'O what a tangled web we weave' - towards a practice that does not deceive
Knappett, Carl (eds.)
Network Analysis in Archaeology: New Approaches to Regional Interaction.
Oxford University Press
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The rapidly increasing number of projects that utilize network analysis would on the face of it suggest that a methodological revolution was taking place in Archaeology and Classical Studies. Yet the term belies an extremely wide array of techniques, many with different theoretical underpinnings, and there has as yet been little in the way of consolidation or even categorization of such approaches. This paper will critically reflect on the methodologies adopted by three research projects that have used networks in different ways to understand the ancient world: Calculating centrality metrics in a transport landscape, synthesizing heterogeneous excavation data and surfacing hidden internal structures within ancient cartography. The comparison will not only demonstrate that network thinking can be applied to a wide range of fields, but also highlight some of the challenges involved. Foremost among these are the social and semantic difficulties of introducing novel abstractions into the mainstream of a discipline. How can their meaning – and the processes that produce it – be rendered transparent to other researchers?
And just as importantly, how can the undeniably seductive nature of their visual impact be prevented from suggesting conclusions they do not support?
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