Modelling Southern Mesopotamia Irrigated Landscapes: How Small-scale Processes Could Contribute to Large-Scale Societal Development

Dengxiao Lang*, Maurits W. Ertsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Early Southern Mesopotamia shows a complex history of expansion of (irrigated) farming in relation to urban developments and changing landscapes. As a first step to study expanding irrigated farming system, an irrigation-related agent-based model was developed to explore farm(land)s and irrigation systems in relation to decision-making processes, both of farms and their farmlands (an agriculture unit) and collective decision-making processes for irrigation system management—especially sharing water between farms. The decision-making processes include options to move farms, expand the system, or start a new system, as these would be options available for Mesopotamian farmers as well. In this text, we report how model parameters contribute to the generation of various patterns of yields and expansion of farms and system. Additionally, the Gini coefficient (based on yields) is applied to estimate levels of inequality among farmers. Our results show how (1) human decision-making determines the level of influence of and benefits for farms, as well as the overall irrigation system; (2) Gini values effectively capture the degree of inequality in yields among farms based on water availability; and (3) our model is a suitable base for further study, by incorporating additional agents into the irrigation system and expanding the spatial–temporal scales of the irrigated landscapes, to reach a more comprehensive understanding of the evolutionary dynamics of irrigation systems in Southern Mesopotamia.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages40
JournalJournal of Archaeological Method and Theory
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Agent-based modelling
  • Ancient Mesopotamia
  • Decision-making
  • Harvest situations
  • Irrigation


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