CfP: CAA 2023 session ‘A Bridge too Far: Heritage, Historical and Criminal Network Research’

Dear member of the HNR community,

This Call for Paper may be of interest, via dr. Lena Tambs:


Call for papers: CAA 2023 (Amsterdam), Session 32 ‘A Bridge too Far: Heritage, Historical and Criminal Network Research’ 

Please consider submitting an abstract to the session entitledA Bridge too Far: Heritage, Historical and Criminal Network Research(S32, described in detail below) – aiming to bridge archaeological and historical network research.

The session will be organised as part of the 50-year anniversary of CAA (Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology) in Amsterdam 3-6 April 2023.

The call for papers closes on 31 October 2022  (

S32, Session type:


S32, Session organisers:

Lena Tambs, University of Helsinki (

Marta Lorenzon (University of Helsinki)

Arianna Traviglia (Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia)

Michela De Bernardin (Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia) 

S32, Session description (


‘A Bridge too Far: Heritage, Historical and Criminal Network Research’ 

Over the last decades, ancient historians and archaeologists have slowly realised the potential network science holds for studying past phenomena and better understanding the relationships that connect entities under study. By now, we have employed diverse network perspectives to explore a variety of sources and datasets that help us shed light on the past (for overviews, see e.g. Brughmans 2013; Collar et al. 2015; Crabtree & Borck 2019; Knappett 2013; Knappett 2020; Peeples 2019; Rollinger 2020). We have built and analysed networks to answer questions about social and interpersonal networks, trade routes, production and consumption patterns, group behaviour, diffusion of ideas and technologies, social mobility, and other complex phenomena (Brughmans 2021; Cline and Cline 2015; Verhagen 2018).

Networks have been popular in diverse disciplines such as biology and physics, and their application and full implementation to archaeology emphasises the structural representation of the relationship between objects, people and places, guiding recent discovery on land use, ancient demography, past economies and trade (Brughmans 2013, 2021; Graham 2006; Verhagen et al. 2019). While not yet fully explored in the area of art-related crimes and in connection with issues of illicit trafficking in cultural heritage (Tsirogiannis and Tsirogiannis 2016), network analysis has also been successfully used to study degrees and manner of relations among criminal individuals and groups, and to investigate other forms of criminal organised trades, such as human (Vivrette 2022), drugs (Tsai et al. 2019) and wildlife trafficking (Costa 2021). It is, therefore, interesting to survey further intersections of network analytical applications to multiple fields, both in micro and macro perspectives.

Network science offers a plethora of conceptual and digital tools that allow networks to be measured and explored with formal methods, and archaeologists, historians and digital humanists have found aspects of Social Network Analysis (SNA) particularly useful (for an introduction to SNA, see e.g. Graham et al. 2016: 195-234. For handbooks, e.g. Borgatti et al. 2013; Scott 2017; Wasserman and Faust 1994). Learning to handle the uncertainty of the data and refining network modelling techniques are, however, paramount for a correct and scientific reconstruction of past interactions (Birch and Hart 2021; Carreras et al. 2019; Verhagen et al. 2019).

Even within the subfield of SNA, a range of methods and software packages are available for researchers and they provide analytical tools for exploratory as well as descriptive analysis (links below). Their relevance depends on the researchers’ topic, source material, dataset, financial means, technical skills, etc. – all of which may be decisive factors when choosing ones software (Graham et al. 2016: 237-240). For small datasets, the MS Excel extension NodeXL might suffice, but Gephi – which is freely available, works on all platforms, offers a variety of tools and plugins, is relatively easy to learn and has buttons to press (in exchange for code to be written) – quickly became popular in historical and archaeological network studies. For larger datasets or more complex statistical and network analysis, UCINET, Pajek or R might be more appropriate, but they require the researcher to engage more directly in the calculations and thus have steeper learning curves. For visualising and analysing networks that are dynamic, multivariable, longue durée or have a particularly strong emphasis on spatial data, yet other applications – like Nodegoat or the Vistorian, which are more specialised towards archaeological and/or historical data – might be the preferred choice. And often, the best solution might be to form interdisciplinary research teams (Verhagen et al. 2019: 237-238).

Since archaeologists and historians tend to work with different source materials and research questions, they are likely to utilise different software or apply different tools offered by them. The fields of historical network research and archaeological network analysis have thus developed in different directions – with historians more commonly exploring social whole or ego networks and particularly central figures in them, and archaeologists e.g. placing a larger emphasis on spatial data and compatibility with Geographical Information System (GIS), Least-Cost Path (LCP) analysis and other types of modelling (Benvan and Wilson 2013, Carreras et al. 2019; Groenhuijzen and Verhagen 2016; Lewis 2021; Verhagen 2018; Verhagen et al. 2019: 233ff.). Scholars who routinely employ network analysis to study archaeological and historical data nevertheless have a lot of common ground, in that they strive to increase our knowledge of the past through distinct network approaches and face many of the same challenges in the process (Brughmans et al. 2016; Ryan and Ahnert 2021: 61f.).

Roughly a decade ago, Lemercier (2012) and Brughmans (2013) reported general unawareness of the history, underlying sociological theories, and diversity of existing network approaches in history and archaeology respectively. That many new and creative studies have since seen the light of day is for instance reflected in the events of the flourishing Connected Past community and the online bibliography and newly launched Journal of Historical Network Research (links below). Studies critically testing the performance and robustness of formal measures on network models of the past further indicate that the fields have matured and progressed (Groenhuijzen and Verhagen 2016; Ryan and Ahnert 2021; de Valeriola 2021).

Despite an increasing number of network studies in archaeology and history, Holland-Lulewicz and Thompson (2021: 2) recently reported, that “such applications remain limited to cases employing either solely archaeological evidence or solely documentary evidence”. Acknowledging that increased dialogue between the two communities can help raise awareness of relevant (combinations of) tools and inspire new projects, methodologies and collaborations, this session aims to strengthen the ties between historically, archaeologically and cultural heritage oriented network researchers by bringing them together to discuss, share experiences and showcase relevant methods. In doing so, it welcomes papers that integrate the communities, studying both written and archaeological evidence, reflecting on the directions one or both subfields are taking, presenting research from collaborative teams, etc.

In striving to create an interdisciplinary, inclusive and diverse platform for such discussions, we encourage scholars working on all periods and geographical regions – regardless of background, identity, field and affiliation – to submit an abstract on active case studies. Research topics could include (but are not limited to):

  • skills transfer in archaeology;
  • modern use of archaeological data in the political discourse;
  • illicit trafficking of cultural heritage;
  • past and contemporary trade networks;
  • interpersonal relations of individuals and groups;
  • linguistic and semantic networks;
  • dynamic network models;
  • software and methods for studying historical and archaeological data.



Bevan, A., and Wilson, A. 2013. Models of Settlement Hierarchy Based on Partial Evidence. Journal of Archaeological Science 40: 2415–2427.
Birch, J., and Hart, J.P. 2021. Conflict, Population Movement, and Microscale Social Networks in Northern Iroquoian Archaeology. American Antiquity 86 (2): 350–367.
Borgatti, S.P., Everett, M.G., and Johnson, J.C. 2013. Analyzing Social Networks. Los Angeles: Sage.
Brughmans, T. 2013. Thinking through Networks: A Review of Formal Network Methods in Archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 20 (4): 623–662.
Brughmans, T. 2021. Evaluating the potential of computational modelling for informing debates on Roman economic integration. In: Koenraad Verboven (ed.), Complexity Economics: Building a New Approach to Ancient Economic History: 105–123. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.
Brughmans, T., Collar, A., and Coward, F. (eds.). 2016. The Connected Past: Challenges to Network Studies in Archaeology and History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Collar, A., Coward, F., Brughmans, T., and Mills, B.J. 2015. Networks in Archaeology: Phenomena, Abstraction, Representation. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 22: 1–32.
Costa, J. 2021. Working Paper 35: Social Network Analysis Applied to Illegal Wildlife Trade between East Africa and Southeast Asia. [last accessed 2022-08-26].
Carreras, C., De Soto, P., and Munoz, A. 2019. Land Transport in Mountainous Regions in the Roman Empire: Network Analysis in the Case of the Alps and Pyrenees. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 25: 280–293.
Cline, D., and Cline, E. 2015. Text Messages, Tablets, and Social Networks: The “Small World” of the Amarna Letters. In: Mynářová, J., Onderka, P., and Pavúk, P. (eds.), There and Back Again—The Crossroads II: 17–44. Prague: Charles University.
Crabtree, S.A., and Borck, L. 2019. Social Networks for Archaeological Research. In: Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology: 1–12. Cham: Springer.
De Valeriola, S. 2021. Can Historians Trust Centrality? Historical Network Analysis and Centrality Metrics Robustness. Journal of Historical Network Research 6 (1): 85–125.
Graham, S. 2006. Networks, Agent-based Models and the Antonine Itineraries: Implications for Roman Archaeology. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 19 (1): 45–64.
Graham, S., Milligan I., and Weingart, S. 2016. Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian’s Macroscope. London: Imperial College Press.
Groenhuijzen, M.R., and Verhagen, P. 2016. Testing the Robustness of Local Network Metrics in Research on Archaeological Local Transport Networks. Frontiers in Digital Humanities 3:6.
Holland-Lulewicz, J., and Thompson, A.D.R. 2021. Incomplete Histories and Hidden Lives: The Case for Social Network Analysis in Historical Archaeology. International Journal of Historical Archaeology.
Knappett, C. (ed.). 2013. Network Analysis in Archaeology: New Approaches to Regional Interaction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Knappett, C. 2020. Relational Concepts and Challenges to Network Analysis in Social Archaeology. In: Donnellan, L. (ed.), Archaeological Networks and Social Interaction: 20–37. Routledge.
Lemercier, C. 2012. Formale Methoden der Netzwerkanalyse in den Geschichtswissenschaften: Warum und Wie? Österreichische Zeitschrift Für Geschichtswissenschaft 23 (1): 16–41.
Lewis, J. 2021. Probabilistic Modelling for Incorporating Uncertainty in Least Cost Path Results: A Postdictive Roman Road Case Study. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 28 (3): 911–924.
Peeples, M.A. 2019. Finding a Place for Networks in Archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Research 27 (4): 451–499.
Rollinger, C. 2020. Prolegomena. Problems and Perspectives of Historical Network Research and Ancient History. Journal of Historical Network Research 4: 1–35.
Ryan, Y.C., and Ahnert, S.E. 2021. The Measure of the Archive: The Ro­bustness of Network Analysis in Early Modern Correspondence. Journal of Cultural Analytics 6 (3): 57–88.
Scott, J. 2017. Social Network Analysis. 4th ed. Los Angeles: Sage.
Tsai, F.C., Hsu, M.C, Chen, C.T., and Kao, D.Y. 2019. Exploring Drug-related Crimes with Social Network Analysis. Procedia Computer Science 159: 1907-1917.
Tsirogiannis, C., and Tsirogiannis, C. 2016. Uncovering the Hidden Routes: Algorithms for Identifying Paths and Missing Links in Trade Networks. In: Brughmans, T., Collar, A., and Coward, F. (eds.), The Connected Past: Challenges to Network Studies in Archaeology and History: 103-120. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Verhagen, P. 2018. Spatial Analysis in Archaeology: Moving into New Territories. In: Siart, C., Forbriger, M., and Bubenzer, O. (eds.), Digital Geoarchaeology. Natural Science in Archaeology: 11–25. Cham: Springer.
Verhagen, P., Nuninger, L., and Groenhuijzen, M.R., 2019. Modelling of Pathways and Movement Networks in Archaeology: An Overview of Current Approaches. In: Verhagen, P., Joyce, J., and Groenhuijzen, M. (eds.), Finding the Limits of the Limes. Computational Social Sciences: 217–249. Computational Social Sciences.
Vivrette, A.T. 2022. Approach to the Global Human Trafficking Crisis: Analyzing Applications of Social Network Analysis. PhD Dissertation. [last accessed 2022-08-26].
Wasserman, S., and Faust, K. 1994. Social Network Analysis. Methods and Applications. Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences 8. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cited Network Analytical Software:
-Gephi (
-R (
-Pajek (
-The Vistorian (
-Nodegoat (
-NodeXL (

Communities and Blogs of Archaeological and Historical Network Researchers:
-The Connected Past (
-Historical Network Research (
-Archaeological Networks (

Published by Ingeborg van Vugt
October 17, 2022

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