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Agent-Based Modeling for Archaeologists: Part 1 of 3

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 May 2019

Iza Romanowska*
Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Carrer de Jordi Girona, 29-31, 08034 Barcelona, Spain
Stefani A. Crabtree
Utah State, University Department of Environment and Society, 5200 Old Main Hill, Logan UT 84322, USA (; The Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Rd. Santa Fe, NM, USA; The Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity, 8 bis Rue Charles V, Paris 75004, France,
Kathryn Harris
Science & Technology Policy Fellow, The American Association for the Advancement of Science and The American Geophysical Union, 2000 Florida Avenue. NW, Washington, DC 20009, USA (
Benjamin Davies
Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, 260 S. Central Campus Drive, Room 4625, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA (
(corresponding author,


Formal models of past human societies informed by archaeological research have a high potential for shaping some of the most topical current debates. Agent-based models, which emphasize how actions by individuals combine to produce global patterns, provide a convenient framework for developing quantitative models of historical social processes. However, being derived from computer science, the method remains largely specialized in archaeology. In this paper and the associated tutorial, we provide a jargon-free introduction to the technique, its potential and limits as well as its diverse applications in archaeology and beyond. We discuss the epistemological rationale of using computational modeling and simulation, classify types of models, and give an overview of the main concepts behind agent-based modeling.

Modelos cuantitativos robustos de sociedades humanas en el pasado tienen el potencial de informar los temas de debate actual, particularmente modelos informados por estudios de arqueología. Modelos basados en sistemas multiagente proveen un marco práctico para explorar modelos cuantitativos de sociedades en el pasado. Aun así, al ser un método de informática no es aún bien establecido entre la mayoría de arqueólogos. En este artículo y el tutorial que lo acompaña, proveemos una introducción a estos métodos, libres de jerga técnica, su potencial y sus límites, y también las diversas aplicaciones en arqueología. Además, discutimos la epistemología de utilizar modelos computacionales y de simulación, clasificamos los tipos de modelos, y proveemos un resumen de los conceptos principales de los modelos multiagente.

How to Special Section: A Step-by-Step Guide for Using Agent-Based Modeling in Archaeological Research
Copyright 2019 © Society for American Archaeology 

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