Workshop in Ottawa tomorrow

networks-simulation-workshop-imageIza Romanowska and I have spent the last few weeks at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, doing some awesome Roman networky boardgame “research” with Shawn Graham. You’ll hear more about this cool work soon. Tomorrow we will give a workshop on simulation and networks for the humanities. If you happen to be in the neighbourhood, swing by! If not, get in touch if you are interested and I will share the workshop tutorials with you.

Carleton University, Ottawa, Macodrum Library Discovery Centre RM 481, 11 – 2

networks-simulation-workshop-imageUnderstanding the complexity of past and present societies is a challenge across the humanities. Simulation and network science provide computational tools for confronting these problems. This workshop will provide a hands-on introduction to two popular techniques, agent based modeling and social network analysis. The workshop has been designed with humanities students in mind, so no prior computer experience required.

The workshop is led by Tom Brughmans and Iza Romanowska of University of Konstanz and the University of Southampton, two of the leading digital archaeologists. Brughmans is co-editor of the recent volume, ‘The Connected Past: Challenges to Network Studies in Archaeology and History‘ published by Oxford University Press. Romanowska edits the scholarly blog ‘Simulating Complexity‘ and is a Fellow of the Software Sustainability Institute where she promotes the use of computational methods in the humanities.

2-day ABM workshop


If you want to learn how to use networks in an ABM environment then join this free 2-day workshop. A lot of ABM related topics will be taught, including networks. So sign up! More info below and in this leaflet.

Agent-based modelling (ABM) has taken by storm disciplines from all corners of the scientific spectrum, from ecology to medical research and social sciences and it is becoming increasingly popular in archaeology.
Now it is your turn to give it go!
Learn how to use the simulation software and explore how this popular complexity science technique can complement your research. This two-day workshop will provide an introduction to ABM using NetLogo – an open-source platform for building agent-based models, which combines user-friendly interface, simple coding language and a vast library of model examples, making it an ideal starting point for entry-level agent-based modellers, as well as a useful prototyping tool for more experienced programmers.
For more details see the Workshop leaflet.
To secure a place please send an email to i.romanowska at<> expressing your interest and briefly describing your background and the reasons why you want to attend. The event is free of charge, but you need to register to the CAA conference. Please note that places are limited and early applications will be given preference.
If you are:
an undergraduate, master or PhD student in archaeology, anthropology, history or a similar subject, an early career researcher, a lecturer, a commercial archaeologists or a heritage specialist
and if
● you are interested in computational modelling and simulations, or
● you work on a complex problem which can only be solved by modelling, or
● your supervisor told you to ‘go an learn how to do simulations’, or
● your students seem to be doing some magic with computers and you want to
help them but don’t know the tools, or
● you have once heard of agent-based modelling so you want to check what is
the whole fuss about, then this workshop is for you!
What will you learn?
● the theory and practice of agent-based modelling;
● how to create an archaeological simulation;
● basic and intermediate programming skills in NetLogo;
● the modelling process, from finding the right research questions to publishing your groundbreaking results;
● how to make your code better, clearer and faster;
● NetLogo extensions incorporating GIS, network science, and stats.
Coding experience is NOT required.
You need to bring your own laptop.

Present your archaeological networks at CAA Oslo!


Do you have something to say about the way network methods are used in archaeology? Maybe you have some networky research lying around somewhere, begging to be presented. Or maybe you just need an excuse to come to Oslo and hang out with awesome academics! These are all good reasons to submit a paper to our networks session at CAA 2016 in Oslo (although I prefer the first two reasons to the third)! Together with Mereke van Garderen and Daniel Weidele, I will chair a session that aims to work towards best practice in archaeological network science. Since network methods are still very new in our discipline, there is a need to explore how they can be usefully and critically applied and developed to lead to insights that could not have been gained through any other approach. We believe there is a need to develop guidelines for best practice for archaeological network science that will help archaeologists explore the potential use of network science techniques for achieving their own research aims. Come join us and add your thoughts to the discussion!

Deadline call for papers: 25 October 2015
Session code: S16
Abstract below
Dates conference: 29 March – 2 April 2016
More CFP info: CAA website 

For those interested in getting their hands dirty and learning how to use the awesome network science software Visone: we will also host a workshop at CAA Oslo!

Networking the past: Towards best practice in archaeological network science

Mereke van Garderen, Tom Brughmans, Daniel Weidele

The full diversity of network perspectives has only been introduced in our discipline relatively recently. As a result we are still in the long-term process of evaluating which theories and methods are available, the ‘fit’ between particular network perspectives and particular research questions, and how to apply these critically. How can network science usefully contribute to archaeological research by enabling archaeologists to answer important questions they could not have answered through other approaches? In what circumstances is the use of network science techniques appropriate? There is a need to address these questions by working towards guidelines to best practice in archaeological network science. This is a goal that should be achieved by a community of scholars in collaboration, drawing on the lessons learned from applying network science critically and creatively in a diversity of archaeological research contexts.

This session aims to build on the growing interest in and maturity of archaeological networks science to lay the foundations of guidelines for best practice in archaeological network science. It invites papers debating best practice in archaeological network science, addressing methodological and theoretical challenges posed by the archaeological application of network science, or presenting archaeological case studies applying network science techniques. It particularly welcomes papers presenting work in which the use of network science techniques was necessary and well theoretically motivated, and papers applying network science to exploring ‘oceans of data’.

Call for papers CAA2015 in Siena

caaThe call for papers for the 2015 edition of the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology conference is now open. There are some great sessions and workshops planned, check out the program here.

I want to draw your attention to a number of sessions and workshops I’m involved in or that are of interest if you bothered reading this blog post until here 🙂 I want to invite everyone to consider submitting a paper or attending these! Full abstracts below.

Session 5H: Geographical and temporal network science in archaeology

Session 5L: Modelling large-scale human dispersals: data, pattern and process

Workshop 5: Introduction to exploratory network analysis for archaeologists using Visone

Workshop 8: First steps in agent-based modelling with Netlogo

Roundtable 5: Simulating the Past: Complex Systems Simulation in Archaeology


Session 5H: Geographical and temporal network science in archaeology

Formal network techniques are becoming an increasingly common addition to the archaeologist’s methodological toolbox. Archaeologists have adopted these techniques mainly from the fields of social network analysis, physics and mathematics, where they have been developed and applied for decades. However, network science techniques for the analysis or visualisation of geographical and long-term temporal phenomena have seen far less development than those for social and technological phenomena. Conversely, archaeology has a long tradition of studying long-term change of socio-cultural systems and spatial phenomena, a research focus and tradition that is a direct consequence of the nature of archaeological data and our ambition to use it as proxy evidence for past human behaviour. We believe this spatial and temporal research focus so common in archaeology could inspire the development of innovative spatial and temporal network science techniques.

This session welcomes archaeological applications of formal network science techniques. It particularly encourages elaboration on the geographical and temporal aspects of applications. What are the implications of working on large time-scales for the use of network science techniques and the interpretation of their outputs? How can the study of long-term change of social systems inspire the development of innovative network science techniques? What advantages do geographical network approaches offer over other spatial analysis techniques in archaeology? How can the long tradition of studying spatial phenomena in archaeology inspire the development of innovative network science techniques?

Session 5L: Modelling large-scale human dispersals: data, pattern and process

Archaeology has largely moved forward from the simplistic ‘dots-on-the-map’ and ‘arrows-on-the-map’ approaches when it comes to studying large-scale human movements. Current models regarding spatio-temporal distribution and migration of humans often highlight the complex nature of such phenomena and the limitations that any particular data type impose on the reconstruction, be it environmental (paleoclimate, paleotopography, paleofauna and -flora), archaeological (site distribution, patterns in material culture) and other types of data (genetics, isotopes etc). Similarly the, often very coarse, resolution of the data coupled with the difficulty of integrating different types of information within one framework make the task of researching large-scale human dispersal challenging. Nevertheless, a number of recent applications employing different computational techniques show that this can be achieved. From the data acquisition, cataloguing and storing, to spatial analysis and identifying patterns and distributions in the data to building abstract and semi-realistic simulations of the processes behind the dispersals, computational techniques can aid the process of investigating human movement on various scales and allow researchers to tackle the underlying complexity of the studied systems moving the debate beyond simple intuitive models.

This session aims to summarise the recent progress in the topic, discuss major challenges and provide a base for establishing further directions of research. We invite contributions from researchers studying human movements on the meso- and macro-scale and employing any of the wide variety of techniques and theoretical frameworks within the following three themes:

DATA: spatio-temporal data acquisition and integration (for example, data types, quantifying uncertainty and biases of the data, large-scale databases, cross-platform integration);

PATTERN: spatio-temporal analysis and modelling (statistical modelling, GIS, C14 among others);

PROCESS: modelling of processes and mechanisms underpinning dispersal through simulation (agent-based and equation-based modelling, cellular automata, system-dynamics modelling, (social) network theory) and other techniques.

Workshop 5: Introduction to exploratory network analysis for archaeologists using Visone

Network science techniques offer archaeologists the ability to manage, visualise, and analyse network data. Within different archaeological research contexts, network data can be used to represent hypothesised past social networks, geographically embedded networks like roads and rivers, the similarity of site assemblages, and much more.

A large number of software programs is available to work with network data. Visone is one of them and offers a number of advantages:
• Free to use for research purposes
• A user-friendly interactive graphical user interface
• Innovative network visualisations
• Exporting publication-quality raster and vector files
• The incorporation of statistical modelling techniques

This workshop introduces the basics of network data management, visualisation and analysis with Visone through practical examples using archaeological research questions and datasets. The workshop is aimed at archaeologists with no required previous experience with network science.

Participants should bring a laptop with Visone installed (download Visone: )

Maximum 20 participants.

Workshop 8: First steps in agent-based modelling with Netlogo

Following on the success of the simulation workshops at CAA2012 in Perth and CAA2013 in Paris, we would like to continue the beginner course in NetLogo – an open-source platform for building agent-based models. NetLogo’s user-friendly interface, simple coding language and a vast library of model examples makes it an ideal starting point for entry-level modellers, as well as a useful prototyping tool for more experienced programmers. The first part of the workshop will be devoted to demonstrating the basics of modelling with NetLogo through a set of worked examples. This should give each participant enough skills and confidence to tackle the second exercise: building an archaeologically-inspired simulation in a small group. Finally, the last two hours will consist of a ‘drop-in’ clinic for anyone who would like to discuss their ideas for a simulation, needs help developing a model, or would like direction to further resources for modellers.

No prior knowledge of coding is required but we will ask the participants to bring their own laptop and install NetLogo beforehand:

Roundtable 5: Simulating the Past: Complex Systems Simulation in Archaeology

In the last few years approaches commonly classified as computational modelling (agent-based and equation-based modelling, and other types of simulation etc.) are becoming increasingly common and popular among the archaeological computing community. Almost all research activity could be termed ‘modelling’ in some sense, for example, in archaeology we create conceptual models (hypotheses, typologies), spatial models (GIS), virtual models (3D reconstructions) or statistical models to name but a few. Most of them, however, investigate either the elements of the system (individual pots, skeletons, buildings etc.) or the pattern produced by the system elements (cultural similarities, settlement distribution, urban development etc.) and only theorize about the possible processes that led from the aggregated actions of individual actors to population-level patterns. In contrast, simulation allows us to approach such processes in a formal way and tackle some of the past complexities. It helps us to create ‘virtual labs’ in which we can test and contrast different hypotheses, find irregularities in the data or identify new factors which we would not suspect of having a significant impact on the system. In short, complexity science techniques have great potential for diverse applications in archaeology and may become a driving force for formalisation of descriptive models for the whole discipline.

The aim of this roundtable is to discuss the potential and challenges of complex systems simulation, including but not restricted to:
the epistemology of computational modelling (what it can and cannot do);
data integration and its use for model validation;
system formalisation and the role of domain specialists;
replicability and reuse of code;
lessons learnt from other disciplines commonly using simulation (ecology, social science, economics etc.)
communication between modellers and the wider archaeological public;
further directions of research.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to propose the creation of a new Special Interest Group (SIG) under the auspices of CAA (named: ‘CAA Complex Systems Simulation SIG’), and to discuss a preliminary plan of the proposed activities of the SIG and an outline of how the SIG is to be organised.

HNR workshop Bochum

bochumLast month’s Historical Network Research conference in Ghent was awesome! Can’t get enough of that networky goodness? Then you might be interested in the next event in the HNR series: “Vom Schürfen und Knüpfen – Text Mining und Netzwerkanalyse für Historiker_innen”, 10-12 April 2015 in Bochum. More info below.

HNR Workshop 2015

Vom Schürfen und Knüpfen – Text Mining und Netzwerkanalyse für Historiker_innen 10.–12. April 2015
Als 9. Veranstaltung in der Reihe „Historische Netzwerkforschung“ findet im April 2015 ein Workshop zu semantisch-sozialen Netzwerken an der Ruhr-Universität Bochum statt. Die Workshop-Reihe bietet historisch orientierten Forscher_innen aller Fachbereich erste Einblicke in die Methodik und eine Plattform zum Austausch über die neuesten Techniken der Netzwerkanalyse. Unter dieser Zielsetzung wird sich der Bochumer Workshop mit der Methode des Text Mining beschäftigen, die eine zunehmende Automatisierung der Erstellung von Netzwerken aus historischem Material ermöglicht. Darüber hinaus spielt die Frage nach den Dimensionen von Texten, die durch diese Methoden repräsentiert werden können, eine Rolle. Hierbei bieten semantisch-soziale Netzwerke die Möglichkeit, sich zum einen mit Begriffszusammenhängen und Konzeptualisierungen, zum anderen mit Beziehungen zwischen Entitäten auseinanderzusetzen.

Der Workshop soll auch Teilnehmer_innen ohne Vorkenntnisse zeigen, wie Relationen von Worten und/oder Entitäten aus einem Text mithilfe von computergestützten Verfahren erzeugt und graphisch abgebildet werden können, ohne dass sie zunächst manuell (beispielsweise in einer Tabelle) erfasst werden müssen.

Am Freitagvormittag besteht die Möglichkeit, vor der offiziellen Eröffnung des Workshops, an einer Einführung in die Programmiersprachen Python und/oder R teilzunehmen. Während des Workshops gibt es eine mehrstündige Session zum Visualisierungsprogramm Gephi.

Darüber hinaus sollen die Teilnehmer_innen erste Einblicke in die folgenden Bereiche bekommen:

Eigenschaften, die ein Text besitzen sollte, um ein Netzwerk erstellen zu können
Möglichkeiten, die es zur Verbesserung der Qualität von Netzwerken gibt
Tools und Computerprogramme, die bei der Erstellung von Netzwerken helfen können
Fragestellungen, die durch die semantisch-soziale Netzwerkanalyse beantwortet werden können
Auf diese Weise soll gezeigt werden, wie man einen Text zunächst „schürft“, um schließlich ein Netzwerk zu „knüpfen“.

Zum Call for Presentations/Participation

CFP The Connected Past @ Imperial College London

imperialTime to announce the next in our series of The Connected Past conferences. This time we will go to Imperial College London where Tim Evans and Ray Rivers will host us at the physics department. This edition of The Connected Past will focus in particular on how the challenges archaeologists are faced with when trying to understand human behaviour using fragmentary material data might be of interest to physicists. We hope this event will be another great opportunity for scholars from different disciplines to meet, share their ideas and problems, and hopefully collaborate to try to solve these issues. We will also organise a half-day hands-on workshop on network science for archaeologists. Keep an eye out for the announcement next month.


The Connected Past: archaeological challenges and complexity – a one and a half day multi-disciplinary meeting to explore how concepts and techniques from network- and complexity science can be used to study archaeological data. These challenges include the use of material data as proxy evidence for past human behaviour, questions about long-term processes of social change, and the fragmentary nature of archaeological data. We aim to bring together physical scientists and archaeologists in order to highlight the challenges posed by archaeological data and research questions, and explore collaborative ways of tackling them using perspectives drawn from network and complexity science.

The meeting will take place on the afternoon of Monday 8th September and all day Tuesday 9th September at Imperial College London. A hands-on introductory workshop is planned for the morning of Monday 8th September – details to be announced.

Call for Papers. We are looking for 20 to 30 minute contributions and are inviting researchers from any relevant field to submit a one page abstract in pdf format. This should be sent to:

The abstract should contain the title, name of proposed speaker and names of any additional authors and their associated institutions, along with a brief abstract (200-500 words). Any additional information (figure, links, bibliography, etc.) may be included within the one page limit.

Submission deadline: 20th June 2014
Decisions announced: 4th July 2014

Keynote talks. The meeting will feature keynote talks by Alan Wilson, University College London, and Ulrik Brandes, University Konstanz (a further additional keynote will be announced soon). Shorter talks will be given by other invited speakers and from researchers submitting abstracts. Finally, at a later date we will issue a call for some quick fire (five minute) talks to allow researchers at all stages of their career to participate.

Registration Fee. The registration fee is £45 (£22.50 for students) as a contribution towards local expenses. This will cover lunch on the Tuesday, coffee/tea breaks plus drinks at the informal social event on the Monday evening. Registration will open in June.

Travel Bursaries. Some support is available to cover travel and other costs of UK-based researchers attending the meeting. If you wish to be considered for such support, please send a request explaining why you should be considered for a bursary to the same address as for papers with the subject “Bursary application [your name]” ( Bursaries will be given out from 20th June 2014 onwards while funds remain.

Further Information. The meeting is organised as part of The Connected Past series of events, funded in part by EPSRC. Full details are available on the web site at

On Twitter follow the hashtag #tcp2014

Organisers. Tim Evans (Chair), Ray Rivers, Tom Brughmans, Anna Collar, Fiona Coward.

Prosopographies and social networks workshop

prosopProsopographies are great sources for building past social networks. Those interested in or working with large datasets of past individuals might be interested in the Prosop workshop. More information below. or on

Prosop: a social networking tool for the past

Call for participants

Second database development workshop

Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) on May 9, 2014.

Historians and other scholars with large databases of historical person data are invited to a workshop to test and populate Prosop, a project funded by the Office of Digital Humanities of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

What is Prosop?

Prosop is a collaborative semantic web database of details about individuals in the past. Although it maps networks and discovers connections, it is not just facebook for dead people. In particular, it aims to:

  • manage diverse types of data from different historical settings,
  • aggregate of large quantities of person data,
  • accommodate uncertain and conflicting information, and
  • facilitate data-driven study of historical systems of description and classification.
  • For more detailed information, visit our website at

What kinds of data do we seek?

We’re looking for information about relatively large sets of relatively ordinary people from the past. Typically, this information is extracted from archival records used by microhistorians. For example, the database contains the name, age, address, and physical description of 700 criminal court defendants from 1880s Egypt. Prosop is meant to work for all kinds of historical person data, and we are especially interested in data in unusual formats (linguistic, topical, or otherwise) that will help us to develop the flexibility of the system. Also, we are looking for participants who are willing to share their data with the community of researchers using Prosop.

Applying with a counterpart

For this workshop, we are especially interested in applications from pairs of researchers who have similar datasets and would like to test them for possible overlap. Prosop may help them to discover common individuals and explore community characteristics.

What will happen at the workshops?

Before the workshop, each participant will submit a tranche of names, which will be imported into Prosop. Participants will describing the characteristics of their data and the ways it might interact with other person data. Those working in pairs will consider any overlap that Prosop found, as well as commonalities that it fails to discover. Participants will discuss issues of categorization and comparison that arise. We will work to find ways to link data and to make the system more usable. The workshop will provide a chance for historians and developers to communicate.

What’s in it for participants?

Workshop participants will contribute to the design of a tool that will enable new research into global social history, and will have early access to its results. They should gain new perspectives on their own data and its place in the global history of person information. Those working in pairs may discover fruitful overlap between their data sets. Participants’ experience and input will help to refine the system towards its aim, which is to encompass all categories of historical person data. Participant costs will be covered by the organizers, though some cost sharing may be asked of those applying from abroad.

How to apply?

Apply via the form available here. You will be asked to attach a CV and a letter of application, which should include a general description of the data which you wish to contribute to the project. Where possible, please specify:

  • the number of persons in the database
  • the categories of information recorded about each person (e.g. name, age, birthplace, occupation)
  • the geographical and chronological range of the persons represented
  • the type of sources from which the information is drawn (language, archives, genres).

What is the deadline for applications?

The deadline for applications for the second workshop is April 7, 2014.

Are there other ways to participate?

Prosop is an ongoing project. In addition to possible future workshops, we are looking for beta testers. If you are not able to join this workshop, but might want to be involved in the future, please get in touch via our website and join our mailing list.

A thousand worlds: sci-fi networks in archaeology

Rune Rattenborg presenting at 'A Thousand Worlds' in Durham
Rune Rattenborg presenting at ‘A Thousand Worlds’ in Durham
Here is a common plot in sci-fi literature and movies (based on a popular physics model): the world you know is but one in an endless range of parallel universes, where each one is slightly different. Who would ever have thought this would be a good starting point for archaeological discussions? Yet the meeting in Durham I recently attended showed that parallel universes might have more in common with archaeology than we think.

(this review was originally published as a guest post on Electric Archaeology, please join discussion there)

I was invited by Rune Rattenborg to join a workshop in Durham called ‘A Thousand Worlds: Network Models in Archaeology’. This concept of a thousand worlds can be interpreted in an archaeological research context in different ways. On the one hand, and most similar to the sci-fi parallel universes plot, you could think about the many different reconstructions of past realities that could all explain a single archaeological pattern. Literally thousands of hypotheses could be raised to explain a certain pattern, each of them suggesting different mechanisms driving human behaviour and ultimately its expression in the archaeological record. On the other hand, you could think about the many academic perspectives archaeologists find useful for understanding the past. Perspectives ranging from highly quantitative (you can place me in that camp) to very qualitative, from local to global, from scientific to philosophical, and from an explicitly present-day perspective to attempting to recreate past perspectives. Each one of these is a valid way of thinking about past human behaviour and behavioural change (or rather every configuration or combination of these perspectives).

Both of these interpretations motivated Rune to title his workshop ‘A Thousand Worlds’. He noticed that archaeologists interested in questions of past connectivity and those of us using network perspectives often address the challenges we are faced with in very different ways. The only common ground of most network perspectives seems to be that the relationships between entities are considered crucial to understanding the behaviour of these entities. For example, the romantic relationship between two individuals will affect the decision to stay in and watch a Hugh Grant romantic comedy or to go out for a beer with the guys. But Rune also noticed that each perspective allows for a wide variety of reconstructions of past realities. These two issues seem to confuse archaeologists who might be interested in using such a network perspective in their archaeological research. I totally agree with Rune’s motivation to create some order in this chaos. The main questions of this workshop therefore were: what different network perspectives are out there? What rules govern them? What do they allow us to do that we could not do before? And what are their limitations?

To some extent the meeting was successful in addressing these questions. A number of very different perspectives were discussed by selected proponents: I introduced an extremely formal network science approach, which was discussed rather more pragmatically by Anna Collar; Michelle de Gruchy highlighted some interesting challenges in a geographical context; another group of presenters (Kristoffer Damgaard, Eivind Heldaas Seland, Sofie Laurine Albris, Rune Rattenborg) used the concept of connectivity and explored how it could be reflected in archaeological and literary sources. Finally Ronan O’Donnell introduced the actor-network theory (ANT) perspective through a fascinating case study on a post-Medieval landscape in Northumberland, UK, from which the strong difference between the aims of the ANT and network science research perspectives became particularly clear.

Nevertheless, by the end of the meeting it became clear that we were not entirely successful in addressing the many questions we set out to answer. Eivind Heldaas Seland skilfully summarised each paper and formulated three key questions that require more attention: how can these different perspectives and approaches usefully work together? What is the added value of some of these compared to a more traditional description of our sources? How can we better use these perspectives in the future? The fact that we were unsuccessful at addressing these questions shows how complex and non-trivial they are (and we also ran out of discussion time). But for what it’s worth, I take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts on these questions, combined with some of the points I picked up from others during the discussion.

First of all, I believe the first question presents the false impression that the different network perspectives can and need to work together. I would argue that, many network perspectives do not need to and most of them do not work well together at all. This is because some of them (like ANT and network science) are designed to address very different questions. But even those approaches that have more in common, like the quantitative vs. qualitative use of network science, don’t necessarily need to be combined into an almighty network approach. There is no need for a great unifying theory or method in archaeology, not even for one that just focuses on questions of connectivity. Rather, I consider the different network perspectives as tools that function according to certain rules, and once these rules are known the tools have a potential to make small but crucial contributions to our knowledge of the past. I believe that if we are to ever achieve the full potential of these exciting new approaches for archaeology we will need to first critically explore them in isolation.

Secondly, the added value of these perspectives is more obvious than how they should be applied. Many in the audience seemed to agree that the concept of the network itself is a powerful tool to think with. It forces us to consider the potentially important role played by relationships between entities (however defined: humans, molecules, parallel universes), which might allow us to ask and answer new questions. For me the added value lies in the recognition that all archaeologists make assumptions about the nature of such relationships when they formulate hypotheses about past phenomena. It can be useful to think about these assumptions in terms of network concepts and, most importantly, there is a real need to be critically aware of their existence and formulate them clearly. Network science can help archaeologists to think about their assumptions of past relationships, to formally express them (in words and/or in numbers), and to evaluate their implications for past behavioural change and its reflection in the archaeological record.

Finally, the “better use” of such approaches and perspectives is not optional, it is necessary if they are ever to become useful within an archaeological research context. However, a critical use and application is not just a critical awareness of the rules that govern them. Rather, an equal if not larger effort should be afforded to the archaeological interpretation of network science results, or the differences in the interpretative process that a networks perspective implies. I believe none of the scholars that attended the Durham meeting would disagree with that. The studies they presented could be roughly divided into two groups: those that THINK through network and those that DO networks. I believe the former is more important than the latter, because there can be no doing without thinking. Although this sounds like an obvious statement it is worth emphasising it because the use of quantitative network analysis is too often treated like a “black box” approach, which it is not. Every network science study in archaeology, no matter how quantitative, aims to better understand (aspects of) past phenomena. When doing so, the scholar formulates a hypothesis, expresses their assumptions about past relationships and their roles, or at least clearly defines what they mean by the network concepts they use. Only after this phase of network thinking can a scholar proceed to network doing, which involves representing hypotheses/assumptions/the archaeological record as network data (points and lines, and what they mean). The ability to use advanced quantitative tools should not be an excuse for the post-hoc imposition of a theoretical framework that fits the results nicely; nor should the appeal of using fashionable network concepts lead to reluctance to formally express what is meant by them and to evaluate their implications for understanding past phenomena.

Even though none of the three key questions about the role of the networks perspective in archaeology can be conclusively answered at this time, I felt that its future is nevertheless bright. The diversity of possible approaches and perspectives is encouraging and will lead to critical research that promises to help archaeologists better evaluate what approach is useful for their studies of past connectivity, and what is not. Some of these approaches might require multi-disciplinary collaboration, especially the more scary and maths-heavy techniques in the network science toolbox. But archaeologists should never be tempted to outsource the network thinking part of the process. Critical knowledge of the archaeological literature and data leads to an awareness of the relevant research questions, and the same knowledge will lead to valuable interpretations of analytical results and research processes. There might be a thousand pasts out there, and there might be a thousand ways of reaching them, but this quest will always need to be undertaken by archaeologists.

Selected relevant publications:
Brandes, U., Robins, G., McCranie, A., & Wasserman, S. 2013. What is network science? Network Science 1(01): p.1–15.
Brughmans, T. 2013.Thinking through networks: A Review of Formal Network Methods in Archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.
Knappett, C. 2011. An archaeology of interaction. Network perspectives on material culture and society. Oxford – New York: Oxford University Press.

Hestia2 in Stanford: visualising complex data

Hestia_logo_whtRemember the Hestia2 event we organised in Southampton in July with The Connected Past? Time for more of that! The Hestia project is pleased to announce its second community event, which will take place at Stanford University on 4-5 November 2013. The two-day workshop, hosted by Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, will tackle the issue of visualizing complex data, and will be of interest to anyone working on network theory and the digital analysis of literature and historical material.

It will include presentations from various local high-tech companies developing complex data analysis and hands-on work with the following humanities projects based in Stanford:
Orbis 2.0, the latest geospatial network model of the ancient world;
Arches, a new open-source geospatial software system for cultural heritage inventory and management;
– Palladio, a new platform for visualizing and analyzing networks of historical data;
– Topotime, a new data model and graphical layout designed specifically to handle the fuzzy temporal bounds and cyclical time of literary narratives.

This two-day event is free for all. We simply ask you to register in advance here.

For more information about the event and about Hestia, please visit our blog.

We look forward to welcoming you in Stanford!

Best wishes

The Hestia2 team

**Hestia2 is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council**

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