Transformation of social networks in the late pre-Hispanic US Southwest

Barbara J. Mills, Jeffery J. Clark, Matthew A. Peeples, W. R. Haas, John M. Roberts, J. Brett Hill, Deborah L. Huntley, Lewis Borck, Ronald L. Breiger, Aaron Clauset, M. Steven Shackley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


The late pre-Hispanic period in the US Southwest (A.D. 1200-1450) was characterized by large-scale demographic changes, including long-distance migration and population aggregation. To reconstruct how these processes reshaped social networks, we compiled a comprehensive artifact database from major sites dating to this interval in the western Southwest. We combine social network analysis with geographic information systems approaches to reconstruct network dynamics over 250 y. We show how social networks were transformed across the region at previously undocumented spatial, temporal, and social scales. Using well-dated decorated ceramics, we track changes in network topology at 50-y intervals to show a dramatic shift in network density and settlement centrality from the northern to the southern Southwest after A.D. 1300. Both obsidian sourcing and ceramic data demonstrate that long-distance network relationships also shifted from north to south after migration. Surprisingly, social distance does not always correlate with spatial distance because of the presence of network relationships spanning long geographic distances. Our research shows how a large network in the southern Southwest grew and then collapsed, whereas networks became more fragmented in the northern Southwest but persisted. The study also illustrates how formal social network analysis may be applied to large-scale databases of material culture to illustrate multigenerational changes in network structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5785-5790
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 9 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Archaeology
  • Network visualization
  • North american southwest
  • Regional interaction
  • Spatial analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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