Wayne State University

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Computer models take researchers back in time to ancient civilizations

Computer models take researchers back in time to ancient civilizations

Computer modeling is usually associated with predicting what the future holds. The five-day weather forecast or the flight take-off times are both based on information gleaned from computer modeling.

Wayne State Professor of Computer Science Robert Reynolds has earned international acclaim by developing computational models that go in the opposite direction, allowing researchers to look back in time and study ancient civilizations.

“The same computer modeling principals used to predict something in the future — like the path of a hurricane — can be used to understand how ancient cultures evolved,” said Reynolds. “Instead of using data on wind speed and water temperature, anthropological and geographical data can be used to predict what conditions were like for ancient civilizations.”

Reynolds, who teaches courses on computational intelligence in gaming and artificial intelligence, recently won a major award at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Congress on Evolutionary Computation for a paper he co-authored with Thaer Jayyousi, a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science.  The paper detailed the use of computer modeling to understand how the ancient city of Monte Alban, located in modern-day Mexico, was formed, operated and ultimately collapsed nearly 2,500 years ago.