Project summary

The project aims to apply spatial dynamical modelling to reconstruct and understand the development of the cultural landscape in the Dutch part of the Roman limes zone.

The Roman conquest and occupation of the Lower Rhine region resulted in a system of fortifications of the Rhine border (the limes). The garrisons needed provisions like food and building materials. Where these came from and how they were managed is only known in general terms. Great uncertainties exist on the organisation of the socio-economic system, its relation to the military presence in the area, the logistics involved, and its impact on land use.

Spatial dynamical modelling can assist in interpreting past landscape development. It is a computer technique for building rule-based models that will simulate spatial processes – like the development of land use – through time. In this way, cause-and-effect chains will become more transparent. It can also tell us whether developments inevitably lead in a certain direction (path dependence), and if different scenarios produce similar outcomes (equifinality).

The Dutch limes zone offers a rich set of archaeological and palaeo-environmental data. We want to use these data and spatial dynamical modelling to set up scenarios of resource management along the limes, and test these against the archaeological evidence. What was needed to maintain the border garrisons? How did the Romans organize production, transport and distribution of goods? How did the local population respond? How did it influence landscape development and settlement pattern?

The modelling will result in scenarios of cultural landscape development using different theoretical perspectives and focusing on the interaction of natural, economic and socio-cultural factors. The plausibility of these scenarios can be assessed by comparing the modelling results to the archaeological record. We will also formulate best practices for spatial dynamical modelling in archaeology that will benefit other researchers.

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