Reconstructing Archaeological Networks

Reconstructing Archaeological Networks

By Viviana Amati

Networks of interaction between past cultures and communities cannot be observed completely since archaeological evidence (e.g., artefact counts) and historical documentation (e.g., manuscripts) are fragmentary and do not provide enough information to get anywhere near a complete picture of networks in the past. However, this little information can be used to specify statistical models allowing to infer missing links and generate plausible pictures of networks in the past.

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Investigating such networks is relevant to archaeological research because patterns of interaction can contribute to the explanation of various phenomena such as the spatial distribution of artefacts, migrations, or the emergence of settlement hubs.

In September 2016 the team in Konstanz organized a meeting and a workshop on archaeological network reconstruction. Dr. Timothy Evans (Imperial College London), Prof. Carl Knappett (University of Toronto), Dr. Angus Mol (Standford University) and Prof. Ray Rivers (Imperial College London) visited Konstanz for a few days to discuss model-based network reconstruction. In particular, the approach based on the ariadne model applied to the reconstruction of networks in the Middle Bronze Age in the Aegean and the approach based on exponential random graph models recently proposed to infer past networks in the Caribbean were compared and discussed.

The meeting ended with a workshop with presentations concerning recent ongoing research on network science in archaeology. More information on the event can be found here.