MERCURY: simulating the Roman economy

Lecture by Tom Brughmans (University of Oxford).

2017.05.31 | Christina Levisen

Date Tue 20 Jun
Time 12:00 13:00
Location UrbNet 4230-232


In this presentation I will introduce project MERCURY and illustrate the simulation approach it advocates through a set of experiments concerning container recycling and product preference. What kinds of empire-wide distribution patterns of amphorae would we expect to see if we assume amphorae might have been recycled as containers to transport different types of goods? How does an individual’s or a community’s preference for one type of tableware over another affect the distribution of both? Are these processes even archaeologically visible: under what conditions do they lead to undeniably different distribution patterns as compared to processes that exclude these factors? Computational modelling is a particularly useful tool to address such questions, because it allows to simulate the expected data patterns of certain archaeological theories. A set of increasingly complex computational models will be presented to explore these questions. Particular emphasis will be placed on understanding the effects of the Roman transport network and the demand of urban centres on these processes.

MERCURY is a multidisciplinary project that will explore the most hotly debated questions about the Roman economy: was the Roman Imperial trade market equally integrated as nowadays? How important were social networks for structuring this flow of information? It will address two methodological issues currently preventing scholars from answering these questions: limited use of archaeological big data and the lack of quantitative comparisons of complex hypotheses. MERCURY will combine recent advances in computational network science and simulation methods with increasingly available archaeological big datasets.

Lecture/talk, History and archaeology