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MayaSim: An agent-based model of the ancient Maya social-ecological system

Scott Heckbert
Submitted By: scott.heckbert
Submitted: Sep 28, 2012
Last Updated: Jul 2, 2013
742 Downloads (54 Downloads in the last 3 months)

The MayaSim model is an integrated agent-based, cellular automata, and network model representing the ancient Maya social-ecological system. The model represents the relationship between population growth, agricultural production, soil degradation, climate variability, primary productivity, hydrology, ecosystem services, forest succession, and the stability of trade networks. Agents representing settlements develop and expand within a spatial landscape that changes under climate variation and responds to anthropogenic impacts. The model is able to reproduce spatial patterns and timelines somewhat analogous to that of the ancient Maya, although this proof-of-concept model requires refinement and further archaeological data for calibration. This paper aims to identify candidate features of a resilient versus vulnerable social-ecological system, and employs computer simulation to explore this topic, using the ancient Maya as an example. Complex systems modelling identifies how interconnected variables behave, considering fast-moving variables such as land cover change and trade connections, meso-speed variables such as demographics and climate variability, as well as slow-moving variables such as soil degradation.

This model is associated with a publication:

Heckbert, S. (in press) MayaSim: An Agent-Based Model of the Ancient Maya Social-Ecological System. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation.

Heckbert, S., Isendahl, C., Gunn, J., Brewer, S., Scarborough, V., Chase, A.F., Chase, D.Z., Costanza, R., Dunning, N., Beach, T., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Lentz, D., Sinclair, P.. (2013). Growing the ancient Maya social-ecological system from the bottom up. In: Isendahl, C., and Stump, D. (eds.), Applied Archaeology, Historical Ecology and the Useable Past. Oxford University Press.

Cite This Model:
Heckbert, Scott (2013, July 2). "MayaSim: An agent-based model of the ancient Maya social-ecological system" (Version 4). CoMSES Computational Model Library. Retrieved from:
Model Version: 4 [Latest]
Version Notes:

Version 3 Uploaded July 2013

Platform: NetLogo 5.0
Programming Language: Logo (variant)
Operating System: Platform Independent
Licensed Under: GNU GPL, Version 3
Instructions on Running This Model:
Unzip the ‘data’ folder to the same location as Mayasim.nlogo. The model automatically loads several GIS spatial data layers, which takes about 1 minute. A simulation run of 300 time steps takes 1-2 hours. Contact: Copyright: Scott Heckbert (2013), GNU licence version 3

Model Files
Available Model Versions
Version Number Submitted
1 07/11/2012
2 08/8/2012
3 08/8/2012
4 07/2/2013 Version 3 Uploaded July 2013
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