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computer simulation
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: computer simulation studies
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Reconstruction of the past based on the production of computerized models. The computer model describes ancient conditions and variables and those are used to generate a sequence of events that are compared against the known archaeological record. The computer imitates the dynamic behavior of an explicit model and helps scientists examine how such systems respond to changing conditions and also to refine and test hypotheses about the past. In an example study of hunter-gatherers, the effect of various changes in the natural environment on such factors as the population settlement pattern or subsistence could be monitored; or the growth of a settlement system could be studied under different conditions of population, economy, technological, or environmental change. The relationships between the various elements in the cultural system must be specified, and then any variety of actual conditions can be simulated. The data used could be derived from observations and the simulation used to examine the effect of different assumptions; the results could then be compared to the observed data to test their validity.
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The use of a model to simulate an observed phenomenon. In modern times, simulation is done by the formulation and computer implementation of dynamic models, i.e. models concerned with change through time. Simulation is a useful heuristic device, and can be of considerable help in the development of explanation. Models can be used in archaeology to simulate, for example, the distribution of a group of artifacts or settlements.

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