Exploring ArchaeoSim

These questions are to help you explore ArchaeoSim. They are not your written assignment to hand in. Do as little or as much of this as you please.

The questions were written by Ginger Booth, the programmer, not Harvey Weiss, the archaeologist. Dr. Weiss may revise the language when he gets the chance.

  1. Select Scenario | IIId - Leilan Early State. The original data (in 2001) showed a mean rainfall of 400 mm, with a standard deviation of 140. In scenario crafting, the programmer decided to set σ=50 instead.
    1. Try raising σ (mm) to 140 on the Edit Parameters dialog. Then re-run the simulator with the Run-to-End button. What happens? Try finding the highest value you can for rain standard deviation for this scenario, without losing population. Note: rainfall is random. You may need to rewind and re-run the simulator several times to be sure a result isn't a fluke.
    2. Set σ back to 50, and instead lower the rainfall mean to 370. That's a 12% cut in rainfall. Which is worse, greater variability? or less rain on average?
    3. Try raising the rainfall to a mean of 1050mm. That's slightly less than the average annual rainfall in New Haven, CT. Is New Haven a good place to grow wheat?
    4. Select Scenario | IIc - Abrupt Climate Change Version 2. Set mean rainfall to 336—plenty for growing grain. Set σ to zero, for no variability. What happens? Oops, we're feeding Akkad—set local grain-year stores limit to 10, for essentially no limit. Now we're only feeding Subir. Try running the simulator again. The new scenario should be survivable. How high a rain σ can this scenario survive? (Historically, it didn't survive. Subir was abandoned.)
    5. Modern climate change is expected to bring more rain with greater variability to the grain-growing regions of North America. Is that a good thing?
  2. The parameter hectares per laborer grows from 1.2 in Early Leilan, to 1.8 in Khabur. Let's say you think this is hogwash—technology didn't improve that much. (Did social organization? Human and livestock domestication?) Select Scenario | I - Khabur and set hectares per laborer to 1.2. Run this new scenario 10 times. How many times out of 10 does it fail? Set it back to 1.8, and test survivability again.
  3. Consider biodiversity in the Leilan area from 2600 to 1728 BC. Take into account the fallow fields—not idle, but growing legumes and hay for the herds of livestock, especially the beloved sheep. These hayfields probably aren't weeded. What kinds of species hit it rich? What kinds are systematically eradicated?
  4. Archaeologists estimate population density at 125 or 250 people/site hectare. Try out the higher figure for several scenarios (town density). Khabur has the highest population. Which density do you think works better, 125 or 250?
  5. You need to try it once.... Select Scenario | Resettlement. Half the fields are fallow. Set fallow fraction to 0.25. What happens? (Note: this simulator uses a very simple model for fallowing. In real fields, land productivity is damaged for the long term.) Try fallow frace of 0, as well.

    Fallowing the grain fields wasn't optional. People learned this very early in the history of agriculture.

  6. Compare Scenario | Akkadian Version 1 and Akkadian Version 2. These are alternate stories for how the Akkadian Empire exploited Subir. In Version 1, taxes are doubled, and the laborers forced to work harder (cultivate more land). In Version 2, local taxes are the same as usual and farmers handle only a little more land than in the Leilan Mature State scenario. Instead, Akkad takes only the surplus after leaving the locals with 1.6 grain-years for their local rations. Which system gets better results for Akkad? For Subir? (Watch the Grain Stores/Taxes plot.) Which is worse when the rains fail?
  7. Compare Scenario | IIc Abrupt Climate Change Version 1 and IIc Abrupt Climate Change Version 2. These two scenarios use different maps, but it doesn't greatly matter. More importantly, in one scenario the people flee, and in the other they stay and starve. They also use the two different Akkadian tax schemes. In the end, those doesn't greatly matter, either. The rains failed, and this way of life couldn't continue in Subir.

    "From 2006 to 2011 [AD], 60 percent of Syria’s land experienced, in the words of one expert, the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago." (Francesco Femia) Millions of farmers fled the drought into urban areas, and a civil war was born.

    Assuming the rest of the region also suffered from drought when the rains failed in ancient Subir, what do you think the prospects were for refugees from the drought? Compare and contrast their plight with that of modern Syrians.

Ginger Booth, October 2014