ESCHER-Workshop "Emergence of Societal Complexity through Human Environment Relations"

Start date
End date
Escher Waterfall


The ESCHER meeting is co-organized by the Integrated History and Future of the People on Earth (IHOPE) Network, the Department of Anthropology of the University of North Carolina, the Water Resources Group of Delft University of Technology and the LDE Centre for Global Heritage and Development. All​ of these groups are interested to study how past decisions can inform future human activities at all scales from local to global.

In the ESCHER workshop, the purpose is to construct research protocols to study the development of ancient societies, with a focus on irrigation in early civilizations. ​ As was frequently the case in past societies, the current world economic system is recognized to be in a state of water management crisis.​ Irrigation is detectable as​ a circumscribed infrastructure activity that has received ample archaeological, historical and hydrological attention. We will discuss irrigation as an avenue to past decision making from three perspectives. The first is to understand how short term activities by human and environmental agents are turned into long term, sustainable institutions that deal with human-environment needs. The second is to view this process as the common outcome of human and earth-system processes using agent-based modelling (ABM)​ in which both human and earth system agents are given equal footing. The third is to determine how outcomes of these ABMs can be tested with standard simulation techniques. In order to bring water management​ realities as close to the workshop as possible, an irrigation game will be a central element of the workshop.

Participation in the ESCHER workshop is upon invitation. For questions, please contact Maurits Ertsen at