Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Award: Regional Influence on Social Network Development

Project: Research project

Project Details


Jacob Lulewicz from the University of Georgia will study how processes of societal transformation, including the emergence of sociopolitical hierarchies and socioeconomic inequalities, are shaped by the scale and structure of social networks. Previous scholarship on the development of organizationally complex institutions has focused on defining changes from one type of sociopolitical strategy to another through the identification of particular organizational traits at particular moments in time. However, these critical transformations are inherently embedded in broader historical and relational contexts, and are enacted through new and existing social, political, and economic networks. Archaeology is well suited to elucidating the relationships between social networks and societal change by focusing on the deep historical roots of institutions and capturing the historical and geographic nuances of sociopolitical development. Social networks contextualize societal change by both constraining and providing the means through which information is spread, social movements are facilitated, and ideas and innovations are adopted or rejected. The research will be conducted in the Southern Appalachian region of the Southeastern United States, where at ca. A.D. 1000, political leadership became centralized, large-scale political economies were formed through the mass intensification of agricultural production, social and economic inequalities became engrained, and participation in pan-regional ritual institutions proliferated.

Social networks at two complementary scales of analysis will be examined: 1) local networks, based on informal and frequent interactions, and 2) panregional networks, based on political affiliation and participation in religious and other cross-cutting institutions. Each network will be interrogated to better understand how they structured the emergence of new organizational strategies. Specific focus will be on the areas of modern day northwestern Georgia and eastern Tennessee where the characteristics and temporality of sociopolitical change followed distinct developmental trajectories. The researchers will construct network histories of Southern Appalachia to compare the differing sociopolitical trajectories of the northwestern Georgia and eastern Tennessee regions. The scale, structure, and tempo of changes to social networks across Southern Appalachia will be elucidated through (a) the construction of a regionally-integrated Bayesian radiocarbon dating program, (b) the construction of a regional database of stylistic and technological ceramic attributes, and (c) the assessment of regional patterning of politico-religious iconography through the analysis of shell gorget motifs and mortuary practices.

Effective start/end date9/1/168/31/17


  • National Science Foundation: $28,590.00


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