Camel caravan

Camel caravan
Mosaic from Deir al-Adas, Syria, 8th century (photo: J.C.Meyer)
The research project Mechanisms of cross-cultural interaction: Networks in the Roman Near East (2013-2016) investigates the resilient everyday ties, such as trade, religion and power, connecting people within and across fluctuating imperial borders in the Near East in the Roman Period. The project is funded under the Research Council of Norway's SAMKUL initiative, and hosted by the Department of archaeology, history, cultural studies and religion, University of Bergen, Norway.

Project manager / blog editor:

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Workshop at Durham University: A thousand worlds...

Just back from Durham, UK, where Assyriologist and PhD-candidate in archaeology, Rune Rattenborg, hosted the workshop A Thousand Worlds: Network Models in Archaeology (follow link for program and abstracts). The workshop gathered scholars bringing data such as roads and routes, place-names, settlements, temples, agricultural estates and cuneiform texts into play using a range of different network approaches. I especially appreciated the variety of approaches represented, from Network Science over Social Network Analysis to Actor Network Theory and Michael Mann-style networks of social power. I see these approaches as complementary rather than mutually exclusive, the theories of Latour and Mann being potential tools for the qualitative analysis of the results created by quantitative approaches such as Network Science and SNA. It remains to see, of course, how feasible this is to carry out in practice.

My own paper was about the challenges of tracing dynamic phenomena, such as trade and movement, through static proxies, such as archeological finds, texts and inscriptions. Here I think network analysis has much to offer compared to traditional, descriptive analysis, as it forces us to make the assumptions underlying our conclusions explicit.

Among the highlights in Durham, by the way, was Anna Collar's presentation on religious networks in the Roman Empire. Her book on the topic is coming out on Cambridge University Press in a few weeks. Being interested in religious networks myself I promise to blog about the book once its out.

Update 28.10.13:
Tom Brughmans gives a more comprehensive summary of the workshop at with a highly readable discussion of some of the main questions we touched on there.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Publication: Networks and social cohesion in ancient Indian Ocean trade: geography, ethnicity, religion

First publication from the NeRoNE project is out. Here I discuss how merchants traveling the Indian Ocean in the first centuries of the Common Era established an infrastructure of trust by building networks based on origin, ethnicity and religion. The article is published with open access and can be downloaded for free from the publisher.

Eivind Heldaas Seland (2013). Networks and social cohesion in ancient Indian Ocean trade: geography, ethnicity, religion. Journal of Global History, 8, pp 373-390.