Agents Adopting Agriculture: Modeling the Agricultural Transition

Elske van der Vaart, Albert Hankel, Bart de Boer & Bart Verheij

The question "What drove foragers to farm?" has drawn answers from many different disciplines, often in the form of verbal models. Here, we take one such model, that of the ideal free distribution, and implement it as an agent-based computer simulation. Populations distribute themselves according to the marginal quality of different habitats, predicting settlement patterns and subsistence methods over both time and space. Our experiments and our analyses thereof show that central conclusions of the ideal free distribution model are reproduced by our agent-based simulation, while at the same time offering new insights into the theory's underlying assumptions. Generally, we demonstrate how agent-based models can make use of empirical data to reconstruct realistic environmental and cultural contexts, enabling concrete tests of the explanatory power of anthropological models put forward to explain historical developments, such as agricultural transitions, in specific times and places.

The paper received the best paper award of the SAB 2006 conference.

Vaart, E. van der, A. Hankel, B. de Boer & B. Verheij (2006). Agents Adopting Agriculture: Modeling the Agricultural Transition. From Animals to Animats 9, 9th International Conference on Simulation of Adaptive Behavior, SAB 2006, Rome, Italy, September 25-29, 2006. Proceedings (Lecture Notes in Computer Science: Vol. 4095), pp. 750-761. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

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