With the current surge of simulation studies in archaeology, there is a growing concern for the lack of engagement and feedback between modelers and domain specialists. To facilitate this dialogue, I present a compact guide to the simulation modeling process applied to a common research topic and the focus of this special issue of Human Biology—human dispersals. The process of developing a simulation is divided into nine steps grouped in three phases. The conceptual phase consists of identifying research questions (step 1), finding the most suitable method (step 2), designing the general framework and the resolution of the simulation (step 3), and filling in that framework with the modeled entities and the rules of interactions (step 4). This is followed by the technical phase of coding and testing (step 5), parameterizing the simulation (step 6), and running it (step 7), and the results of the simulation are analyzed and recontextualized (step 8). In the dissemination phase, the findings of the model are disseminated in publications and code repositories (step 9). Each step is defined and characterized and then illustrated with examples of published human dispersal simulation studies. While not aiming to be a comprehensive textbook-style guide to simulation, this overview of the process of modeling human dispersals should arm any nonmodeler with enough understanding to evaluate the quality, strengths, and weaknesses of any particular archaeological simulation and provide a starting point for further exploration of this common scientific tool.
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Vol. 87 • No. 3