[Seminar] Modelling Social Complexity & State Formation in Early Egypt


Wednesday, July 17, 2024 - 10:00 to 11:00


L4E01, Lab 4


Speaker: Jessica Nitschke, Research Fellow, Stellenbosch University

Title: Modelling Social Complexity & State Formation in Early Egypt

Abstract: The archaeological record shows that from ca. 4000 BC onwards, Neolithic farming communities in Upper Egypt underwent a process of increasing social complexity. This included a rise in wealth inequality and hierarchy; settlement agglomeration; and the development of complex cultural ideology, culminating in the emergence of a unified territorial state under autocratic rule encompassing the whole Nile Valley by ca. 3200-3100. The rise of the ancient Egyptian state and emergence of the Pharaonic culture has long been a point of fascination for scholars, but without a clear consensus on how or why this state emerged; historians and archaeologists still struggle to adequately narrate and understand this process. 

This presentation will discuss what computational simulation, specifically Agent Based Modeling (ABM), can contribute to the discussion. Although ABMs have been used in archaeology for a long time, they have been employed in very limited way by historians as an analytical tool for understanding the past societies. Nitschke Lab has created multiple ABMs to test the prevailing theoretical models in historical scholarship and to develop new techniques that will lead to more robust models. This presentation will present the highlights of this work so far and point the way for future work. 

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