WK Transfer of Knowledge

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SimulPast, CaSEs & ACBA Workshop

Nociones fundamentales de estadística en la investigación

SimulPast & CaSEs Seminars


Peter Turchin

Professor, Univesity of Connecticut

External Faculty, Complexity Science Hub Vienna


The Zigs and Zags of Inequality in Human Evolutionary History

Room 24.104. Building Mercè Rodoreda (Ciutadella Campus). Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) Barcelona. Wednesday May 24th 2017 at 12.00.

Most historians have abandoned the search for general principles governing the evolution of human societies. A typical approach to studying why institutions (laws, rules, sanctions, customs, and norms) emerge, change, and disappear is to focus on explanations that are contingent on the specific historical circumstances in which such institutions evolve. However, although every society is unique in its own ways, this doesn’t preclude the possibility that common features are independently shared by multiple societies. In my presentation I will argue that it is possible to study both the diversity and commonalities in social arrangements found in the human past. To advance beyond purely theoretical debates and comparisons based on limited samples, my colleagues and I are building a massive repository of systematically collected, structured historical and archaeological data, Seshat: Global History Databank. Specifically, I will focus on the evolution of institutions that promote equality (or vice versa, inequality). Levels of inequality have changed dramatically during the past 10,000 years of human evolution: from egalitarian small-­‐scale societies of hunter-­‐gatherers to first hierarchical societies with great inequities in the distribution of power, status, and wealth. The Axial Age (c.800–200 BCE) introduced another notable transformation, starting a move towards greater egalitarianism that has been continuing to the present. I will describe how the Seshat project codes data on religion, norms and institutions, and other cultural characteristics of historical societies in a form that make them suitable for statistical analyses, and present preliminary results of testing different theories explaining the evolution of a particular equity institution with these data.


Explaining the Rise of Mega-Empires: A Model of Cultural Multilevel Selection

Residencia d'Investigadors, Hospital 64, CSIC Barcelona. Thursday May 25th 2017 at 16.00.

What are the social forces that hold together complex societies encompassing hundreds of millions of people? How did human ultrasociality – extensive cooperation among large numbers of unrelated individuals – evolve? The theory of cultural multilevel selection is a powerful theoretical framework for addressing these questions. I use this framework to investigate a major transition in human social evolution, from small-­‐scale egalitarian groups to large-­‐scale hierarchical societies such as states and empires. A key mathematical result in the theory is that large states should arise in regions where interpolity competition – warfare – is particularly intense, resulting in high probability of cultural trait extinction. To make these general ideas more concrete I describe a model for the evolution of large states during the Ancient and Medieval eras, motivated by the ideas of Ibn Khaldun. Ibn Khaldun primarily focused on the interaction between pastoralists and farmers in the Maghreb (Northern Africa), but I extend his theory to Afroeurasia as a whole. The 'mirror-empires' model proposes that antagonistic interactions between steppe pastoralists and settled agriculturalists result in an autocatalytic process, which pressures both pastoralist and farming polities to scale up in polity size and military power.


SimulPast & CaSEs Workshop

Co-evolutionary patterns and transition analysing processes of cultural change in cross-cultrual and dischronic contexts


Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) – Campus de la Ciutadella – Auditori Merce Rodoreda
15-17 February 2017 Barcelona
Flexibility, opportunism, and resilience: these are the factors driving human life in low-resource environments such as arid and semi-arid lands. Recent research in Old World’s drylands is progressively reverting traditional assumptions and paradigms, revealing unexpected scenarios for past human frequentations of African and Asian deserts. Doubtlessly, the end of the Middle Holocene climatic optimum posed new challenges to past societies, which reacted in a different way to a set of climatic disturbances occurred during the fourth and third millennia BC. The onset, and/or increase of arid conditions triggered a broad spectrum of responses, ranging from societal collapse to adaptation to the new settings. The archaeology of drylands has generally focused on main settlements with permanent or semi-permanent water resources, such as oasis or river systems. Yet, the ‘outside world’ set at the periphery been the place of often-neglected innovation and development. Mixed agro-pastoralism, rapid shifts in settlement pattern, expedient farming practiced by nomadic herders, and other less known strategies have likely played a crucial role in coping with erratic rainfalls and patchy resources. A previously unknown set of late prehistoric and historical vestigial remains in the form of tombs, settlements, forts, campsites, quarries, and rock art from the last five millennia is currently under the spotlight and testifies of the success of these strategies. Ranging from large-scale approaches, mainly using Earth Observation techniques, to micro-scale investigations focused on resources exploitation, different research projects are establishing new baselines for the comprehension of the cultural trajectories at the dawn of the current arid period. Due to their patchy and scarce vegetation, low urbanization, excellent visibility of archaeological remains, and often exceptional state of preservation, drylands are an ideal scenario for the application of non-destructive, non-invasive, and cost-effective investigations. In this symposium, we aim at gathering scholars actively engaged in research projects in hot and cold drylands that use a multi-proxy approach for the reconstruction of past-to-present human-environment interactions. 
Confirmed invited speakers
John Kinahan (Namib Desert Archaeological Survey)
Cameron Petrie (University of Cambridge, UK)
Remy Crassard (Laboratoire Archéorient, MOM - Lyon, FR)
Saverio Kratli (International Commission on Nomadic Peoples)
Andrea Zerboni (University of Milan, IT)
Alfredo González-Ruibal  and Jorge DeTorres (INCIPIT-CSIC, Galicia, SP – and British Museum, UK)
Michael Frachetti (Washington University in St. Louis)
Gian Luca Bonora («L.N. Gumilev »Eurasian National University, Astana, KZ)
Details of the workshop, including the programme, maps, and information on how to reach Barcelona and the workshop venue can be found on the workshop webpage that will be constantly updated.
Call for Papers
Abstract submission: 15th December 2016 
Abstract Length: max 250 words 
Notification of Acceptance: 20th December 2016
To register and submit your abstract, please fill the online Registration Form
***No registration nor attendance fee required***
UPF Campus de la Ciutadella – Auditori Mercè Rodoreda 
Organizers and contacts
Stefano Biagetti - stefano.biagetti(at)upf.edu 
Carla Lancelotti - carla.lancelotti(at)upf.edu
CaSEs research group – Univ. Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain
Jorge Caro Saiz (CSIC), Debora Zurro (CSIC), Marco Madella (ICREA, UPF, CSIC)
Management and administration: Marta Perellò (UPF)