Understanding Inter-settlement Visibility in Iron Age and Roman Southern Spain with Exponential Random Graph Models for Visibility Networks
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- Brughmans, T., Keay, S. & Earl, G. J Archaeol Method Theory (2015) 22: 58. doi:10.1007/s10816-014-9231-x
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Long-term changes in visibility patterns between urban settlements are considered an important factor for understanding Iron Age II settlement locations in Southern Spain. From some settlements, the surrounding landscape and other settlements could be visually controlled, and some settlements are argued to be intervisible to allow for communication through visual signals. However, the study of how these visibility patterns changed in the subsequent Roman period in this region is largely ignored. In this paper, we argue that visibility might still have structured interactions between communities in Roman times and should not be dismissed out of hand merely because more and other data sources are available as compared to the Iron Age. However, the way in which it affected human behaviour might have been different in Roman times as compared to the Iron Age. We argue that simulating archaeologists’ hypotheses about the emergence of inter-settlement visibility is a promising way of understanding such differences. To do this, we use exponential random graph modelling (ERGM), a statistical network simulation modelling technique that allows us to simulate hypotheses about the emergence and long-term change of visibility networks. We combine this approach with an exploratory analysis of the observed visibility networks between identified urban settlements, which will reveal similarities and differences in the changing patterns of visibility networks through time. The results of the ERGMs are then compared with the changes in the observed network structure. We conclude that our knowledge of the changes from the Iron Age II to the Roman settlement pattern suggests only gradual changes in the role of visibility in structuring inter-settlement interactions, possibly followed by a disintegration of the visibility network after the Roman Early Imperial period.