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Tom Brughmans: Simulating Roman Economies

Date and Time: 
Thursday, April 15, 2021. 10:00 AM
Meeting Location: 
Zoom
Workshop: 
Data Scarcity in the Ancient Mediterranean
Meeting Description: 

Computational modelling and especially agent-based modelling (ABM) has been applied in Roman studies to explore phenomena as diverse as the structure of Roman social networks, the supply of troops on the Limes, flows on the Roman transport system, and the agricultural productivity of regions. This paper will argue that Roman studies should add modelling approaches as tools of the trade, and will reflect on the potential and challenges of doing so. The arguments will be illustrated through examples from studies of the Roman economy and the speaker's personal experiences as a romanist modeler. Tom Brughmans will focus on attempts at explaining the changing distribution patterns of tableware in the eastern Mediterranean. What explanatory factors might be key drivers of this change: the structuring effect of social networks on the flow of information, transport costs, differences in urban population size, the economic strategies of tableware salespeople? A set of increasingly elaborate computational models will be presented to explore the explanatory potential of these factors.

Tom Brughmans is an associate professor at the Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) and Classical Archaeology. His research interests include the study of Roman economic and urban phenomena, past social networks, and visual signalling systems. He performs much of his work by applying computational methods such as network science, agent-based simulation, and geographical information systems. His research projects MERCURY and SIMREC developed educational resources and case studies to make simulation studies of the Roman economy more common (Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship and Marie-Curie Individual Fellowship). His ongoing project MINERVA aims to develop a highly detailed network model of the Roman road system, and perform simulation experiments to explore the centuries-long distribution patterns revealed by Roman tableware and amphora data. Tom's research blog houses resources for archaeological network research.

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