University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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SteppingIn – modern humans moving into Europe
Fulco Scherjon

Last modified: 2012-02-02


The way Europe was colonized by the first modern humans is far from obvious. This research focuses on the routes that might have been taken by the earliest Homo sapiens. Several routes can be suggested such as the Danube Corridor, Gibraltar Passage or Sicilian Crossing but the archaeological evidence is far from ubiquitous. The aim of this research is to develop a simulation tool able to compare alternative scenarios. The simulator, conveniently called SteppingIn, represents groups of modern humans as autonomous agents. Simulations are run with varying model and individual parameters and effects of these are shown on the geographical movement of the agents. Archaeological Checkpoints in Space and Time (CSTs) with known location and chronology serve to assess simulation results. The outcome of the simulation is plotted on a map showing emerging colonization patterns through time. These density plots can serve as a rudimentary predictive model on the likelihood of certain routes. The simulator is implemented in the REcursive Porous Agent Simulation Toolkit (Repast Simphony 2.0), selected both for its geographical capabilities and the ease of Java integration. Output is presented in Google Earth for further analysis.

The main drive behind movement of the modern humans in the SteppingIn model is the attractiveness of small and large rivers, lakes, and coastlines. If possible, the modelled humans will try to head for or follow these typical biotopes. Modern geography is converted into Points of Interest (POIs), each located on a river, lake or coastline and these are used to guide the agents. In each simulation individually different agents are positioned on the map. Each time step every agent is moved a specific distance along a calculated angle into the direction of the next POI. When a destination is reached new destinations are selected from nearby according to individual preferences. A moving group will cover an area of 1-5 kilometres each time step. When an agent comes near a CST this event is stored. All simulations terminate after 10.000 time steps and the resulting simulation chronology is compared against the archaeological data.

SteppingIn uses selected Aurignacian sites as proxies (indicators) for the presence of modern humans. These sites are chosen according to specific requirements regarding dating methods and presentation of excavation results. The following set of chronologically ordered CSTs is used: Arbreda, Isturitz, Willendorf, Peştera cu Oase, Grotte du Renne, Fumane, La Clochette, Kent’s Cavern, Cova Gran, Vogelherd, Mladeč, Muierii, Kostenki, Paviland, and Cioclovina. The selection of these CSTs is biased through taphonomy, the chosen definition of modernity, and the available literature, etc. As a test case the Danube corridor hypothesis is implemented, where groups of modern humans start colonizing Europe near the mouth of the Danube at the Black Sea, modern day Romania.


Simulation; Agent-based Modelling; Repast; Modern Humans