Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 258-287

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Trends in Archaeological Simulation


This paper provides an up-to-date history of archaeological computer simulation, starting with the early 1970s simulation models, but paying particular attention to those developed over the past 20–25 years. It revises earlier accounts of archaeological simulation by proposing an alternation between programmatic phases, in which published work tends to be about simulation as a method, and mature phases in which there is greater emphasis on the substantive results of simulation experiments. The paper concludes that the burgeoning interest in computer simulation since circa 2000 is largely characterized by mature application in areas where it fits naturally into existing inferential frameworks (e.g., certain strands of evolutionary archaeology) but that explicitly “sociological” simulation remains a challenge.


Computer simulation Agent-based modelling Dynamical systems Archaeological theory Quantitative methods Evolutionary archaeology Human ecodynamics