93156 - Networks and Mobility in Archaeology (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Archaeology and Cultures of the Ancient World (cod. 8855)

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will have learnt the basic principles and applications of the methodologies for studying social interactions and mobility in archaeological research. The first half of the course is dedicated to introducing the methodologies of network analysis while the second half offers a first introductioin to bio-archaeological methodologies for the study of mobility. The knowledge acquired will enable students to understand the basics of network and bio-archaeological methodologies geared to the study of mobility.

Course contents

The students will be able to approach the study of mobility from a variety of perspectives: mobility of individuals, migration, trade and exchange of raw materials and commodities, circulation of ideas related to technological and religious spheres. More specifically, lectures will focus on the theory of mobility, the process of Neolithisation, the introgression of the steppe ancestry into Europe and the link with proto-indo-european languages, exogamic practices, the circulation of copper and tin in prehistoric Europe, trade/exchange and weighing systems, mobility of elite individuals, transmission of religious beliefs, exchange of prestige goods, transhumance.


Students who are affected by learning disability (DSA) and in need of special strategies to compensate it, are kindly requested to contact the Teacher, in order to be referred to the colleagues in charge and get proper advice and instructions.



Introduction: theory of mobility, migration and permeability of boundaries in archaeology

The emphasis on the concept of movement is not a prerogative of the contemporary thought, influenced by globalization and large-scale migrations but a long-lasting legacy of ancient philosophy.

From the post-war period, and more

intensively through post-modern discourse, the social sciences have been committed to de-constructing the traditional idea of fixed territorial identities, supporting the concept that, on the contrary, the essence of humans is relational, not based on a biological and cultural imprinting, but on a stratification of dynamic relations with ‘otherness’.

The introductive lecture focusses on the various concepts related to mobility and territoriality throughout the history of archaeological thought. We will see how new methods and technologies have been forcing archaeologists to drop traditional essentialist/static ideas of ‘culture’ and reconsider mobility of individuals/groups as one of the major forces of cultural change.



The process of Neolithization in Europe: diffusion of an idea or diffusion of people?

Archaeologists have interpreted the introduction of agriculture in Europe in different ways. During the second half of the 20th century, ‘acculturation’ represented the mainstream view, endorsed by the most influential academics. From the ‘70s, genetic studies started to challenge this model. In 2014, Cavalli Sforza’s hypothesis of demic expansion, formulated more than 40 years ago using modern DNA patterns, was finally proved through ancient DNA sequencing.

In this lecture we will focus on the phenomenon of the Neolithisation through an interdisciplinary approach.



Genes, artefacts and languages. A critical perspective on the reappraisal of the theory of (Proto-)Indo-European expansion

Another fundamental achievement of the last decade aDNA research is the identification of the genetic ‘steppe component’ among European individuals dated to the early-mid 3rd millennium. This evidence has been connected to mass migrations of people (mostly males) from the Pontic steppes, which contributed to a major cultural, genetic and linguistic change in most of the European continent.

The controversial link between archaeological, biomolecular and linguistic evidences has triggered a wide interdisciplinary debate on the population dynamics of prehistoric Europe.



Isotopes in archaeology

Isotope analysis is one of the cornerstones of what Kristiansen has defined as the “third science revolution in archaeology”. In the field of mobility, strontium and oxygen isotopes assume particular relevance as their analysis in dental/bone tissues allows to track one individual’s movements through lifetime, and eventually, his/her provenance.

In the first lectures on isotopes, we will focus on the methodological basics, potential, and limitations of this increasingly used technique.



High frequency of mobility among women in Prehistoric Europe suggested by isotopic, genetic and material data

The role of women in establishing and reinforcing ancient networks of contacts has been demonstrated by a series of recent isotopic investigations. We will focus on some seminal papers, which target women, and particularly high-status women in Bronze Age Scandinavia and III-II millennium in Central Europe.

Frei and Knipper’s studies have identified a higher degree of mobility among female individuals, especially in late adolescence, plausibly in relation to exogamic practices.

The hypothesis of highly mobile women is also supported by the distribution of specific ornaments, whose typology appears to reflect group identity and provenance.



Mobility of people and things in Bronze Age Europe (in collaboration with Dr. Alberta Arena)

In this lecture, we will focus on the permeability of Bronze Age communities to integrate outsiders and on the role of newcomers in the socio-demographic developments that characterized the II millennium BC. As a case study, we will consider Cavazzuti et al.’s papers, which have demonstrated that the process towards a more complex socio-political system in Bronze Age Northern Italy was triggered by a largely, but not completely, internal process, stemming from the dynamics of intra-polity networks and local/regional power relationships. Individuals from remote areas, mainly women, also witness the importance of long-distance connections and, again, the frequency of exogamic practices.



Moving metals in Prehistoric Europe and Near East (copper)

Metals had high functional and symbolic value in Prehistoric Europe, and therefore they represent an interesting case for approaching questions of provenance and trade. Copper, in particular, has been at the center of archaeological and science-based research for well over a century. Archaeometallurgical studies have largely focused on determining the geological origin of the raw material, and its movement from producer to consumer sites, through lead isotope ratios. In this lecture, we will approach the discussions of the value and perception of copper/bronze, both as individual objects and as hoarded material.



Moving metals in Prehistoric Europe and Near East (tin)

Beside the circulation of copper, tin played a key-role in determining the trajectories of 3rd and 2nd millennium BC exchange networks.

While great progress has been made concerning the provenance of copper, the origin of tin remains largely ambiguous. Apart from the difficulties to retrace tin deposits and production sites actually exploited in prehistoric times, geochemical approaches still show significant uncertainties. Nonetheless, recent advances in lead and tin isotope analysis provided promising results, especially in the case of tin ingots from various sites located in eastern Mediterranean, most notably the Uluburun shipwreck.



Circulation of raw materials and commodities: the importance of the weighing systems and shared economic values

To make the trading dialogue between different regional economies effective and fair, ancient exchange actors had the necessity of converging towards a shared system of material quantification.

Weighing equipment, such as balance weights and balance beams, begin to spread in Europe simultaneously with the emergence of copper as a commodity. Balance weights are quite well distributed, at least from the first half of the second millennium BC, especially in those regions where contacts with eastern cultures were more frequent. Their shapes are rather standardized, and their metrology reveals the presence of a consistent system of multiples and fractions that is compatible with other Mediterranean standards.

If we accept the idea of a Bronze Age ‘global’ network connecting Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Near East, not necessarily based on the dynamics of a World System, but certainly organized around a certain degree of interdependency, we need to focus on the methods of quantifying, negotiating, and communicating economic value.



Mobility of ideas: the spread of religious beliefs

Archaeological research is currently redefining how large-scale changes occurred in prehistoric times. In addition to the long-standing theoretical dichotomy ‘cultural transmission’ vs ‘demic diffusion’, many alternative models borrowed from sociology can be used to explain the spread of innovations.

The emergence of cremation cemeteries (urnfields) in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe is certainly one of these large-scale phenomena. In this lecture, we will explore the diffusion of this new funerary custom in the area of the Danube plains, the Balkans, Northern Italy and the Adriatic coasts. For a better understanding of this process, we will compare it with the spread of other religious beliefs in historic times.



Mobility of animals: transhumance, subsistence practices, social interaction

Transhumance is a traditional strategy of animal husbandry that falls under the wider umbrella of pastoralism.

The study of human– animal relationality in pastoral economies, as well as the analysis of human– landscape interaction associated with pastoral mobility, has been tackled from different theoretical and methodological points of view in the last decades. This lecture focus on transhumance as part of wider socio-ecological systems and will analyse several case-studies from prehistoric Europe and Mediterranean, in which the movements of animals have been retraced through isotope and aDNA analysis.



Introduction to network analysis applied to archaeology (in collaboration with Dr. Helen Dawson)

The application of method and theory from network science to archaeology has dramatically increased over the last decade. In this lecture, we will discuss the essential concepts that are used in the application of network approaches to archaeology, which have been proved a powerful tool to analyse and visualize the complex web of interactions between sites or groups of sites. We will also discuss the key-concepts such as ‘node’, ‘tie’, ‘edge’, ‘small world’, ‘scale-free’, ‘homophily’, ‘heterophily’, and explore them in some seminal case studies.


Introduction: theory of mobility, migration and permeability of boundaries in archaeology

ANTHONY D.W. 1990. Migration in archaeology: the baby and the bathwater, American Anthropologist 92: 895–914.

BEAUDRY M.C., PARNO T.G. 2013. Archaeologies of Mobility and Movement. New York: Springer.

BURMEISTER S. 2016. Archaeological Research on Migration as a Multidisciplinary Challenge, Medieval Worlds 4: 42–64.


The process of Neolithization in Europe: diffusion of an idea or diffusion of people?

AMMERMAN A.J., CAVALLI-SFORZA L.L. 1984. The Neolithic Transition and the Genetics of Populations in Europe. Princeton University Press.

FERNÁNDEZ E., PÉREZ-PÉREZ A., GAMBA C., et al. 2014. Ancient DNA Analysis of 8000 B.C. Near Eastern Farmers Supports an Early Neolithic Pioneer Maritime Colonization of Mainland Europe through Cyprus and the Aegean Islands, PLoS Genetics 10.

RENFREW C. 1987. Archaeology and Language. The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins. London: Jonathan Cape.


Genes, artefacts and languages. A critical perspective on the reappraisal of the theory of (Proto-)Indo-European expansion

ALLENTOFT M., RASMUSSEN S., RASMUSSEN M., et al. 2015. Population genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia, Nature 522.

HAAK, W., LAZARIDIS I., PATTERSON N., et al. 2015. Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe, Nature 522: 207–11.

Olalde I., Mallick S., Patterson N., et al. 2019. The genomic history of the Iberian Peninsula over the past 8000 years. Science 80: 1230–1234.

Furholt M. 2018. Massive Migrations? The Impact of Recent aDNA Studies on our View of Third Millennium Europe. European Journal of Archaeology 21: 186–189.


Isotopes in archaeology

Slovak N.M., Paytan A. 2011. Applications of Sr Isotopes in Archaeology. In: Baskaran M, editor. Handbook of Environmental Isotope Geochemistry, Advances in Isotope Geochemistry. Heidelberg: Springer: 743–767.

Cavazzuti C., Skeates R., Millard A.R., Nowell G., Peterkin J., Bernabò Brea M., et al. 2019. Flows of people in villages and large centres in Bronze Age Italy through strontium and oxygen isotopes. PLoS One 14: 1–43.

Pederzani S, Britton K. 2019. Oxygen isotopes in bioarchaeology: Principles and applications, challenges and opportunities. Earth-Science Review 188: 77–107


High frequency of mobility among women in Prehistoric Europe suggested by isotopic, genetic and material data

Frei K.M., Mannering U., Kristiansen K., Allentoft M.E., Wilson A.S., Skals I., et al. 2015. Tracing the dynamic life story of a Bronze Age Female. Scientific Reports, 5: 10431.

Frei K.M., Villa C., Jørkov M.L., Allentoft M.E., Kaul F., Ethelberg P., et al. 2017. A matter of months: High precision migration chronology of a Bronze Age female. PLoS One 12: 1–20.

Knipper C., Mittnik A., Massy K., Kociumaka C., Kucukkalipci I., Maus M., et al. 2017. Female exogamy and gene pool diversification at the transition from the Final Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age in central Europe. PNAS 201706355


Mobility of people and things in Bronze Age Europe

Cavazzuti C., Skeates R., Millard A.R., Nowell G., Peterkin J., Bernabò Brea M., et al. 2019. Flows of people in villages and large centres in Bronze Age Italy through strontium and oxygen isotopes. PLoS One 14: 1–43.

Cavazzuti C., Cardarelli A., Quondam F., Salzani L., Ferrante M., Nisi S., et al. 2019. Mobile elites at Frattesina : flows of people in a Late Bronze Age ‘ port of trade ’ in northern Italy. Antiquity 369: 624–644.


Moving metals in Prehistoric Europe and Near East (copper)

Ling J., Hjärthner-Holdar E., Grandin L., Stos-Gale Z., Kristiansen K., Melheim A.L., et al. 2019. Moving metals IV: Swords, metal sources and trade networks in Bronze Age Europe. Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 26: 101837.

Radivojević M., Roberts B.W., Pernicka E., Stos-Gale Z., Martinón-Torres M., Rehren T., et al. 2018. The Provenance, Use, and Circulation of Metals in the European Bronze Age: The State of Debate. Journal of Archaeological Research 27: 131–185.


Moving metals in Prehistoric Europe and Near East (tin)

Berger D., Soles J.S., Giumlia-Mair A.R., Brügmann G., Galili E., Lockhoff N., et al. 2019. Isotope systematics and chemical composition of tin ingots from Mochlos (Crete) and other Late Bronze Age sites in the eastern Mediterranean Sea: An ultimate key to tin provenance? PloS one.


Circulation of raw materials and commodities: the importance of the weighing systems and shared economic values

Pare C. 2013. Weighing, Commodification, and Money. In: Fokkens H, Harding AF, editors. The Oxford Handbook of the European Bronze Age. Oxford: 508–527.

Ialongo N., Di Renzoni A., Ortolani M., Vanzetti A. 2015. An analytical framework for the research on prehistoric weight systems: a case study from Nuragic Sardinia. Origini 37: 151–173.

Ialongo N. The Earliest Balance Weights in the West: Towards an Independent Metrology for Bronze Age Europe. Cambridge Archaeology Journal 29: 103–124.

Rahmstorf L. 2019. Scales, weights and weight-regulated artefacts in Middle and Late Bronze Age Britain. Antiquity 93(371): 1197-1210


Mobility of ideas: the spread of religious beliefs

Fokkens H. 1997. The genesis of urnfields: economic crisis or ideological change? Antiquity 71: 360–373.

Collar A. 2007. Network Theory and Religious Innovation. Mediterranean Historical Review 22: 149–162.

Cantoni D. 2012. Adopting a new religion: the case of Protestantism in 16th century Germany. Economic Journal 122: 502–531.

CAVAZZUTI C., ARENA A., CARDARELLI A., FRITZL M., GAVRANOVIĆ M., HAJDU T., KISS V., KÖHLER K., KULCSÁR G., MELIS E., REBAY-SALISBURY K., SZABÓ G., SZEVERÉNYI V. in press, The first ‘urnfields’ in the plains of the Danube and the Po. Journal of World Prehistory.


Mobility of animals: transhumance, subsistence practices, social interaction

Carrer F., Migliavacca M. 2019. Prehistoric Transhumance in the Northern Mediterranean. Textile Revolution in the Bronze Age Europe: 217–238.

Gron K.J., Rowley-Conwy P., Fernandez-Dominguez E., Gröcke D.R., Montgomery J., Nowell G.M., et al. A Meeting in the Forest: Hunters and Farmers at the Coneybury “Anomaly”, Wiltshire. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Societies 84: 111–144.

Trentacoste A., Lightfoot E., Le Roux P., Buckley M., Kansa S.W., Esposito C., et al. Heading for the hills? A multi-isotope study of sheep management in first millennium BC Italy. Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 29.

Meiri M., Stockhammer P.W., Morgenstern P., Maran J. 2019. Mobility and trade in Mediterranean antiquity: Evidence for an ‘Italian connection’ in Mycenaean Greece revealed by ancient DNA of livestock. Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 23: 98–103.


Introduction to network analysis applied to archaeology

Knappett C. 2011. An archaeology of interaction: network perspectives on material culture and society. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

Collar A., Coward F., Brughmans T., Mills B.J. 2015. Networks in Archaeology: Phenomena, Abstraction, Representation. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 22: 1-32.

Dawson H. 2020. Network science and island archeology: Advancing the debate. The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology: 1-18.

Teaching methods

Lectures will focus on published papers, which will be analysed together in all their parts, in order to train the students to familiarize with the full understanding and the production of scientific contributions.

Dr. Alberta Arena and Dr. Helen Dawson will be involved in the lectures about Bronze Age mobility and network analysis in archaeology.

Assessment methods

The evaluation will be based on two tests, namely a small-group oral test and a written (or oral in case of lockdown) individual test, which will be both performed at the end of the module. The final mark will be an average of the outcome of the two tests.

The small-group test is essentially a collective oral presentation of a topic related to mobility, which has been targeted by one or more published papers. The group students (ideally 3 persons) should choose a subject that has been explored through the methodologies discussed in the module (distribution of specific objects, isotope or aDNA analyses, etc.) but focussed a different chronological and geographical context. For example, students might decide to prepare a power point presentation on the mobility and migration patterns of the Lombards from Pannonia to Italy in 6th century AD, or the colonization of a Greek city in Southern Italy in the 1st millennium BC, or even the slave trade from Africa to America in modern times, etc.

Students must collect appropriate references and present the subject as it were the scientific outcome of their own teamwork. They must divide the presentation in three parts: 1) introduction (with assessment of the general research questions, previous contributions on the subjects); 2) materials, methods and results (analysed materials, applied analytical/statistical methods and techniques, results of the analysis); 3) discussion and conclusions (discussion of the results in the broader panorama, limitations of the results, caveats, and future developments). Each of the three students must present one of the three parts (max 10 minutes each). The mark will be nonetheless individual and will take into account both the collective work in structuring the presentation and the ability in presenting the individual section.

The written individual test will include three open-ended questions about the themes addressed during the module. The time of the test will not exceed 45 minutes.

Office hours

See the website of Claudio Cavazzuti