Results for simulation:
- computer simulation
- SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: computer simulation studies
DEFINITION: Reconstruction of the past based on the production of computerized models. The computer model describes ancient conditions and variables and those are used to generate a sequence of events that are compared against the known archaeological record. The computer imitates the dynamic behavior of an explicit model and helps scientists examine how such systems respond to changing conditions and also to refine and test hypotheses about the past. In an example study of hunter-gatherers, the effect of various changes in the natural environment on such factors as the population settlement pattern or subsistence could be monitored; or the growth of a settlement system could be studied under different conditions of population, economy, technological, or environmental change. The relationships between the various elements in the cultural system must be specified, and then any variety of actual conditions can be simulated. The data used could be derived from observations and the simulation used to examine the effect of different assumptions; the results could then be compared to the observed data to test their validity.
- CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The use of a model to simulate an observed phenomenon. In modern times, simulation is done by the formulation and computer implementation of dynamic models, i.e. models concerned with change through time. Simulation is a useful heuristic device, and can be of considerable help in the development of explanation. Models can be used in archaeology to simulate, for example, the distribution of a group of artifacts or settlements.
- experimental archaeology
- SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: experimental studies
DEFINITION: The reconstruction and reproduction of past behavior and processes to obtain or evaluate archaeological data and test hypotheses about the way man dealt with subsistence and technology. The experiments involve such activities as creating and using stone tools, duplicating prehistoric methods of farming, building, and travel, etc. The term is normally used only for those experiments which deal with material culture, such as industry, the building of structures, mining, and crop processing. The more theoretical aspects, such as ideas about the development and organization of society, are generally thought of a part of processual archaeology rather than experimental. Reconstructions can be based on excavated ground plans, and some of these have been deliberately burned or left to decay so that an idea can be gained of what the archaeologist might expect to find later. Boats have been built and sailed, food has been cooked in earth ovens and eaten, stone monuments have been laboriously erected, and trumpets and stringed instruments have been made and played. Although past events are not exactly repeatable, experimental simulation can prove very instructive and is being increasingly used. One of the earliest examples was General Pitt-Rivers' observations of the rate and duration of ditch silting on his excavations at Cranbourne Chase in the 19th century.
- CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A devices used by archaeologists to aid the interpretation of data; models consist of hypothetical reconstructions of dynamic processes partly based on material remains and partly testing the validity of interpretations of material culture. They are idealized representations of the real world, used to demonstrate a simplified version of some of its characteristics. Models vary in complexity and can be physical representations or literary descriptions. It might be a physical model of a site or landscape to explain some feature of its function or organization; such models at full scale are well known in experimental archaeology. A simple model might be a map showing, for example, the distribution of sites in a region or a scatter diagram showing the relationship between two measured variables. Models need not be based on specific archaeological data, but can be derived from a number of sources: invented data can be generated by computer simulation; geometrical and mathematical models can also be used, such as central place theory or the rank-size rule in the study of regional settlement, or catastrophe theory in the study of cultural collapse. General systems theory can also be a source of systems models designed to show a simplified version of the working of a complex social or economic organization. The term model can also be used in a less specific sense for any general mode of thought in which archaeological research is conducted, for example descriptive, historical, or ecological. Models may also be diachronic or synchronic. The concept of formulating a model, testing it and refining it, is frequently applied in a non-mathematical way and this is the way in which it is most often used in archaeology. In this sense it is either synonymous with 'hypothesis' or refers to a number of interlocking hypotheses.
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