‘Thick’ networks? More-than-human networks in context in the Epipalaeolithic and early Neolithic of the Near East

This source preferred by Fiona Coward

Authors: Coward, F.

Start date: 15 December 2010

The recent rise of ‘relational’ perspectives emphasises the continuum of social relations between not just humans, but also other animals, landscapes and material culture. Such a perspective demands a new way of thinking about such interactions in which social relations, economy and technology can be conceptualized as simply different facets of activities and performances that share many features. Social network analysis (SNA) is gaining a critical mass of archaeological interest as a new analytical technique with huge potential for investigating these more-than-human networks of interation. However, paradoxically, in emphasising the interconnectedness of human individuals and groups with other elements of their worlds, something of the rich specificity of those material, social, ecological and geographical engagements themselves is often lost. The Epipalaeolithic and early Neolithic of the Near East (~20-7k cal BC) is a period likely to have been the locus of significant social and material culture change as some groups shifted from mobile, socially-flexible hunting and gathering lifeways to more settled, permanently co-resident aggregations. This paper presents a case study from this region and period which will investigate how to incorporate lessons learned from perspectives viewing technology and material culture as socially and historically constituted, and how placing these social ad material networks in their real-world geographic contexts using GIS might enrich SNA. The result is a much more informed description of social networks and the ways in which these change over time in this region than perspectives focusing narrowly on technological and/or economic change.

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