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Modelling and Simulation in Archaeology

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This is the online course on Modelling and Simulation in Archaeology.

Modeling and Simulation in Archaeology

Simulation is a formal scientific method used to develop, compare and test hypotheses (models). In the last few decades the use of simulation has increased dramatically in virtually all scientific disciplines, but is still limited in archaeology due to the technological barrier – coding skills. This online course will help archaeologists to cross that barrier.

For this course no previous coding skills are required. All you need is your laptop and a bit of perseverance!

This course:

  • Gives you a hands-on introduction to modeling and simulation in archaeology based on theoretical lessons and practical exercises, with a focus on Agent-based Modelling (ABM);
  • Teaches you the coding skills necessary to work with and build computer simulations of complex social and natural systems;
  • Allows you to gain insights into ancient societies in your own field of interest.

These skills will be taught within an e-learning environment, using NetLogo for building and running simulations. The course is highly interactive, with students collaborating on assignments and interacting with the instructors via online forums.

Participant profile

The course is targeted at archaeologists at all levels, from graduate students, PhDs and postdocs to professional researchers, and from academic, public and commercial backgrounds. Participants who successfully complete the course and the final assignment will receive a certificate, a grade and credits (5 EC).


The instructors, Fulco Scherjon (Leiden University) and Iza Romanowska (Barcelona Supercomputing Center) are professional archaeologists with long-standing experience in using and teaching modelling and simulation in archaeology. They are joined by Karsten Lambers (Leiden University) as the course organizer.

Run time and workload

This 14 weeks course will be offered by the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, starting from 10th of September, 2019. Weekly online meetings will be held on Tuesdays between 17:00-18:00 hrs (Amsterdam time zone). The average weekly workload for this course, including online meetings and assignments, is ca 10 hours.


Regular rate: 800 EUR

Reduced rate: 400 EUR (for students and self-funded PhDs - see instructions below)

Internal rate: 0 EUR (for Leiden students enrolled in the MSc programme Archaeological Science - see instructions below).


Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis, so register early!

Please use the Purchase button on the left for registration. Payment requires a Paypal account. An invoice can be printed once the payment is completed.

Students and self-funded PhDs may apply for a discount coupon (50%) in order to register at the reduced rate of 400 EUR. Request this coupon prior to registration via email to In your email, briefly explain your status, if you want to transfer ECTs credits and attach a copy of your valid student ID or other suitable documents in order to prove your status. Once your eligibility has been confirmed you will receive the discount code by email. You will be asked for the discount code after registering via the Purchase button on the left.

Leiden MSc students first enroll for this elective course via uSis. Shortly before the course starts you will receive a discount coupon (100%) which you can use to register for this course on this platform for free.

A participant's experience

"The course Modelling and Simulation in Archaeology was very educative and enjoyable. It not only gave me a good understanding of the uses of simulation in archaeology, but it also served as a basic introduction to computer programming, which is a very useful skill to have. The course had a clear focus on self-study, but the SPOC environment made asking questions to teachers and sharing knowledge with other students very easy." - Joris Kanters, MSc graduate, Leiden University

Here is the class outline:

Soft launch: getting started!

Welcome to our class! Feel free to look around and get to know the environment, the teachers and the course.

1. Introduction

Sep 8

Introduction to modelling and simulation, get to know why and how you can use simulations and learn about the development environment NetLogo.

2. Introduction to the NetLogo software

Sep 15

NetLogo is a multi-agent modelling and simulation environment. It is well suited for programming complex modelling systems. This is the environment that is used throughout the course.

3. How to simulate?

Sep 22

Get into simulations, and how to do this magic yourself!

4. How to simulate!

Sep 29

This week you will work on more than one simulation, and we will test how much you understand of modelling.

5. More NetLogo

Oct 6

We will illustrate the history of NetLogo and explain how to use the user manual. We will also introduce to a new model.

6. History of modelling and simulation in archaeology

Oct 13

History of the use of simulation in archaeology and working with the code yourself.

7. Programming in NetLogo

Oct 20

No contents this week.

8. Software development

Oct 27

Software development in general and programming in NetLogo.

9. 10 steps of simulation development

Nov 3

10 steps of simulation development: how to build and evaluate a simulation.

10. ODD

Nov 10

We will explain the importance of design, and let you make one.

11. NetLogo specifics

Nov 17

Now it is time to really understand NetLogo, in preparation of the final assignment.

12. Results. Now what?

Nov 24

Learn how to interpret simulation results and get introduced to GIS extensions to NetLogo.

13. Best practices in software development

Dec 1

Get into the best practices in software development and learn how to apply them yourself.

14. Final Week: Submit your own model

Dec 8

Not much class content, so time for your assignment. Please do take the survey though. We will be grading your final assignment after submission.