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What is the CECD? 
The CECD is an AHRC funded research group dedicated to examining the evolutionary underpinnings of human cultural behaviour, past and present. more>

Page Title - projects
Phase 1: Spatial dimensions of cultural evolution: Project 022
The evolution of footpaths and trail systems

SUPERVISOR: - James Steele

Marcos Llobera (Department of Anthropology, University of Washington)
Tim Sluckin (School of Mathematics, University of Southampton, University of Southampton)


The initial phase of the project was to introduce the effect that a ‘real’ terrain (i.e. a digital representation of such) would have on Helbing et al.’s model which was constructed on the basis of a flat terrain. The introduction of a real terrain introduces a new and rather more complicated problematic than Helbing et al.’s original formulation as it is no longer possible to associate a single directional component to a factor, in this case to the terrain or rather to the interaction of an agent with the terrain.

If, for the sake of simplicity, we only consider the effect that the slope has on people’s movement, then an agent’s local interaction with the terrain does not necessarily require a single directional solution. If the slope is below a certain threshold value, from a biomechanical point of view, it is likely that the agent will proceed straight towards his/her local target. If however, the slope is beyond a certain threshold, the agent will ‘cut across the slope’ and zigzag his/her way towards the target. The choice of direction in which to ‘cut across the slope’ is to a large extent irrelevant (i.e. whether one moves off towards the left or the right, in the absence of any other factor, generates the same result). As a result of this observation, we have to consider an additional level of complexity to Helbing et al.’s original formulation.

M. Llobera, D. Wheatley, J. Steele, S. Cox, O. Parchment (in press).
Calculating the inherent visual structure of a landscape (‘total viewshed’) using high throughput computing. XXXII International Conference - Computer Applications in Archaeology 2004 - Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology, Beyond the Artifact: Digital Interpretation of the Past, Prato, Italy, 13-17 April, 2004.. (in press).
M. Llobera and T.J. Sluckin (2007).
Zigzagging: Theoretical insights on climbing strategies . Journal of Theoretical Biology. Vol 249:206-217.