Since 2010 the research team has developed an innovative interdisciplinary methodology aimed to model and simulate past complex societies and their interaction with the environment. This research has been conducted under the project Simulpast. Social and Environmental Transitions: Simulating the past to understand human behaviour (CSD2010-00034) funded by the CONSOLIDER-INGENIO program (Spanish MICINN). Simulpast project gathers numerous Spanish research teams (i.e. CSIC-Instituto Milà i Fontanals of Barcelona, Universitat de Barcelona, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona Supercomputing Centre within the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Universitat de Girona, Universidad Pompeu Fabra, Universidad de Burgos) and international collaborators (http://simulpast.imf.csic.es/). The transdisciplinary methodological approach developed in the framework of the Simulpast project has enabled the definition of the main guidelines of computer modelling and simulation in the Humanities. In the historical and archaeological research, the creation of a methodology on simulation presents a unique opportunity for the development and validation of historical explanatory models, using new techniques and approaches, in order to improve our knowledge on past societies and to get a better understanding of today’s world.
Among the case studies included in the Simulpast project, the team led by Dr. J.M. Gurt (ERAAUB, UB) is in charge of CS5 “Oasis construction in Central Asia”. Based on a socio-ecological approach, we formalize and simulate existing theoretical models on the long-term interaction between specific socio-ecological units —agricultural sedentary societies and nomadic pastoralists— in arid Eurasia and, more specifically, in Central Asia. Irrigated agriculture and nomadic herding are generally regarded as antagonistic forms of exploitation of the environment. The former is associated with high densities of population and complex socio-political structures; the latter is linked to very low population and tribal forms of social organization. However, recent research has shown that these two systems of land use, and their corresponding social and political structures, have always been closely related in Central Asia. Therefore, it seems more correct to study these societies as a single complex system, resulting in a non-linear interaction between the activities performed by farmers and herders, rather than looking at them as two separate systems. While the geographical unit is delimited by the restrictions and possibilities imposed by the climate, the time frame has been extended expressly so that the results are meaningful and appropriate to the study of any other society not affected by an industrialization process. Moreover, the research emphasizes the long term evolution of the settlement patterns. Up to now, computational modelling and simulation allowed to explore (Angourakis et al., 2014, 2017):
1) The role of competition between two diametrically exclusive land uses —sedentary agriculture and nomadic herding— in the construction and maintenance of riverine oases in different conditions. This dynamic of competition has been documented historically and ethnographically in the western Sahel, Egypt, Thrace and Macedonia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, including the Eurasian steppe.
2) The creation and maintenance of cooperative institutions in small-scale societies, in order to investigate how they are generated and sustained, and which conditions promote or hinder cooperation. Finally, we seek to identify what implications these institutions have for the survival of the community as a whole. The set of data provided by our research includes large databases comprising sedentary and nomadic settlements, necropolis and the associated anthropological and archaeometric data. The information is complemented with geo-referenced geographic and palaeoenvironmental data (GIS), with ethnographic evidence recorded during the Soviet and pre-Soviet periods, and bibliographic data recorded within the Mendeley Reference Management system. The results obtained from the two main explorations previously mentioned have been published in two manuscripts in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory (Springer) and presented at international conferences, such as: the 24th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists hold in Barcelona (5-8th September 2018), the 82nd Annual Meeting: Society for American Archaeology held in Vancouver, Canada (29 March-2 April 2017); the 80th Annual Meeting: Society for America Archaeology, held at San Francisco, USA (15-19 April 2015); the European Conference on Complex Systems ECCS”13 held at Barcelona, Spain (10-20 September 2013); the 17th World Congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, held at Manchester, UK (5-9 August 2013); the Computer Applications & Quantitative Methods in Archaeology, held at Southampton, UK (26-29 March 2012).
Follow the research also in Researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/project/Simulpast-simulating-the-Past-to-understand-Human-behaviour-Case-Study-5-The-formation-of-land-use-patterns-in-Central-Asia