Defining networks

As already mentioned in the preliminary method defining networks (the relationships within ceramic distributions) is of crucial importance as this will dominate the results of the analysis. This should also happen as early on as possible in the project, because it will determine our approach of the data (the database model and overall method). As it is our aim to investigate the relationship between ceramics and Roman trade, we thought it best not to drift too far from the data themselves. We could even question the use of analysing networks that combine the ceramic data and other parameters (like distance, topography or sailing conditions), as the things we think to be significant will also turn out to be structuring factors in the networks.
But what relationships are explicitly present in the data themselves? As we mentioned before, it’s hard to think of networks that include no assumptions (this is why we prefer a methodology that is based on testing hypotheses/assumptions, rather than focusing on one type of network). We noticed that it is hard not to think geographically when thinking about the relationships within a large quantity of ceramics. The first network we came up with actually focused on the transportation of the ceramics, from centre of production to centre of deposition. In this network the points would represent sites and the lines acts of ceramic transportation. Such a network, however, requires assumptions about the junctions between the known starting and ending sites, which made us think about making distance a defining factor. Although, it is very temping to try and reconstruct ancient trade routes, we decided that there were too many factors to take into account (land/sea travel, distance, sailing conditions, topography, Roman roads).
So are there non-geographical networks reflected in ceramic distributions? We might look at the quantities of certain ceramic types, the diversity of pottery types for every site, and the patterns in presence of types at the same period in the same place. It becomes increasingly hard to imagine such networks and what they represent; but it should result in an interesting and innovative view on ceramic distributions. Do these networks inform us on the contacts of producing centres, the popularity of pottery types, the social networks in which traders frequented, do they reflect trade in other items like staple goods?
It is our aim to discover the structure within a ceramic database, by evaluating as many network types as possible as hypotheses. Please share doubts about the above mentioned networks; and feel free to propose other relationships that could be implied by ceramic distributions.


Welcome to the project’s discussion page! Some of the issues we are faced with along the way will be posted here, in addition to the progress we make. We believe that the best ideas are developed through thesis and antithesis (or that’s proven to be the case for ourselves anyway), to avoid a narrow-minded thought process. Everything on this page is therefore up for discussion. Also, feel free to raise any topic related to the project.

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