Social Networks for Archaeological Research

  • Stefani A. CrabtreeEmail author
  • Lewis Borck
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history



Archaeologists reconstruct the activities and interactions of individuals using the accumulated material culture of the past, yet detecting these interactions can be difficult using traditional archaeological analytical tools. The development of a methodological framework emerging from graph theory, coupled with the growth of computational power and a growing multidisciplinary theoretical framework aimed at interpreting these analyses, have eased the difficulties of uncovering, analyzing, and interpreting networks in the past. From examining physical locations of sites and how they interact together (Peregrine 1991) to examining trade routes and migration pathways (Hofman et al. 2018), and the exchange of ideas across time and space (Mills et al. 2013), network approaches have infiltrated archaeology and grown exponentially in published studies (Brughmans 2013; Mills 2017).


At its most basic, network analysis examines how entities connect to other entities....

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bentley, R. Alexander, Mark W. Lake, and Stephen J. Shennan. 2005. Specialisation and wealth inequality in a model of a clustered economic network. Journal of Archaeological Science 32 (9): 1346–1356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Borck, Lewis. 2018. Sophisticated rebels: Meaning maps and settlement structure as evidence for a social movement in the Gallina Region of the North American Southwest. In Life beyond the boundaries: Constructing identity in edge regions of the North American Southwest, ed. Karen G. Harry and Sarah Herr, 88–121. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Borck, Lewis, Barbara J. Mills, Matthew A. Peeples, and Jeffery J. Clark. 2015. Are social networks survival networks? An example from the late pre-Hispanic US Southwest. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 22 (1): 33–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brughmans, Tom. 2013. Thinking through networks: A review of formal network methods in archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 20 (4): 623–662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brughmans, Tom, Maaike S. de Waal, Corinne L. Hofman, and Ulrik Brandes. 2017. Exploring transformations in Caribbean Indigenous social networks through visibility studies: The case of late pre-Colonial landscapes in East-Guadeloupe (French West Indies). Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 25 (2): 475–519.
  6. Coward, Fiona, and Clive Gamble. 2008. Big brains, small worlds: Material culture and the evolution of the mind. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 363 (1499): 1969–1979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crabtree, Stefani A. 2015. Inferring Ancestral Pueblo social networks from simulation in the central Mesa Verde. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 22 (1): 144–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Crabtree, Stefani A., R. Kyle Bocinsky, Paul L. Hooper, Susan C. Ryan, and Timothy A. Kohler. 2017a. How to make a polity (in the Central Mesa Verde region). American Antiquity 82 (01): 71–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crabtree, Stefani A., Lydia J.S. Vaughn, and Nathan T. Crabtree. 2017b. Reconstructing Ancestral Pueblo food webs in the Southwestern United States. Journal of Archaeological Science 81 (May): 116–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fitzhugh, Ben, Erik Gjesfjeld, William Brown, Mark J. Hudson, and Jennie D. Shaw. 2016. Resilience and the population history of the Kuril Islands, Northwest Pacific: A study in complex human ecodynamics. Quaternary International: The Journal of the International Union for Quaternary Research 419 (October): 165–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Freeman, Linton C. 2004. The development of social network analysis: A study in the sociology of science. CreateSpace Independent Publishing. Empirical Press, Vancouver BC.Google Scholar
  12. Graham, Shawn, and Scott Weingart. 2015. The equifinality of archaeological networks: An agent-based exploratory lab approach. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 22 (1): 248–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Granovetter, Mark S. 1973. The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology 78 (6): 1360–1380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hofman, Corinne L., Lewis Borck, Emma Slayton, and Menno L.P. Hoogland. 2018. Archaic Age voyaging, networks, and resource mobility around the Caribbean Sea. In Dearchaizing the Archaic: Middle to Late Holocene settlers of the insular Caribbean, ed. Corinne L. Hofman and Andrzej T. Antczak. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.Google Scholar
  15. Mills, Barbara J. 2017. Social network analysis in archaeology. Annual Review of Anthropology 46: 379–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mills, Barbara J., Jeffery J. Clark, Matthew A. Peeples, W.R. Haas Jr., John M. Roberts Jr., J. Brett Hill, Deborah L. Huntley, et al. 2013. Transformation of social networks in the late pre-Hispanic US Southwest. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110 (15): 5785–5790.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Peeples, Matthew A., and W. Randall Haas Jr. 2013. Brokerage and social capital in the prehispanic U.S. Southwest. American Anthropologist 115 (2): 232–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Peregrine, Peter. 1991. A graph-theoretic approach to the evolution of Cahokia. American Antiquity 56 (01): 66–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Sanders, Lena. 2017. Peupler la terre: de la préhistoire à l’ère des métropoles. Paris: Presses Universitaires François-Rabelais.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Borck, Lewis, and Barbara J. Mills. 2017. Approaching an archaeology of choice. In Foreign objects: Rethinking Indigenous consumption in American archaeology, ed. Craig N. Cipolla. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
  2. Cockburn, Denton, Stefani A. Crabtree, Timothy A. Kohler, and R. Kyle Bocinsky. 2013. Simulating social and economic specialization in small-scale agricultural societies. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 16 (5).Google Scholar
  3. Collar, Anna, Fiona Coward, Tom Brughmans, and Barbara J. Mills. 2015. Networks in archaeology: Phenomena, abstraction, representation. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 22 (1): 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cotilla-Sanchez, Eduardo, Paul D.H. Hines, Clayton Barrows, and Seth Blumsack. 2012. Comparing the topological and electrical structure of the North American electric power infrastructure. IEEE Systems Journal 6 (4): 616–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dungan, Katherine, Devin White, Sylviane Dederix, Barbara Mills, and Kristin Safi. 2018. A total viewshed approach to local visibility in the Chaco World. Antiquity 92 (364): 905–921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dunne, Jennifer A., Richard J. Williams, and Neo D. Martinez. 2002. Network structure and biodiversity loss in food webs: Robustness increases with connectance. Ecology Letters 5 (4): 558–567. Blackwell Science Ltd.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dunne, Jennifer A., Herbert Maschner, Matthew W. Betts, Nancy Huntly, Roly Russell, Richard J. Williams, and Spencer A. Wood. 2016. The roles and impacts of human hunter-gatherers in North Pacific marine food webs. Scientific Reports 6 (February): 21179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Giomi, Evan, and Matthew A. Peeples. 2019. Network analysis of intrasite material networks and ritual practice at Pueblo Bonito. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 53: 22–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gravel-Miguel, Claudine. 2017. The impacts of geography and climate change on Magdalenian social networks. Ph.D., Arizona State University.Google Scholar
  10. Mills, Barbara J., Jeffery J. Clark, and Matthew A. Peeples. 2016. Migration, skill, and the transformation of social networks in the pre-Hispanic Southwest: Social network transformation in pre-Hispanic Southwest. Economic Anthropology 3 (2): 203–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Mills, Barbara J., Matthew A. Peeples, Leslie Aragon, Benjamin Bellorado, Jeffery Clark, Evan Giomi, and Thomas C. Windes. 2018. Evaluating Chaco migration scenarios using dynamic social network analysis. Antiquity 92 (364): 922–939.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Peeples, Matthew A. 2018. Connected communities: Networks, identity, and social change in the Ancient Cibola World. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Shields, Rob. 2012. Cultural topology: The seven bridges of Königsburg, 1736. Theory, Culture & Society 29 (4–5): 43–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Tilley, Christopher. 1997. A phenomenology of landscape: Places, paths and monuments. London: Bloomsbury Academic.Google Scholar
  15. White, Andrew. 2013. An abstract model showing that the spatial structure of social networks affects the outcomes of cultural transmission processes. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 16 (3): 9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Utah State University Department of Environment and SocietyLoganUSA
  2. 2.The Santa Fe InstituteSanta FeUSA
  3. 3.The Center for Research and InterdisciplinarityParisFrance
  4. 4.Crow Canyon Archaeological CenterCortezUSA
  5. 5.Leiden University, Faculty of ArchaeologyLeidenThe Netherlands

Section editors and affiliations

  • Uzma Z. Rizvi
    • 1
  1. 1.Brooklyn CampusPratt InstituteBrooklynUSA