Romanization spreading on historical interregional networks in Northern Tunisia

From MaRDI portal

PID (if applicable): doi:10.1007/s41109-022-00492-w

Problem Statement

Understand the Romanization Process of Northern Africa

Object of Research and Objective

The research topic of this project is at the interface between mathematics and archaeology and is based on an interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists from Zuse Institute Berlin, Mathematics Institute at Free University Berlin and German Archaeological Institute (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut). Our aim is to develop a novel network-based approach for inferring a well-defined range of socio-physical/historical phenomena from spatio-temporal data prevalent in Archaeology. The resulting framework is tailored to model processes such as innovation spreading, migrations and settlement development based on real-world 4D archaeological data.

In particular, within this project we focus on the archaeological evidence for the Romanization of Northern Africa. The starting point for this process is in 146 BC, when the region known nowadays as Tunisia, was annexed by Rome in the aftermath of the Third Punic War. The African province expanded further in the following centuries, with its greatest extent around 117 AD. Apart from an expected gradually developed adaptation due to the cultural exchange, some changes were actively introduced and enforced by the Roman conquerors, such as administrative structures, infrastructure and architecture.

For the romanization process only fragmented information is available. Based on this data we infer the interriogonal network and a temporal spreading rate. To do so, we have first to divide the cities into subregions based on expert knowledge. To infer the interriogonal network we are using PMALA.


  1. Extract archaeological data into a matrix: each row corresponds to a city and each column to a time-frame, the entry tells us the status of a city for a given time-frame.
  2. Divide cities based on archaeological knowledge into 4 subregions. Subregions are shaped by features of the landscape, climate, economy, culture and politics.
  3. Compute the number of romanized cities of each region for each time-frame. This is the main data data, that is passed to the algorithm.
  4. Fit a spreading curve of an SI spreading with temporal infection rate to the data with PMALA.
  5. Extract the best solutions that PMALA found.
  6. Compare the top 5%

Involved Disciplines

Archaeology (wikidata:Q23498)

Epidemiology (wikidata:Q133805)

Mathematics (wikidata:Q395)  

Numerical Analysis (wikidata:Q11216)     

Statistics (wikidata:Q12483)

Data Streams

Excel Files with archaeological data from Archaeology to Mathematics.


Metapopulation SI model with temporal infection rate.


Short Description of Equations:

 : change in number of romanized cities in caused by interactions with other regions

 : influence that cities within the same region have on each other

 : conservation of population number in every region

Constrained Minimisation Problem:

Short Description of Constrained Minimisation Problem:

 : approximate solution of the model with the observed number of romanized cities in the region at time point and paramater set

 : maximum between the data and the standard deviation for region observed in time


  • Time: interval of length of 50 years
  • Space: divide cities into subregions


Name Unit Symbol
Time time interval
Suseptible cities (not-romanized cities) -
Infected cities (romanized cities) -
spreading rate for a fixed time interval per time interval
Connectivity between regions and -
Number of cities in region -
Contact network -
Connectivity network -
Number of network nodes -
Flux -

Process Information

Process Steps

Name Description Input Output Method Parameter Environment Mathematical Area
Prepare Data Collect, discretise and reduce archaeological data xlsx file npy file - - Python 2.7.16 Archaeology, interdisciplinary
Create Mathematical Model Literature Research, try models on data Ideas - - - Epidemiology
Solve inverse problem Find parameters whose corresponding spreading curve describes best the data npy file PMALA n_PMALA Python 2.7.16 Numerical Analysis
Analysis of simulations Get best solutions found by algorithm and compare them t-SNE, manual inspection perplexity Python 2.7.16 Statistics

Applied Methods

ID Name Process Step Parameter realised/implemented by
doi:10.1002/mats.202100017 prescaled Metroplois-adjusted Langevin algorithm (PMALA) Solve the inverse Problem n_PMALA : number of time steps Python 2.7.16
wikidata:Q18387205 t-Distributed Stochastic Neighbor Embedding (t-SNE) Analysis of Simulation perplexity = 30 Python 2.7.16

Software used

ID Name Description Version Programming Language Dependencies versioned published documented
sw:14460 Python Python Interpreter 2.7.16 C gcc Yes Yes Yes
sw:6294 NumPy Array Computing 1.18.1 Python, C, Fortran Python, distutils, zlib, gcc, gfortran Yes Yes Yes


ID Name Processor Compiler #Nodes #Cores
- ZIB z1 Cluster Intel(R) Xeon(R), AMD EPYC gnu 104 (CPU), 36 (GPU) 4348 (CPU), 2072 (GPU)

Input Data

ID Name Size Data Structure Format Representation Format Exchange binary/text proprietary to publish to archive
- Romanization Time small numpy array matrix npy binary no 2022 2030

Output Data

ID Name Size Data Structure Format Representation Format Exchange binary/text proprietary to publish to archive
doi:10.34780/d469-84h2 Simulations middle Lists - - text no -- 2030
doi:s41109-022-00492-w Results small list of matrices and vectors - - text 2022 2030
GitHub follows Code small python - - - - -


Mathematical Reproducibility

We are using a stochastic algorithm. Each simulations is different. However, we run many simulations to obtain a reproducible result.

Runtime Reproducibility

The simulation time is almost constant.

Reproducibility of Results

See mathematical reproducibility. The best solutions are almost the same.

Reproducibility on original Hardware

See above

Reproducibility on other Hardware

a) Serial Computation

b) Parallel Computation

See above

Transferability to

a) similar model parameters (other initial and boundary values)

b) other models


The following abbreviations are used in the document to indicate/resolve IDs:

doi: DOI /

sw: swMATH /