Findings of Southwest Social Networks Project Published by the National Academy of Sciences
University of Arizona and Archaeology Southwest study applies innovative methods to understanding a time of great change
Tucson, Ariz. (March 25, 2012) — Archaeology Southwest is pleased to announce the publication of “Transformation of social networks in the late pre-Hispanic US Southwest,” by Barbara J. Mills, Jeffery J. Clark, Matthew A. Peeples, W. R. Haas, Jr., John M. Roberts, Jr., J. Brett Hill, Deborah L. Huntley, Lewis Borck, Ronald L. Breiger, Aaron Clauset, and M. Steven Shackley, in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The article presents the findings of the Southwest Social Networks Project (SWSN), a multidisciplinary collaboration spearheaded by the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology and Archaeology Southwest. The project is one of the first to apply social network analysis (SNA) methods developed in sociology, physics, and mathematics to archaeological data. Specifically, the project has built upon an existing Geographical Information Systems (GIS) database, the Coalescent Communities Database, by adding data about pottery, architecture, and the sources of obsidian artifacts found at more than 700 sites west of the Continental Divide that date between A.D. 1200 and 1450. This interval is known as the late precontact or late prehispanic period, or the centuries just before the Spaniards arrived in the American Southwest. Through SNA methods, the project has examined and characterized the structure of social networks across the Southwest at fifty-year intervals.
Significantly, the project has found that personal, village level, and regional networks changed rapidly, at an intergenerational scale, during this tumultuous period, connecting distant places and bringing about coalescent—multiethnic—communities. After 1300, northern networks fragmented, but southern networks strengthened—at least until the latter networks collapsed around 1450. Long-distance relationships, as measured by pottery technology and designs, became socially and effectively “shorter” or “closer” across the southern Southwest, even at a time when people traveled only on foot. Analyses show that, however fragmented, northern networks survived beyond 1450.
To read an abstract of the article, click here. Reading the full article requires a subscription log in.
To read a UA News article on the project, click here.
View an Arizona Public Media film on the project here.
Matthew A. Peeples and W. Randall Haas Jr. examine the social network concept of brokerage in American Anthropologist 115(2): 232–247.