Towards a Multi-Agent-Based Modelling of Obsidian Exchange in the Neolithic Near East

David Ortega, Juan José Ibañez, Lamya Khalidi, Vicenç Méndez, Daniel Campos, Luís Teira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines an alternative approach to previously proposed models of prehistoric exchange such as the law of monotonic decrement or the down-the-line exchange model developed by Renfrew (Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 34: 319-331, 1968, Renfrew 1977) to explain the distribution of obsidian across the Near East during the Neolithic period. Renfrew's down-the-line model, which results in a very regular and clustered network, does not permit the circulation of obsidian to regions of the Near East that are further than 300 km from the source zones, as is shown in the archaeological data available. Obsidian exchange is a complex system where multiple factors interact and evolve in time and space. We therefore explore Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) so as to get a better understanding of complex networks. ABM simulations of an exchange network where some agents (villages) are allowed to attain long-distance exchange partners through correlated random walks are carried out. These simulations show what variables (population density, degree of collaboration between villages...) are relevant for the transfer of obsidian over long distances. Moreover, they show that a type of small-world exchange network could explain the breadth of obsidian distribution (up to 800 km from source) during the Near Eastern Neolithic. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-485
JournalJournal of Archaeological Method and Theory
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Agent-based modelling
  • Down-the-line model
  • Near East
  • Neolithic
  • Obsidian exchange
  • Small-world networks


Dive into the research topics of 'Towards a Multi-Agent-Based Modelling of Obsidian Exchange in the Neolithic Near East'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this