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Micheál Butler

PositionResearch Student
DepartmentSchool of Archaeological Sciences

Research Interests (key words only)

Agent-based Modelling, Computer Simulation, Hunter Gatherer Societies, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Experimental Archaeology.


I completed my undergraduate degree in Archaeology at University College Dublin, Ireland (2013-2015). It was there that I first developed an interest in the Mesolithic and Neolithic of Europe. This lead to the investigation of the deposition and identification of burnt stone layers (both Mesolithic and Neolithic contexts), at the site of Belderrig, Co Mayo, Ireland, as part of my dissertation research.

After the completion of my undergraduate degree, I undertook an MA in Mesolithic Studies, at the University of York (2015-2016). This enabled me to further expand upon my knowledge of the European Mesolithic at a cultural level, primarily being engaged in experimental archaeology, and how it aids in our understanding of Mesolithic 'Lifeways'.

My Master's dissertation investigated the processes and methodologies associated with the disarticulation of faunal long bones at the site of Star Carr. This research involved the application of experimental archaeology to replicate features associated with this disarticulation, investigating features both macroscopically and microscopically from both the archaeological material and experimental examples.

Study History

  • BA (Hons) Archaeology, 2012-2015, University College Dublin.
  • MA Mesolithic Studies, 2015-2016, University of York.

Current Projects

ERC-funded Europe’s Lost Frontier’s Project.

Thesis Title: An investigation of the now submerged early Holocene environment of the North Sea, through the use of agent-based modelling, and computer simulation.

Supervisors: Phil Murgatroyd and Vince Gaffney


This PhD is integrated into the ERC-funded ‘Europe’s Lost Frontiers’ Project, a project which utilises the fields of archaeo-geophysics, molecular biology, and computer simulation to study the past environments, ecological change, and the transition from hunter-gatherer societies and farming in North-West Europe.

In a departure from conventional modelling approaches the project will integrate complexity systems modelling, primarily Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) to model the dynamic interactions between both human and natural systems. Agent-based modelling allows for researchers to mimic nature's “bottom-up” processes, simulating individual plants and animals and how they interact with each other and their environment.

For much of prehistory, the key to human survival was through the hunting and gathering of resources which populated the natural environment. Traditionally both human and natural systems have been studied separately, either as dynamic human systems, limited by the input of static natural phenomenon, or as natural systems governed by deterministic human disturbances in the attempt to emulate already presupposed output conditions (Barcelo, and Del Castillo, 2016, 17).

This doctoral research will attempt to exemplify how such systems have been previously studied, while also developing a framework of study in the attempt to couple both the human and natural, in a suite of agent-based simulations. Overall this research will enable the Lost Frontiers team to integrate such socio-ecological dynamics into the overall program of computer simulation and modelling, in an attempt to greater understand the lifeways of the communities which would have interacted with the Early Holocene environments of the North Sea.

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