Not long ago, I picked up a book that was proposed to me by Andreas Angourakis (@AndrosSpica). The book is called “Agent-based modelling for Archaeology. Simulating the Complexity of Societies” by Iza Romanowska, Colin D. Wren and Stefani A. Crabtree. It is a book for learning Agent-based Modelling (ABM) for Archaeology. The book is good in teaching that, but what really intrigued me were the clever design and thoughtful lessons inside.

What you learn

So as stated in the beginning, the book is made for teaching ABM to archaeologists. ABM is used to simulate certain patterns within archaeological theory. You can for example simulate how vendors sell certain artefacts and then visualise the distribution of said artefact over a map. Or you can simulate certain settlement patterns depending on the climate over a long period of time. The possibilities are endless.

The authors also show a lot of possibilities in which ways archaeologists have used AGM and in which way they still do.

Why the book is great design

The nine lessons are build up multi-dimensionally. Wait, what? So first, you can go through them one after the other, divided in three major chapters (Learning to Walk, Learning to Run and Learning to Fly) with three lessons each (Movement, Exchange and Subsistence). Each lesson in a major chapter teaches you something different in ABM. Therefore, you can also go through the book vertically and read first all the lessons about movement. Or you choose your specific research question and only read the relevant lessons. It is basically up to you and I love it.

Beside that, the book is well-written, shows code in the correct manner and leaves space for notes at the end of each chapter. If you read the book closely, you’ll even find some easter eggs, that the authors thoughtfully implemented in the book. If you for example wonder about the strange symbols on the front matter, you’ll find a legend inside the book and see that they translate to ABMA or Agent-based modelling for Archaeology!

Should you give it a try?

Yes! Even if you are not interested in ABM. Why? Because with this book you’ll learn all the basics and if the lessons are too hard, you’ll find solutions and can watch the results. This way you understand at least why ABM is important for Archaeology. If you actually are interested in ABM, then you should read it also, as it gives you a didactically well-written handbook on how to use ABM and how to use it correctly. What if you are already an ABM professional? Well, I am guessing then you will be one of the authors or have bought the book anyway.

The book is free as a PDF by the way and very cheap as a printed version. So there is no reason not to try!

Sebastian Hageneuer

Founder & Editor

About the Author

My name is Sebastian. I am a research associate at the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Cologne, Germany, Discipline for Archaeoinformatics. My special interest lies in reconstructing ancient architecture and thinking about ways to present archaeological knowledge to other researchers and the public in an informative and appealing way. I teach 3D documentation of material culture as well as 3D modelling and archaeological reconstruction and work on several projects as part of my job.

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