User Interface

This help file describes how to operate ArchaeoSim. Topics:

For details on what particular parameters mean, or do, please see Model and Parameters.

Screen Overview

At the top, the ArchaeoSim screen has a black navigation bar, similar to this help file. Help topics to left, and a logo linked to the Tel Leilan site to the right. Beneath this black bar, is the simulator.

A top bank of green buttons run the simulator. A separate button switches between print and screen layouts.

On the left of the screen, there's a Scenario selector, above a map of ancient Subir. The Scenarios list the archaeological periods of ancient Subir. Each period has a map and parameters. The button next to Scenarios displays the parameters. You can edit them to craft your own Scenario.

On the right of the screen, there's a Plot selector, above a data plot. There are three plots to choose between.


Run simulator one year.
Run a decade.
Run to end of scenario.
Rewind. Return to beginning of scenario.
Switch to vertical print layout, with all plots and parameters visible. Toggle button.
Switch back to original screen layout - side by side map and single plot, if your screen is big enough. Toggle button.
Choose a period of Subir history to run. See History of Subir for a discussion.
Edit parameters for this scenario. When you edit parameters, you create your own named scenario, that gets added to the Scenario list.

Parameters include the begin/end years, vital rates, tax scheme, etc.

Select from the data plots. Note, if you want to see all three plots at the same time, try the Print view button and scroll down.


Each Scenario has its own map. The picture that forms the backdrop is an enhanced satellite image. The clearly-drawn blue rivers are especially enhanced.

The locations and sizes of the towns (red dots) come from archaeological surveys. The excavated area of the town, times the town density, sets the town population. Town density is an editable parameter.

The yellowish circle around each town shows the hectares of grain fields needed to support its population. Fallow and cultivated fields are included.

You can click on towns on the map, or their fields, to get more information about them.

Longitude and latitude are shown on the outer margin of the map. The archaeological survey area lies in Syria, between the Turkish and Iraqi borders shown in dashed black. Vertical white lines show the limits of the survey area, though some towns have been excavated outside those limits. The modern city of Qamlishi is also shown in black, for geographic orientation.

Colored lines run across the map. These are "isohyets". Isohyets indicate lines of same-rainfall much like lines on a topographic map indicate same-elevation. Each town has its individual rainfall based on its location relative to the closest isohyets. At the edges of the map, the isohyets are labelled with this year's rainfall along its line. Rainfall varies from year to year.

The map background is greyed based on how dry the year is. Wet years look very grey. When the rains fail, the background is very grey.

The general lie of the land goes downhill (and down-rainfall) from the top of the map. There's a low swampy wadi between the lowest isohyets. The area is essentially dry plains, usually good for growing grain.


There are three plots available, showing Population, Agriculture (Rainfall/Yield/Farm area), and Grain Stores/Taxes.

You can turn plot traces on and off by clicking their names on the legend. In this picture, the "Elite Taxes" trace is turned off. And you can mouse over (or tap) a plot point to get a tooltip giving the value at that point. In this picture, a tooltip shows the harvest in 2536 BC was 1.5 grain-years of demand, about their best year.

In the default screen view, one plot is shown at a time, plus a selector to pick which is showing. In print view, the three plots are stacked vertically.

If all went well, ancient human populations naturally grew at about 0.07% per year. That's the difference between the birth and death rates (vital rates) show on the parameters dialog. Any steeper growth (or fall) in the population plot comes from immigration, emigration, or starvation.

Rain varies from year to year, and each year's yield depends on the rains. Farm area depends on how many laborers are working (and eating). Ancient Subir didn't have a system of family farms, where each laborer was growing his own for his family. The laborers worked together.

When grain was harvested, the state took all. The grain went into the state granaries, and was paid out in rations throughout the year. The health of this system is shown in the Grain Stores/Taxes plot. If grain stores fall below what's needed to pay taxes (the elite's cut of the harvest) and feed the laborers, people starve. The data in this plot uses the Grain-Years unit - the amount of grain needed to meet a year's demand for food, taxes, and seed.


There are two popup dialogs. One gives you information about a town - an excavated archaeological site. The other allows you to edit Scenario parameters.

You can move both dialogs by dragging the title bar. You can leave the dialog up while you select a different town or scenario.

The Inspect Site dialog is simply for information. Note in the picture how Gir Tav's rainfall is very close to the 470mm rain for the isohyet it lies next to. Archaeologists excavated this site and found that during this period, about 5 hectares of inhabited buildings existed there.

There are a lot of parameters. So most parameters are collected under open/close topics. Just click the topic name to open the group.

The Taxes parameter group is automatically opened when you select one of the "Version" scenarios, such as "Akkadian Version 1". There are extra tax parameters available in those scenarios to help explore possible effects of Akkadian imperialization. See also "hectares per laborer" under Farming. The Akkadians could force everyone to work harder.

Notice that when you open a scenario, the scenario name in the dialog has "My " prepended. That's because if you "Apply" some changes, your new custom scenario is saved to the Scenario master list. You could also edit the name, and have several custom "My" scenarios to flip between.

A negative value for immigration means emigration (people are leaving). Note that rates are in the decimal version of percentages. So a birthrate of 0.02 means 2%.

Please see Model and Parameters for a discussion of what these parameters do.

In print view, the Scenario parameters are shown on the screen for your screenshot and printing convenience. But you can only edit parameters via the dialog.


The Print and Screen buttons toggle the display between two different layouts. The Print button doesn't actually print anything. Print layout is intended to make it easier to take coherent screenshots of your work. You might also find Print layout useful when comparing plots.

The picture to the right is the thumbnails view of a PDF generated by Firefox. ArchaeoSim was in Print layout when Firefox was told to print.

In Print layout, the ArchaeoSim displays are stacked vertically, regardless of your screen orientation. A copy of the Edit Parameters dialog values is on screen, with parameter groups open or closed the same way they are in the dialog. (But to edit those parameters, you have to use the dialog.) All three plots are shown.

To actually print, the basic idea is that first you arrange the screen to show what you want to show. That might use Print or Screen layout. Then, on a computer, use the browser's File | Print capability to print the display, either to a physical printer, or more likely to a PDF file as shown to the right.

On a mobile device (or optionally on a computer) you'd probably need to take a series of screenshots. Note that using Google appliances or other URL-based web printer on ArchaeoSim, simply won't work. Those schemes take the URL of a webpage and render it on a different computer in the cloud. That technology can't show your work with the simulator.

To hand in your work for grading, attach screenshots or PDF or paper printouts to your discussion.

Ginger Booth, October 2014