Small Worlds, Material Culture and Ancient Near Eastern Social Networks

Fiona Coward

in Social Brain, Distributed Mind

Published by British Academy

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780197264522
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734724 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Small Worlds, Material Culture and Ancient Near Eastern Social Networks

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The cognitive, psychological and sociological mechanisms underpinning complex social relationships among small groups are a part of our primate heritage. However, among human groups, relationships persist over much greater temporal and spatial scales, often in the physical absence of one or other of the individuals themselves. This chapter examines how such individual face-to-face social interactions were ‘scaled up’ during human evolution to the regional and global networks characteristic of modern societies. One recent suggestion has been that a radical change in human sociality occurred with the shift to sedentary and agricultural societies in the early Neolithic. The discussion presents the results of a focused study of the long-term development of regional social networks in the Near East, using the distribution of different forms of material culture as a proxy for the social relationships that underpinned processes of trade, exchange and the dissemination of material culture practices.

Keywords: social interactions; human evolution; regional social networks; Near East; material culture; early Neolithic

Chapter.  10904 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Psychology

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