Finding a Place for Networks in Archaeology

Abstract

Formal network analyses have a long history in archaeology but have recently seen a rapid florescence. Network models drawing on approaches from graph theory, social network analysis, and complexity science have been used to address a broad array of questions about the relationships among network structure, positions, and the attributes and outcomes for individuals and larger groups at a range of social scales. Current archaeological network research is both methodologically and theoretically diverse, but there are still many daunting challenges ahead for the formal exploration of social networks using archaeological data. If we can face these challenges, archaeologists are well positioned to contribute to long-standing debates in the broader sphere of network research on the nature of network theory, the relationships between networks and culture, and dynamics of social networks over the long term.

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Acknowledgments

I thank Tom Brughmans, Carl Knappett, Barbara Mills, and five anonymous reviewers for providing insightful and extremely useful comments on this article that helped me focus on the discussion and strengthen key arguments. Many of the themes presented here have come out of discussions with my colleagues and students including (in alphabetical order) Jim Allison, Wes Bernardini, Lewis Borck, Ron Breiger, Tom Brughmans, Jeff Clark, Erik Gjesfjeld, Claudine Gravel-Miguel, Barbara Mills, John Roberts, Jr., Caitlin Wichlacz, and everyone on the Southwest Social Networks project team. I also thank Gary Feinman and Linda Nicholas at the Journal of Archaeological Research for helping shepherd this article toward publication.

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Peeples, M.A. Finding a Place for Networks in Archaeology. J Archaeol Res 27, 451–499 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10814-019-09127-8

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Keywords

  • Social network analysis
  • Complex networks
  • Graph theory
  • Complexity science
  • Relational sociology
  • Material culture
  • GIS
  • Agent-based modeling