The project mission was to develop an innovative and interdisciplinary methodological framework to model and simulate ancient societies and their relationship with environmental transformations. The project aimed to define practical guidelines for simulation in the humanities and consolidate a new research line in the use of formal modelling and simulation to investigate past human societies and, in consequence, support a better understanding of the present.

The project brought together specialists from the Social Sciences and Humanities (Archaeologists, Anthropologists and Sociologists) and the Formal Sciences (Mathematicians, Logicians and Computer Scientists), as well as a number of interdisciplinary profiles linked to the Natural Sciences (e.g. Ethnoecologists, Archaeobotanists, Geoarchaeologists and Palaeogeographers).

SimulPast used simulation as a virtual laboratory in which different techniques were exploited to encourage the formalization and falsification of scientific hypotheses about social transformations. The different case studies that integrated the empirical data collection of the project acted as a validating opportunity for the model. Models enabled the description of a wide range of relationships (records) with a high degree of precision. Models also acted as a “neutral” backdrop to express phenomena and ideas in a common way that can be understood by scientists from both the natural/life sciences and the humanities. Moreover, because models can describe changes occurring in complex sets of relationships, they were extremely useful to formalize dynamic theories that can be compared with those based on empirical observation.


  • Adaptation, access to resources and mobility: From contemporary pastoral systems to ancient societies Madella M, Patel H.H.R, Reyes-García V, Salpeteur M (2017). Nomadic Peoples, 21 (2).
  • Rabari Shepherds and the Mad Tree: The Dynamics of Local Ecological Knowledge in the Context of Prosopis juliflora Invasion in Gujarat, India Duenn P, Salpeteur M, Reyes-García V (2017). Journal of Ethnobiology, 37 (3).
  • Comigrants and friends: Informal networks and the transmission of traditional ecological knowledge among seminomadic pastoralists of Gujarat, India Salpeteur M, Patel H.H.R, Molina J.L, Balbo A.L, Rubio-Campillo X, Reyes-García V, Madella M (2016). Ecology and Society, 21 (2).
  • When knowledge follows blood: Kin groups and the distribution of traditional ecological knowledge in a community of seminomadic pastoralists, Gujarat (India) Salpeteur M, Patel H, Balbo A.L, Rubio-Campillo X, Madella M, Ajithprasad P, Reyes-García V (2015). Current Anthropology, 56 (3).

Project dates



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Research area


  • Archeology
  • India
  • Indigenous and Local Knowledge

Team members

ICREA Research Professor
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