

All submissions will be peer reviewed by at least two reviewers. We will be accepting only those abstracts that indicate high quality research and are consistent with the objectives of the conference.

Conference Chair

William A. Griffin, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity

Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-4804

If you have questions please contact:

Lyn Mowafy, Coordinator
ASU Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity
IS&T Building 1, Room 412

Local Program Committee

Marco Janssen, Center for Institutional Diversity

Erik Johnston, Center for Policy Informatics

Conference: Trade, Commerce, and the State in the Roman World, 1-3 Oct 2009

As I don’t expect I’ll be in Oxford any time soon :( , maybe somebody could take notes on William Harris’ presentation on the timber trade in the Roman world? Many thanks! I’ve been interested in that trade for a while – it is woefully underexplored – and I have some thoughts on it coming out in the Cambridge Companion to the City of Rome (due out soon, I believe!), but these are mostly cursory. I’m imagining someone like Harris probably has some very interesting things to say…

Conference: Trade, Commerce, and the State in the Roman World

Oxford Conference on Trade, Commerce, and the State in the Roman World
1–3 October 2009

The Oxford Roman Economy Project will be holding a three-day conference
on trade, commerce, and the state on 1–3 October, with sessions on
institutions and government stimuli, trade within the empire, and trade
across imperial boundaries. Attendance is free, but, in order for us to
plan numbers, please register with Gareth Hughes
( orinst.ox.

Thursday 1 October 2009

Government intervention or stimulation through fiscal instruments,
markets, subsidies for military, long-distance supply etc.

10:00–10:30 Coffee and registration

10:30–13:00 Morning session

• Philip Kay, Oxford —Financial institutions and structures in
the last century of the Roman Republic

• Alan Bowman, Oxford —Taxation and fiscal controls

• Boudewijn Sirks, Oxford— Law, commerce, and finance

13:00–14:00 Lunch

14:00–15:30 Early-afternoon session

• Elio Lo Cascio, Rome Sapienza— Market regulation and
transaction costs in the Roman Empire

• Jean-Jacques Aubert, Neuhâtel—respondent

• General discussion

15:30–16:00 Tea

16:00–18:00 Late-afternoon session

• Hannah Friedman, Oxford—Supplying the Faynan: local resources
vs imperial will

• Salvatore Martino, Lecce —Transport in the Roman
Mediterranean: an integrated system

• Colin Adams, Liverpool — respondent

18:00 Drinks

Friday 2 October 2009

Trade and manufacture within the empire.

9:00–10:30 Early-morning session

• William Harris, Columbia — Trade in timber under the Roman

• Ivan Radman, Arh. Mus. Zagreb —Prices and costs in the textile
industry in the light of the lead tags from Siscia

10:30–11:00 Coffee

11:00–12:30 Late-morning session

• Ben Russell, Oxford — Moving mountains: contextualising the
imperial stone trade

• Emanuele Papi, Siena — Import and export in Mauretania
Tingitana: the evidence from Tamusida

12:30–13:30 Lunch

13:30–15:00 Early-afternoon session

• Danièle Foy, Aix-Marseille —Lacirculation du verre en
Méditerranée antique : matières premières, produitsfinis,
vaisselle, vitres et contenants

• Michael Fulford, Reading — The pull of the north: Gallo-Roman
sigillata in Britain in the 2nd and 3rdcenturies

15:00–15:30 Tea

15:30–17:30 Late-afternoon session

• Michel Bonifay, Aix-Marseille — The diffusion of African
pottery under the Roman Empire: evidence and interpretation

• Paul Reynolds, Barcelona — Supply networks of the Roman East
and West: interaction, fragmentation, and the origins of Byzantine

• Andrew Wilson, Oxford—respondent

17:30–18:00 General discussion

18:00 Drinks

Saturday 3 October 2009

Eastern and Red Sea trade, India, Arabia and the deserts.

9:00–11:00 Early-morning session

• Dario Nappo, Oxford — Costand profit in Red Sea trade

• Jennifer Gates-Foster, Texas — Eastern Desert trade

• Steven Sidebotham, Delaware —respondent

11:00–11:30 Coffee

11:30–13:30 Late-morning session

• David Peacock, Southampton — The Roman Red Sea ports and the
Chinese connection

• Barbara Davidde, ISCR Rome — The port of Qana, a junction
point between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea: the underwater

• Roberta Tomber, British Museum—respondent

13:30–14:30 Lunch

14:30–16:00 Early-afternoon session

• David Graf, Miami — The Silk Road between Syria and China

• Raffaela Pierobon Benoit, Naples Frederico II — From Palmyra
to Northern Mesopotamia: the archaeological evidence

16:00–16:30 Tea

16:30–18:00 Late-afternoon session

• David Mattingly, Leicester — Rome and the Garamantes:
practicalities and realities of Saharan trade

• General discussion

18:00 Drinks