5A Modelling approaches to analyse the socio-economic context in archaeology

Monica De Cet, Philip Verhagen

The analysis of the socio-economic context of past societies is a vital investigative tool for archaeology. The concept of socio-economic context itself entails an umbrella term, mostly used to designate the combination, interaction and development of social and economic factors in relation to specific circumstances, events or environments.  Yet, socio-economics as a science also studies how economic activity is shaped by social processes, as well as how societies progress, stagnate, and decline in response to economic developments.

As archaeologists, we have often explored this vast research field by trying to model the socio-economic features of past communities. A wide array of studies using GIS-based modelling have focused on topics such as reconstructing (pre-)historic land use, agricultural potential, and population dynamics. Others have worked on the concepts of workforce, energy expenditure and least-cost paths, or have emphasised the importance of socio-cognitive aspects and human decision-making. Finally, the relevance of eco-dynamics, social spaces, and productive and demographic development have also been examined.

The analysis of past socio-economics through GIS-based modelling represents a broad field of research in which discussion and definition are still much-needed, and the integration of method and theory is often poor. Hence, the main aim of this session is to stimulate a concrete dialogue between interested researchers about the state of the art and recent advances in this field. Our specific objectives cover the exploration of current modelling techniques together with their strengths, weaknesses, problems encountered, and feasible solutions. In particular, we want to highlight the most common issues faced in the methodological process. Critical points such as the integration of theory and method, selection and classification of socio-economic variables, reliability and resolution of modelling outputs, questions of temporal and spatial scale, and the role of multi-disciplinary research will be discussed.

We invite papers that analyse, through GIS-based modelling, specific topics in past socio-economic analysis, potentially related to:

  • Human decision-making and energy expenditure
  • Productive and demographic processes
  • Strategies of resource exploitation and food storage

We encourage submissions that illustrate traditional, new, and experimental methods applied to case-studies that possibly cover both local/ regional geographical scales over a long or short time frame.

KEYWORDS: Socio-economic context, past communities, GIS-based modelling, socio-economic analysis

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