Analog Modeling of the Neolithic and Bronze Age Socio-Environmental Interactions in Northern Central Europe, 4000–1500 BC

This project develops an analog model for an agential and participatory interpretation of selected socio-environmental interactions of the Neolithic and Bronze Age period in Northern Central Europe. An analog model is a physical, ruleset-governed model on the tabletop that can be manipulated (played) by researchers. The model's elements and their interactions can mime those in real prehistoric processes and offer a unique, agential and participatory access to hypothetical prehistoric developments. The project will facilitate the reflective study of past-present connectivities in which researchers design and play out prehistoric interactions on the tabletop, then reflectively analyse and iterate the results to develop insights into prehistoric processes. The project will focus on modeling the effects of political organisation forms on selected Neolithic and early to middle Bronze Age processes. The model will also be used for public outreach purposes.

The analog model will deal with two major prehistoric phenomena pertaining to our chosen geographic space and time: first, the model focuses on examining the drivers and interactions of the neolithic development towards sedentary lifeways and, second, the process of increasing social differentiation, the development of social hierarchies and inequalities, towards the Bronze Age. In these contexts, the analog model can investigate the strategic action landscape and the costs and benefits of particular developmental pathways from the perspective of agents (players) able to bring about these developments through their actions and interactions with others. An interactive, agential model can investigate the political strategies deployed between players both on the tabletop and in the so-called ÒmetagameÓ, whether it is that they seek to form exclusionary and hierarchical organisations or perhaps corporate, heterarchical, anarchist, and/or co-operative forms may be preferred.

While game-based learning has made inroads into learning in the academia, schools, and elsewhere, analog modeling as a tool of academic research is notably less developed. Analog modeling has a long-standing history of extensive use in other disciplines, most notably in military and strategic analysis and planning routinely conducted by the world’s militaries and alliances. In this area, extensive methodologies and guidelines have been developed indicating the seriousness of the effort, in many cases going back decades. The potential value of analog modeling to play through scenarios, analyse, and understand drivers of human interactions in landscapes cannot be overestimated, yet the tool remains largely unused in archaeology and the academia more broadly.

A physical analog model can be built and iterated with a relative ease given the physical nature of the components. An additional benefit is the visibility of interactions and dynamics in an analog model as they happen on the tabletop guided by rules known to the model’s users.

This project is a cooperation between the ROOTS subclusters Conflict, Knowledge, and Inequality as well as the Communications Platform and the Reflective Turn Forum

Involved ROOTS Members:

VPJ Arponen, Reflective Turn Forum, ROOTS, Contact:
Jutta Kneisel, Knowledge Cluster, ROOTS
Oliver Nakoinz, Conflict Cluster, ROOTS
René Ohlrau, Reflective Turn Forum, ROOTS
Ilka Parchman, Communications Platform, ROOTS
Maria Wunderlich, ROOTS

External Collaborator:

John Robb, Cambridge University, United Kingdom


Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions