Multi-Agent Simulation of Anthropological Models on Forager Mobility
Hunter-gatherers societies are known for their nomadic lifestyle. Noteworthy, even among the groups located of different continents similar mobility patterns can be observed, as for example the pattern of periodical dispersals and aggregations. However, we do not know much about the factors driving hunter-gatherer mobility and emergence of such patterns. In the past models of hunter-gatherer mobility were based preliminary on environmental deterministic assumptions. The explanatory power of these models is, however, limited and indications exist that a social dimension of mobility has to be accounted for as well.
The data available to verify mobility models are first of all micro-scale anthropological observations, per definition limited in time and space. Computer simulations can help to overcome those limitations. They can be used to conduct experiments based on hypothetical mobility models. For the project presented in this dissertation agent-based computational modeling was identified as a useful approach to simulate the emergence of higher-scale patterns by modifying local actor-centered behaviors.
For the dissertation project, three steps have been taken. Firstly, a simulation model based on the behavioral ecology approach has been implemented and tested. Secondly, further social constraints and goals have been integrated into the simulation model in order to analyze their potential impact on mobility patterns. Thirdly, a simplified model has been developed which incorporates the subsistence and social dimensions of hunter-gatherer mobility to explain central generalizable dynamics leading to the emergence of specific recurrent mobility patterns. The findings of the dissertation project indicate that hunter-gatherer mobility patterns can only be appropriately understood by considering the subsistence as well as social dimension of mobility. Simulation results best match the real-life mobility observed among contemporary hunter-gatherer groups if the mobility dynamic is modeled as a product of alternating individual motives determined by, in many cases, contradicting goals: subsistence provision, conflict avoidance and the maintenance of social networks beyond the own household.