Archaeology And Computer Modeling

Inside Science has an article on using computer modeling in archaeology. The article begins,

Making sense of the shards, scraps and other clues left behind by past societies compels archaeologists to study far-ranging topics, from agriculture to art and chemistry to linguistics. Until recently, however, it has not often been an experimental science.
Advanced computer models are changing the field by projecting the interactions between people and the landscape. They track agricultural activity, soil erosion, game animal populations, and more. Models enable archaeologists to explore life in past societies, helping them connect field observations to a sequence of events that explains them. The results may even help predict the future.

The article features the work and views of Michael Barton, of Arizona State University in Tempe, and Timothy Kohler, of Washington State University. I’m never exactly sure what of make of these approaches. And the predicting the future stuff is particularly puzzling. “Prediction is very hard, especially about the future (Yogi Berra).” I do think that archaeology has too often neglected quantitative techniques to its own determent. I’m not sure there is anything all that new in the article but it is abnormally interesting.

One thought on “Archaeology And Computer Modeling”

  1. I’m all for computer-aided study. There’s a lot of information out there and assembling that data into human-friendly visualizations can make things clearer while opening the door to further discoveries that may not have been found otherwise.
    As for using computers as modernday oracles, there’s an old saying in the computer field: The program is only as good as the programmer. Perhaps another handy saying may be: Us humans are unpredictable little animals.

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