Roaming the past through the eyes of a computer. And trowel. And occasional microscope.
The past is one run of an experiment that cannot be re-run. But we can have a go with simplified reality in computer simulations. In my PhD research, I built agent-based models to test ideas about the emergence of complex societies.
You are what you… leave behind as rubbish. That includes food remains. If the conditions are right, we can find whole food items or pieces of plants. If not, sometimes we can find traces not visible to the human eye. I have worked at recovering and identifying macro- and micro- botanical remains.
A straight edge is a straight edge, no matter the dig. I have worked on several archaeological excavations around the world, with all the challenges that different sediments and weather conditions present.
I’m Alice Williams, freshly-minted doctor of theoretical archaeology. I’ve just finished my PhD using agent-based models to investigate how and why human societies became more complex in the past.
Agent-based models are a simplification of reality that allow us to test things that would be impossible to do in the real world. Like re-running the past under different environmental conditions to see what happens.
I came to agent-based models from a solid belief that the invisible individuals of the past are important to find. We can think ourselves into other’s shoes with stories, but agent-based models are a method to test those stories.
Before becoming an agent-based modeller, I used plant remains to try to learn more about people in the past. In the picture, I’m attempting to find some macro-botanical remains (like charred seeds) using bucket flotation. It is as fun as it looks!
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