Identity, social networks and material environments in the Epipalaeolithic and early Neolithic of the Near East.

This source preferred by Fiona Coward

Authors: Coward, F.

Start date: 9 January 2014

In this paper I will demonstrate how social network analysis (SNA) can inform on the social changes which accompanied the shift from a mobile hunting-and-gathering way of life to a more sedentary, village-based and ultimately agricultural lifestyle which occurred over the course of the Epipalaeolithic and early (pre-pottery) Neolithic in the Near East. The causes of this process, and its implications for human society, economy, the environment and even for the brain, have long been the subject of lively debate. One influential theory sees this change as a dramatic step-change in human lives, as the small, fluid and largely kin-based groups characteristic of hunter-gatherer groups become increasingly larger, more permanent and more complex societies, but to what extent can this be documented in the archaeological record? Analyses using SNA of a database of material culture from well-dated sites across the region provide a new perspective on the issue and demonstrate a number of important temporal trends in the relationships between sites over this period. This paper will outline these trends and their potential implications for social change at the time, and will go on to consider ways in which the use of SNA might be developed and enhanced to address these issues in more sophisticated ways in future.

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