Overambitious Conference Abstracts…. and writing online

Last February, before setting out for my research fellowship in Berlin I submitted an abstract for the American School of Oriental Research (ASOR) Conference in Atlanta. That abstract is now coming home to roost. The paper was accepted for the Cyber-Archaeology in the Middle East session and I’m going to use this space over the next 3 months to talk about how I am developing both the project and my paper/presentation. After the conference I hope to be able to post all the slides here.

So, here is the abstract I wrote:

This paper presents the preliminary results of a network analysis of Early Bronze Age (EBA) city-states in Northern Mesopotamia. Using published excavation reports the EBA Network project attempts to investigate the question of interconnectedness between EBA city-states, a dense web of relationships that, until now, has only been examined on a cursory level with an assumed connection based roughly on geographic boundaries. Previous analysis of inter-site connections has generally focused on specific cultural markers such as written records, ceramics or urban layout (i.e circular cities) and consists of dividing Northern Mesopotamia into vague ‘zones’ or ‘spheres’ which are generally indicated by the presence and/or absence of a particular trait (e.g. Ninevite 5, Metallic Ware, Reserved Slip areas).  The EBA Network Project examines these categories alongside all of the other potential connections to avoid giving precedence to any one data source or type. Network analysis, using cities as nodes, can be used to show patterns of connection that are not strictly limited to geographic areas. Furthermore, the network patterns vary depending on the types of finds investigated, revealing a complex set of interactions between sites. This paper demonstrates the potential for application of network methods on understanding the relationships between EBA sites and discusses the difficulties and challenges of setting up this type of digital-based project. Further avenues for exploration and potential for the data are also discussed including possibilities for expanding the database and its categories and data reuse for different research questions.

I do think I will be able to show some possibilities for the use of networks despite the currently fledgling nature of the project. I think where I can really succeed is in the “demonstrating potential for application of network methods” and I will certainly have lots of examples for the “difficulties and challenges” of this kind of project. I hope to use the paper to inspire conversation, and perhaps entice other NE archaeologists to collaborate and work with us on aspects of the project and think about using network methods. I am planning to start my look into our project with Tom Brughmans conversation on “Best Practice Guidelines for Network Science in Archaeology.” My first step for starting to outline my talk is to really think about how to get the most not just out of the data we collect, but out of the methodology of networks as well.

Stay tuned to this space for more musings on putting together my ASOR15 paper.

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