Archaeological network research: what, when, who, why and where we go from here

Tom Brughmans

Time and Place: Thursday, 01.07., 14:10–14:30, Room 2
Session: Networks and Cultural Objects

Keywords: Archaeology; bibliometrics; citation network;, co-authorship; networks; history of research 

The disciplines of archaeology and history have often followed similar trajectories and  developments. The recent development of network research becoming more widely applied  happened at virtually the same time for archaeology and history, and they share many of the main  motivations for and challenges in adopting the approach. How can we use network approaches for  exploring textual and material sources? How do we represent the incompleteness and uncertainty  inherent to our sources in our network research?

However, the phenomena to which network methods have been applied can sometimes be rather  different between the two disciplines. The strong focus on past social networks, correspondence  and affiliations in historical network research is not present in archaeological networks research,  where spatial phenomena such as visibility or movement through physical landscapes have tended  to dominate.

This paper aims to provide an up-to-date overview of network research from an archaeological  perspectives. What are the past phenomena typically studied using network methods in  archaeology, and what empirical datasets tend to be represented as network data? When were  these approaches adopted and how did the popularity in their application change over time? Who  are these archaeological network researchers and what trends can be observed in gender patterns?  These questions will be addressed through a combination of examples and a bibliometric study  focused on co-authorship, archaeological citation networks, and gender patterns in publication  output (Brughmans 2013; Brughmans and Peeples 2017). This overview reveals archaeological  network research as a very young subdiscipline, with an unbalanced but changing gender profile,  dominated by a relatively limited range of popular applications, and rarely pursued by authors as  their main research interest. 

Through this overview, I will explore what kinds of unique contributions archaeological network  research has made to our understanding of the human past. Has it achieved its potential so far? I  will argue that the range of studied phenomena and applied techniques has been very focused and  should be widened, and that educational resources and good introductions are needed to more  firmly establish this approach as one of the tools of the trade in archaeology. I will conclude by  exploring how two new initiatives aim to contribute to this: the Oxford Handbook of Archaeological  Network Research (Brughmans, Mills, Munson and Peeples eds., in preparation), and the Cambridge  Manual of Network Science in Archaeology (Brughmans and Peeples, in preparation).  

References cited

Brughmans, T., Mills, B. J., Munson, J. L., & Peeples, M. A. (in preparation). The Oxford Handbook  of Archaeological Network Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Brughmans, T., & Peeples, M. A. (in preparation). Network Science in Archaeology. Cambridge  Manuals in Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  

Brughmans, T., & Peeples, M. A. (2017). Trends in archaeological network research: a bibliometric  analysis. Journal of Historical Network Research, 1, 1–24.  Brughmans, T. (2013). Networks of networks: a citation network analysis of the adoption, use, and  adaptation of formal network techniques in archaeology. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 28(4),  538–562.