I would like to introduce myself: Deborah Priß (or Priss for non-German speakers), geoarchaeologist and ESR13 of the i-CONN network.
So, what is a geoarchaeologist? Basically, it’s a combination of an archaeologist, geographer and geologist. An archaeologist deals with the material remains of past humans (e.g. bones, pottery, settlements – no dinosaurs!). A geologist is concerned with the solid Earth, the structure underneath its surface, and the processes that formed it (e.g. tectonics, vulcanism, rock formation). A geographer focusses on Earth’s surface, the processes that shape it (e.g. erosion, deposition, soil formation) and how humans interact with it. Easy to see how those disciplines complement each other: The processes below the surface shape the way things look above the surface, and the surface is where we humans live and what we interact with. Geoarchaeology is therefore an interdisciplinary approach to evaluate how humankind and its environment interacted and influenced each other over millions of years.
Within i-CONN, I hence focus on how past societies behaved in and with the specific environments in which they were embedded. To be more precise, I want to investigate how ancient settlements were connected and if this connectivity somehow impacted their ability to deal with crises like climate change or diseases – current issues for our modern society. We could learn how to change our behaviour to shape a better future by understanding how humans thousands of years ago solved similar problems.
One way to investigate the connectivity of ancient civilisations is to take a look at their route networks. In the Khabur Valley (Syria) for example, an extensive system of ancient paths from the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2600-2000 BC), so-called hollow ways, has been discovered and reconstructed – over 6000 km in total. But this is just a snapshot and doesn’t tell us much about how the system emerged, evolved and functioned. Therefore, I will develop a computer simulation, an agent-based model, to learn about the dynamics that shaped the network. The settlements will be individual “agents” with specific attributes like food storage and population size and I will then program them to behave according to certain conditions – and see where that leads. Hopefully, the simulated network will match the real one, so that I can then use the model for a region where there is no such rich archaeological evidence for routes: The Konya-Karaman plains in Turkey during the Bronze and Iron Age (c. 3300 – 600 BC). We don’t have many remains of paths in this area, so I’m wondering if there has been a route system like the one in Syria and how might it have looked like.
But that’s not all: Once I have simulated the two route networks, I want to analyse them and see how the connections between settlements helped them overcome times of crises. For example, if there was a drought and the harvest was not enough to feed everyone, would the settlements help each other if they were connected through relationships of any kind? Or if there was a war and the young and strong men were recruited to defend the territory, would settlements support each other work the fields and herd the animals? What happens if a settlement is abandoned, how does that impact the other settlements?
Those are some of the questions I hope to answer during my time within I-CONN. But enough for now, more on this in later blogs – keep checking back to make sure to not miss anything!
Take care and see you later!