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.


5 thoughts on “Defining networks

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  1. Malcolm Wagstaff in the Geography Department at Southampton turned me on to Graph Theory in the 70’s. He had a PhD student looking at coach roads in Britain. Yours is a great application of Graph Theory to archaeology. When started looking at road networks in the Iberian Peninsula in the 80’s, I had to do everything long hand and recalculate to check for errors and if one emerged, I had to do the calculation a third time. Kathleen Slane had no idea where I was going with it so that was the end of that MA idea. I then turned to the Peloponnese and Crete which was less cumbersome and then Ian Whitbread wrote me a Basic programme which made everything go much faster! Kathy Morgan and Todd Whitelaw considered it for their analysis of Geometric pottery in the Argolid but settled for something simpler.

    1. I know that up until a few years ago, there were hardly any archaeological examples of network analysis out there. From the 2000’s onwards, however, a first generation of archaeological applications has emerged, that share a number of interesting features but also a number of issues. So I believe the time is right for an evaluation of the potential of network analysis for the archaeological discipline. I more than welcome any bibliographical hints you can offer Guy. Also, if you did some work on it yourself or have some ideas, don’t hesitate to share. The blog is kinda silent at the moment, but I’m hoping to kick-start it in a couple of months. It would be great to have a discussion forum and a community fo archaeologists interested in this kind of thing!

  2. For the search engine of the databases of Corinth and the Athenian Agora see;v=;t=;sort=
    This was developed by Bruce Harzler in collaboration with James Herbst and myself following Corinth’s 800,000 Euro EU grant to digitize our notebooks, drawings and photographic images. Over 300,000 records are available to those without the password – with the password it is something like 700,000. It will get much bigger quite quickly as we map the meta data better and as both excavations are born digital (Corinth is also single context open-area) every season significant quantities of information are added.

  3. My Peloponnese results came out in the Annual of the British School at Athens 1990. I guess seriation would be a form GT application in which case Flinders Pietrie may have been the first archaeological application.

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