Incomplete Histories and Hidden Lives: The Case for Social Network Analysis in Historical Archaeology

From the kind of data used, to the creativity of approaches aimed at exploring social networks in the past, applications of social network analysis (SNA) in archaeology are characterized by exceptional diversity. In recent years, applications of SNA by historians and history-adjacent scholars have also increased dramatically, partly as a product of the growing field of digital humanities. In the North American sense of the term, the utility of social network analysis has yet to be substantively realized by historical archaeologists. In this paper, we use two case studies from the southeastern United States to illustrate the potential that social network analyses could offer historical archaeologists. In particular, we highlight how social network analysis can be employed as a framework for the integrated consideration of both archaeological and documentary evidence to explore the distribution, accumulation, control, and production of social capital in the past. In our first case study we leverage archaeological networks as a proxy for social capital to explore the contradictions and complementarity of archaeological data and the ethnohistorical record on the Indigenous politics of sixteenth-century Southern Appalachia. In our second example we examine networks of tasks and spaces across a nineteenth-century enslaved community on the Georgia Coast to understand how social capital can be differentially accumulated and accessed within particular spaces and practices. Through these examples, we demonstrate the potential for social network analysis to enrich the research programs and support the goals of North American historical archaeologists and to link such research into broader themes across the social and humanistic sciences.



Work Title Incomplete Histories and Hidden Lives: The Case for Social Network Analysis in Historical Archaeology
Open Access
  1. Jacob Holland-Lulewicz
  2. Amanda D. Roberts Thompson
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
  1. International Journal of Historical Archaeology
Publication Date December 1, 2022
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
Deposited December 05, 2022




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Work History

Version 1

  • Created
  • Added s10761-021-00638-z.pdf
  • Added Creator Jacob Holland-Lulewicz
  • Added Creator Amanda D. Roberts Thompson
  • Published