Arts, Humanities, and Complex Networks

Complex Networks In Archaeology: Urban Connectivity In Iron Age And Roman Southern Spain

by Graeme Earl, Simon Keay, Tom Brughmans

Abstract

Complex systems existed in the past, archaeologists never doubted this. Until recently, however, a suitable analytical framework for examining the properties of such systems was unavailable. The last decade has seen a growing number of pioneering archaeological applications of network-based techniques, mainly influenced by social network analysis and popular network models in physics. Typical applications adopted from these disciplines have already proven to provide innovative and interesting approaches to understanding the diffusion of people, objects and ideas, belief systems and interregional interaction. The archaeological applications are still dealing with some growing pains, however. The list of published applications is short and they have not ye ttapped into the full potential of the networks perspective. but more importantly, there is a realization that the nature of archaeological data is indirect and fragmentary reflections of the past confront network analysts with unique challenge – one that will allow archaeologists to make valuable contributions to the “new” science of networks. This paper aims to confront this challenge. It will demonstrate how a complex networks approach can be used to explore archaeological datasets as well as to understand properties of complex systems in the past. It will illustrate this with examples drawn from the Urban connectivity in roman southern Spain project. A large and complex database has been assembled for this project in an attempt to explore the diverse ways in which ancient cities were related. It includes diverse data types including coins, ceramics, statues and visibility in the landscape. This case-study will raise issues related to how this complexity can be explored and its behavior understood, how urban connectivity in the past as attested indirectly through complex graphs of multiple relationships is reflected. In doing so, this paper aims to work towards original and valuable archaeological contributions to network science.

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