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Social Networks and Interconnections in Ancient and Medieval Contexts

Eleni Hasaki and Diane Harris Cline

University of Arizona and George Washington University

Social network analysis (SNA), a quantitative method used in the social sciences since the 1940s, is deployed by an increasing number of scholars to visualize and analyze interconnections in the ancient world. Data sets both textual and material support analyses that bring together in a shared methodology such diverse cultural entities as correspondence, civic institutions, trade in raw materials, political and philosophical affiliations, finely crafted goods and ritual practices. Significant methodological challenges distinguish archaeological from contemporary network studies: how, for example, to negotiate the indeterminacies of location, time, and fragmentary data; to integrate questions of materiality and agency; and to navigate the intersection between networks and Cartesian geographic systems.

The proposed AIA/SCS panel—the first with an SNA focus in the Annual Meetings—brings together a representative sample of case studies that foreground the divergences, the commonalities, and the theoretical groundwork being laid in network analyses. Their projects cover a wide chronological spectrum from Archaic times to the Early Middle Ages over broad geographical horizons stretching from eastern Mediterranean to western Europe dealing both with terrestrial and maritime contexts. The panelists utilize an array of SNA programs to mine their datasets of textual, archaeological, epigraphical, and numismatic sources.

The first three papers focus on material objects with textual force. Models of the social networks behind Beazley’s world of Athenian potters support an investigation of how innovations in artistic styles may have developed and spread in the Kerameikos. The Hellenistic proxenic network of Samothrace, positioned within the archaeologies of coalition and consensus, offers a model of moral networks in which mythic, emotional, and ritual dynamics are integrated with quantitative analyses. A social network analysis of the strategic placement of monuments built by Attalus I of Pergamon shows how monuments make their political impact. Analysis of the networks of scholars working in the intellectual milieu of the Carolingian empire, and of the movement of new ideas in connection with Jupiter’s cult in Roman Imperial Italy, offers models of information flows in diverse historical networks and the role of such interpersonal connections in religious change. Prosopography forms the foundation for a study of female agency in Rome in the Middle and Late Republic.

These papers together highlight new discoveries, new theoretical boundaries, and new hypotheses for investigation. They also represent the caveats which characterize the robust degree of debate within the community of scholars pursuing Social Network Analysis. That debate is positioned across the divides of chronology, region and disciplines that make up the study of the ancient and medieval Mediterranean: its continuation indexes the fruition of interdisciplinarity at the digital frontier.

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Social Networks and Interconnections in Ancient and Medieval Contexts

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