Using networks to investigate material identities in the Epipalaeolithic and early Neolithic of the Near East

Authors: Coward, F.

Start date: 15 April 2015

This paper will illustrate the potential of methods derived from network science and especially social network analysis for investigating the social interactions and relationships within and between the earliest village sites in the Near East across the shift from a mobile hunting-and-gathering way of life to a more sedentary, village-based and ultimately agricultural lifestyles. This approach provides a new perspective on the question of social change at the time as it views social groupings as dynamic, emergent networks of relations, rather than as discrete, static and homogeneous entities. The fundamental significance of material culture to personal and group identity is used as the basis for social network analyses of a database of material culture from more than 500 sites across the region; This paper thus challenges accepted ‘cultural’ and temporal groupings but also points to some potentially significant temporal trends in the data over the course of this period, and goes 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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