Quantifying the Relationship Between Geography and Social Networks

Author(s): Ian Jorgeson

Year: 2017


Social Network Analysis (SNA) has become an important tool for archaeologists. However, unlike other social scientists who work with living populations, archaeologists do not have direct access to the social networks of ancient peoples. Instead, they rely on material culture to infer the presence, strength, and properties of social networks in the past. A standard approach is to compare assemblages of an artifact class among a group of sites, and quantify the similarity of those assemblages pairwise as a proxy for social networks. Pairs of sites with high similarity scores are inferred to be more strongly networked. For many artifact classes, the assumed link between assemblage similarity and strength of social network is well supported. However, this assumption is potentially problematic when assemblage similarity is based on geochemical sourcing of artifacts. In these cases, the distances between sites and the sources of the raw materials may do a better job of explaining patterns in assemblages among sites. This research develops a method for quantifying geographical similarity of sites to raw material sources using least-cost path analysis within a GIS framework, establishing a baseline of expected assemblage similarity given local geography, which can then be compared to the results of SNA.

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Quantifying the Relationship Between Geography and Social Networks. Ian Jorgeson. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430742)

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Abstract Id(s): 17604