Getting to grips with the very earliest social networks: the challenges of using network methodologies to tackle Palaeolithic datasets.

This source preferred by Fiona Coward

Authors: Coward, F.

Start date: 3 April 2013

A series of recent analyses have demonstrated an expansion in the scale and complexity of social networks as larger and more permanent social aggregations grew up with the adoption of a more sedentary, village-based and ultimately agricultural lifestyle during the late Palaeolithic and early Neolithic. However, these developments may represent only a relatively late stage in a much more long-term and gradual process of scaling-up of social networks which took place over the course of hominin and human evolution, from the small, intimate and highly local communities of other primates, to the globally-connected, city-dwelling Homo urbanus of the contemporary world. In this paper I will argue that increasing engagement with material culture was central to this process, providing a mechanism by which humans were able to expand the scale of social relations well beyond those of their closest relatives. Network methodologies provide the best opportunity to investigate this; however, the nature of Palaeolithic datasets makes such analyses challenging; in this paper I will discuss the problems and also some potential ways forward, through which we may be able to gain vital insights into some of the very earliest social networks and the ways in which they subsequently evolved.

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