EnCAB (Energetic Calculator for Ancient Buildings; see project page for more info on the project itself) is an online publication of the Energetic Calculator for Ancient Buildings, a tool used to measure the energy required in pre-industrial construction projects. The calculator is based on a series of interactive algorithms which quantify the energy required for very specific steps in the construction process. These steps are perhaps best defined through a chaîne opératoire, which allows scholars to chart the individual steps in a construction project.
EnCAB goes far beyond a mere collection of algorithms, however. First, there is a critical discussion of the sources used: ethnographic, experimental or textual. Each algorithm is further correlated in a number of ways, including geographical and chronological scope or the position in the construction process. Common chains of algorithms are proposed in order to aid first time users understand how the chaîne opératoire and the algorithms are best used in tandem.
EnCAB is an Open Source project, and as such will hopefully serve as a growing hub for research in energetics and construction.
EnCAB is a development of a research project examining the construction of a 3rd millennium palace at Tell Mozan, ancient Urkesh (see Buccellati 2016). This study examined the energetic cost of a single building -- at the conclusion of that project the applicability of algorithms across a spectrum of structures was evident, and the idea of a digital humanities publication focused on algorithms was born.
In order to use EnCAB, one needs the volumetric calculations for an ancient construction as well as a hypothesis as to the steps of construction which were followed. The algorithms in EnCAB can then be used to calculate the energy needed for the construction.
Once that calculation has been made one can use the algorithms to explore diverse questions related to the construction, primarily in two ways: alternatives and comparisons. Algorithms can be used to examine 'what if...' scenarios, such as considering the difference in energy costs if a courtyard had been paved in sundried bricks instead of flagstones. Comparisons can be made to other similar structures from the same settlement, similar settlements or even cross-cultural comparisons. A list of publications using EnCAB algorithms is available to aid scholars looking for comparative material.