Iroquois: Population Dispersal and Signaling Networks

map of great lakes region

Huronie.jpgAnthropology professor Jennifer Birch co-authored a new paper in Science Advances that focuses on Northern Iroquoia to illuminate the effects of population dispersal on regional signaling networks:

What happens to regional social interaction networks when an important group leaves the network? The dispersal of Iroquoian groups from the St. Lawrence River valley during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries A.D. has been a source of archaeological
inquiry for decades. Social network analysis presented here indicates that sites from Jefferson County, New York at the head of the St. Lawrence River controlled flow within regional signaling networks during the fifteenth century A.D. The simulated removal of this group of sites from the networks results in greater network fragmentation. Centrality measures indicate that Jefferson County sites acted as bridges between New York and Ontario sites. In the network for the subsequent century, to which no Jefferson County sites are assigned, no single group took the place of Jefferson County in controlling network flow. These results provide new insights into processes of population relocation and geopolitical realignment in Precolumbian and Contact-era northeastern North America. Signalling networks for the Northern Iroquoians took the form of pottery vessels with often complex geometrical decorations.

The research team used social network analysis to establish the dynamics between sub-groups. According to Birch, “by focusing on the connections between communities and regions, rather than a single scale of analysis, we are better able to understand how people’s everyday activities relate to the larger-scale social and political histories.” 

Fascinating work. Archeology helps us understand history.

Image: Trek of Huron diaspora via wikimedia commons.