Sander Van der Leeuw

Sander Van der Leeuw

dates de séjour

22/02/2016 - 13/07/2016




Professor of Anthropology


Arizona State University School of Sustainability, USA

pays d'origine


projet de recherche

Modelling the socio-environmental evolution of the Rhone basin (1000 BP-AD 1000)

The objective of this project is to study the coupled socio-ecological dynamics of the Rhone Valley through time, specifically focusing on how environmental changes impacted the socio-economic organization and vice-versa. We plan to do this through computa-tional modelling of the intricate and complex webs of interactions that existed in the Mediterranean across space and time. In order to keep the project feasible, we will in first instance focus on the Marseille region and its interactions with the Mediterranean Basin. We will cover the last three millennia with emphasis on the Iron Age, the Roman period, and the transition from the Medieval to the Little Ice Age periods. The project will combine differential-equation modeling of environmental changes with agent-based modelling of societal dynamics.


Sander van der Leeuw is the emeritus dean of Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, the first of its kind in the USA. He currently is Foundation Professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist at the School of Sustainability at ASU. Prof. van der Leeuw received a B.A. in history, an A.D.M/M.Litt in medieval history/prehistory, and a Ph.D. from the University of Amsterdam.

Prior to joining ASU, van der Leeuw taught at Leiden, Cambridge (UK) and Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne) and traveled the world conducting (ethno-)archaeological studies in the Near East, the Philippines, Syria, Holland, France, and Mexico. Van der Leeuw’s expertise lies in the role of invention, sustainability, and innovation in societies around the world, viewed through a complex adaptive systems lens. From 1992 until 2000 he coordinated a series of interdisciplinary research projects on human-nature interactions in all countries of Southern Europe, funded by the EU. These were the first projects worldwide in which a complex adaptive systems approach was used to improve understanding of human-environment interactions at different temporal and spatial scales.

Van der Leeuw is the founding director of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at ASU. He is the co-director and co-founder of ASU’s Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative where he turns interdisciplinary theory into use-inspired research. A native of Holland, he is a corresponding member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. In 2012, the United Nations Environment Program named van der Leeuw the “Champion of the Earth for Science and Innovation” for his work on human-environmental relations.