The use of prehistoric ‘big data’ for mapping early human cultural networks

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Abstract

The archaeological record is one piece of the puzzle in understanding the evolution of humans, helping to trace the cultural connections between different species and their technologies, as well as their expansion in time and space. Here we demonstrate a method for mapping the boundaries, centers, and peripheries of ancient cultures, as well as the technological similarities between different cultures. The proposed workflow includes: a systematic collection of archaeological information in a database; a process to infer the similarities between assemblages and generate a network; and finally, a graphical method for big data visualization, a technique also used in social media analysis. We present the geography of multiple cultural complexes that span several stages of cultural evolution from the Lower to the Upper Paleolithic (Stone Age) and involve several species of the genus Homo. Finally, we discuss some alternative trajectories in which this workflow can be developed further.

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Sommer, C., Kandel, A. W., & Hochschild, V. (2022). The use of prehistoric ‘big data’ for mapping early human cultural networks. Journal of Maps. https://doi.org/10.1080/17445647.2022.2118628

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