On Saturday 20 February I will present a paper at Computer Applications in Archaeology UK chapter conference at University College London. The talk is based on a paper that will appear in one of the forthcoming issues of Oxford Journal of Archaeology (the pre-published version is available on the bibliography page). My aim will be to convince the audience that current archaeological applications of network analysis are based on an incomplete and sometimes uncritical adoption of network principles from other disciplines, and that the need exists to work towards an explicitly archaeological network analysis. An abstract is included below.

Do have a look at the CAA UK website, I’m very much looking forward to all the other talks.


In recent years network analysis has been applied in archaeological research to examine the structure of archaeological relationships of whatever sort. A first generation of archaeological applications of network analysis has succeeded in providing an innovative view of long discussed issues by stressing the importance of exploring relationships between objects/people/data directly. However, these archaeological applications share a number of issues concerning:

  • the role of archaeological data in networks
  • the diversity of network structures, their consequences and their interpretation
  • the critical use of quantitative tools
  • the influence of other disciplines, especially sociology

This paper concerns a deconstruction of past archaeological methods for examining networks. Through a case-study of Roman table wares in the Eastern Mediterranean, it will highlight a number of issues with network analysis as a method for archaeology. It urges caution with the uncritical application of network analysis methods developed in other disciplines and applied to archaeology. However, it stresses the potential benefits of network analysis for the archaeological discipline and acknowledges the need for developing a specifically archaeological network analysis, which should be based on relational thinking and can be expanded with an archaeological toolset for quantitative analysis.

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  1. A guy called David Pettegrew is writing an encyclopaedia piece on Graph Theory apps. to archaeology. I mentioned that Flinders Pietrie was the first I knew of (Egyptian Tomb groups). Then there was Alison Franz for Ottoman pottery in about 1934. For me and others is was Malcolm Wagstaff in the Geography Dept. at Soton who brought John Cherry, Colin Renfrew and others into the game on GT,Catastrophe Theory, von Thunen, Chrystaller and others. Malcolm still rocks – 35 years on he still is an inspiration.

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