University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Re-contextualising inter-visibility networks with artefact networks for understanding urban connectivity in Iron Age and Roman Southern Spain
Tom Brughmans, Graeme Earl, Simon Keay, Leif Isaksen, Catriona Cooper

Last modified: 2011-12-16


Visibility networks are a prime example of analysis of the interface between geographical and relational space. But what do they represent? Is it a structural quality of the landscape or the structure of some past social reality? In this paper we will explore this interface by using archaeological artefact networks to re-contextualise visibility networks.

The ‘Urban Connectivity in Iron Age and Roman Southern Spain’ project aimed to explore how Iron-Age communities were integrated into the political and economic structure of the Roman Empire and how urban social hierarchies within the Roman provinces were structured and articulated. For this purpose a large and complex dataset was collected, including the published assemblages of 190 sites. The dataset consists of a diverse range of data types (e.g. ceramics, coins, benefactions, inscriptions, monuments, sculpture, roads) dating to between ca. 5th c. BC. and ca. 5th c. AD. We believe that this dataset holds the potential to reveal some of the diverse ways in which urban communities were related and how inter-urban interactions evolved over time. This potential will be explored through a networks approach.

This study of artifact networks was complemented with a study of visibility networks to explore an additional aspect of possible geographical structure within the study area. For every site a probabilistic viewshed (100 iterations) was created from which network we derived network links with different probabilities of inter-visibility. These visibility networks were subsequently confronted with the results from our exploration of artifact networks. Through this study we have shown that an exploratory network analysis succeeds in describing and comparing the similarities and differences in structure evidenced by different data types on different spatial and temporal scales. However, exploratory network analysis was considered less useful for making the jump from a description to an explanation of the attested patterns.


viewsheds; visibility networks; network analysis