The Risks and Rewards of Networks in the Ancient Southwest/Northwest
Archaeological data provide the only direct source of information for exploring the structure and dynamics of social
systems beyond the historic record. Not only are archaeologists increasingly able to replicate the findings of other social scientists, we are also beginning to discover robust patterns in human societies that transcend the time-scales typically considered in comparative research. In this talk, I outline the efforts of the one large collaborative research team (cyberSW) over the last decade to apply network methods and models toward questions at the intersection of social networks and culture change. This research involves the analyses of a massive settlement and material culture database spanning a period of 1,000 years across the U.S. Southwest and Mexican Northwest. Our work suggests that the nature of networks and the risks and rewards associated with network positions are historically contingent and tied to broader trends in political complexity and the rise and influence of Chaco Canyon, Paquimé, and other important cultural centers. Such associations are difficult to uncover within a single regional/cultural context, and thus, such large-scale archaeological network studies have considerable potential for revealing comparative insights both within archaeology and beyond.