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Our Research

CCSA projects address important issues that are part of contemporary discourse, transcend the past and present, and are well-suited to archaeological evidence. They also focus on questions that require an interdisciplinary approach, and answers that are persuasive beyond archaeology. 

CCSA research emphasizes data integration over new data collection, and follows a research process known as collaborative synthesis. This approach brings together diverse and inclusive teams of researchers who forge strong interpersonal relationships through extended interaction, leading to products that none could produce on their own. Working groups meet both remotely and in-person over several years to accomplish their goals.

CfAS meeting

CCSA Projects

Productivity and Scaling of Middle-Sized Work Groups

This project leverages an important outcome of research into complex systems—that pervasive scaling laws capture how the productivity of human networks co-varies with their size and topological structure—to seek mechanisms for improving the core technical competencies of the Air Force Research Laboratory. For spatially embedded social networks these scaling laws exhibit striking regularities; whether such regularities also exist in cases where movement costs are trivial (as in online collaboration networks and social networks localized in small villages) is less clear. This project will characterize the productivity of work groups of tens to hundreds of persons. The two case studies will involve research groups at the Air Force Research Laboratory, and tribal-level social groups reflected in the archaeological record. The basic premise is that the productivity of such groups will reflect scaling laws emanating from complexity science derived from first principles related to the costs and benefits of interaction.

Human Networks, Sustainable Development, and Lived Experience in a Nonindustrial Society

With funding from the Human Networks and Data Science program at NSF, this project brings together a team of researchers from multiple universities, not-for-profit organizations, and tribal communities to investigate relationships between spatial patterns of social interaction and the quality of life using the archaeological record of the southwestern United States. The team’s goal is to combine information currently held in cyberSW and SKOPE with bio-archaeological studies. The result will be used to examine how spatial properties of human networks influence other aspects of human development, using archaeological correlates of UN Sustainable Development Goals as the basis for assessment. Understanding how social networks grew and changed in the past can lead to a better understanding of how people today can work together for increased prosperity, inclusiveness, environmental sustainability, and peace. 

Coding the Past: The Challenges and Promise of Large-Scale Cultural Databases

This project brings together archaeologists, historians and cultural evolutionary theorists for an initial meeting to: 1) receive an introduction to a new research tool known as the Database of Religious History; 2) get hands-on experience creating entries and using its built-in analytical tools; 3) provide feedback on its design and data-gathering approach; and 4) suggest new analyses that could be performed using the database in conjunction with other data sources. Participants are discussing the challenges inherent to the DRH project and others like it, including converting qualitative information scattered across field reports, monographs and journal articles into the sort of quantitative data that is required to test hypotheses about cultural evolutionary dynamics against the historical record. Themes being discussed include the unique costs and benefits of working directly with humanities scholars, the challenges involved in making categorical judgments when dealing with complex and often patchy archaeological and textual data, and the various uses to which large-scale cultural databases can be put.

Initiative for Sustainable Development in Africa

The main objective of this initiative is to make development and conservation planning in Africa successful and sustainable at the local level. It brings together anthropologists, archaeologists, social scientists, and ecologists who have lived and worked in Africa for most of their lives and who recognize the failing of the current planning process. Thus far, funding has come from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.
Pueblo Bonito

From Households to Landscapes: Cyberinfrastructure for Deep Time Network Analyses in the Pre-Hispanic US Southwest

From 2021 to 2024, this NSF-funded project will expand the scope of an existing online gateway to archaeological knowledge, known as cyberSW, to include data on individual households and neighborhoods, using information similar to that collected by the US Census. The work is being done with input from descendant community leaders, and will produce a tool for deep time studies of social change in the US Southwest.

The Creation and Division of Wealth and the Long-term Consequences of Inequality

This NSF-funded effort seeks to advance synthetic understandings of relationships between material inequality and other dimensions of human social dynamics as they are revealed by the archaeological record of house sizes. The project is being pursued by a working group of 10 researchers, led by Tim Kohler and Amy Bogaard, who have expertise in the study of social inequality and who have and are willing to share relevant datasets.