Anthropology Professor Part of Multidisciplinary Project in the Southwest

CONWAY, Ark. (April 9, 2013) - Hendrix anthropology professor Dr. Brett Hill is among an interdisciplinary group of researchers whose project titled "Transformation of Social Networks in the Late Pre-Hispanic U.S. Southwest," was recently featured in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The article (available here) presents the findings of the Southwest Social Networks Project (SWSN), a multidisciplinary collaboration spearheaded by the University of Arizona's School of Anthropology and Archaeology Southwest. It represents the latest results of research to understand dramatic social upheavals in the late prehistoric southwest that resulted in the abandonment of many prominent archaeological sites and has implications for contemporary environmental problems in the region.

The project is one of the first to apply social network analysis (SNA) methods developed in sociology, physics, and mathematics to archaeological data. Specifically, the project has built upon an existing Geographical Information Systems (GIS) database, the Coalescent Communities Database, by adding data about pottery, architecture, and the sources of obsidian artifacts found at more than 700 sites west of the Continental Divide that date between A.D. 1200 and 1450. This interval is known as the late precontact or late prehispanic period, or the centuries just before the Spaniards arrived in the American Southwest.

Through SNA methods, the project has examined and characterized the structure of social networks across the Southwest at fifty-year intervals.

Significantly, the project has found that personal, village level, and regional networks changed rapidly at an intergenerational scale during this tumultuous period, connecting distant places and bringing about coalescent multiethnic communities.

After 1300, northern networks fragmented, but southern networks strengthened-at least until the latter networks collapsed around 1450. Long-distance relationships, as measured by pottery technology and designs, became socially and effectively "shorter" or "closer" across the southern Southwest, even at a time when people traveled only on foot. Analyses show that, however fragmented, northern networks survived beyond 1450.

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences education. For the fifth consecutive year, Hendrix was named one of the country's "Up and Coming" liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report. Hendrix is featured in the 2012 edition of the Princeton Review as one of the country's best 377 colleges, the latest edition of Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think about Colleges, Forbes magazine's annual list of America's Top 650 Colleges, and the 2013 edition of the Fiske Guide to Colleges. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit www.hendrix.edu.