Small worlds, material culture and Near Eastern social networks

This source preferred by Fiona Coward

Authors: Coward, F.

Editors: Dunbar, R., Gamble, C. and Gowlett, J.

Volume: 158

Pages: 449-479

Publisher: Oxford University Press

ISBN: 9780197264522

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264522.001.0001

The cognitive, psychological and sociological mechanisms underpinning complex social relationships among small groups are a part of our primate heritage. However, among human groups relationships persist over much greater temporal and spatial scales, often in the physical absence of one or other of the individuals themselves. This paper asks how such individual, face-to-face social interactions were ‘scaled up’ during human evolution to the regional and global networks characteristic of our modern societies. One recent suggestion has been that a radical change in human sociality occurred with the shift to sedentary and agricultural societies in the early Neolithic. This paper presents the results of a focused study of the long term development of regional social networks in the Near East, using the distribution of different forms of material culture as a proxy for the social relationships that underpinned processes of trade, exchange and the dissemination of material culture practices. Long-term developments in social networks in the Near East are assessed in robust quantitative terms and their implications for the evolution of largescale human societies discussed.

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