‘All things being equal’? Multiplex material networks of the early Neolithic in the Near East.
Authors: Coward, F.
Start date: 9 April 2018
Archaeological network research typically relies on material culture similarities over space and time as a proxy for past social networks. In many cases, a range of different types of material culture are subsumed into reconstructed connections between nodes. However, not all forms of material culture are equal. Different types of objects may be caught up in rather different forms of social relationship – crudely put, ‘personal’ items such as jewellery may perhaps have more social and cultural significance than commodities, for example functional tools - and may thus be traded/exchanged/gifted in different ways. Analyses including different types of material culture may thus conflate multiple different forms of social relationship and patterns of connection. However, ‘significant’ and ‘functional’ are rarely mutually exclusive categories, and are always fluid, culturally and contextually dependent. This paper will investigate the multiple lenses different forms of material culture provide for studying social networks in the early Neolithic of SW Asia. What would a multiplex perspective for archaeological network research look like, and how might it impact on our understanding of past material cultures and social change?