A Network Approach to Hellenistic Sculptural Production


  • Katherine A. Larson Stanford University




network theory, craft production, artistic transmission, mobility, sculpture, Hellenistic Aegean


Recent advances in network theory have facilitated the collection and analysis of archaeological data in new ways, with significant implications for the detection of social networks and transmission of information in the ancient world. These new models invite a reassessment of the diffusion of information and organization of artistic production that has long been based on physical mobility and familial organization of workshops. This article applies network analysis to a corpus of sculptors’ signatures from the Hellenistic Aegean in order to test the scale and frequency of mobility and significance of social relationships in sculptural production. Signatures, with their formulaic patronyms and toponyms, reveal complex personal relationships between sculptors, their collaborators, and the places they lived and worked. In turn, these affiliations shed light upon physical and conceptual connections among sculptors over time and space. Network modeling reveals that communication among clusters of sculptors working in different production centers fluctuates over the Hellenistic period, with the optimal period for homogeneous cultural expression coinciding with the small world properties of the network around the mid-2nd century BC, when a few key itinerant individuals create bridging ties between centers. This study yields a more holistic model for sculptural production during the Hellenistic period in which the duration, distance, and frequency of individual itinerancy is less common than has been assumed. Direct familial relationships emerge as less important for workshop organization than a common city or region of origin.

Author Biography

Katherine A. Larson, Stanford University

Katherine A. Larson is a PhD candidate in the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology at the University of Michigan. Her research interests are craft production, ancient technology, and social and spatial networks in antiquity, and her dissertation explores technological innovation and artistic transmission in Hellenistic glass production. She has been a supervisor on archaeological excavations in Israel and Greece.


Barabási, A.-L. 2003 Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life. New York: Plume.

Bastian, M., S. Heymann, and M. Jacomy 2009 Gephi: an open source software for exploring and manipulating networks. International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media. San Jose, California. http://gephi.org/publications/gephi-bastian-feb09.pdf.

Blümel, W. 1992 Die Inschriften von Knidos I. Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien 41. Bonn: R. Habelt.

Braudel, F. 1966 The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II). Translated by S. Reynolds. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Brughmans, T. 2010 Connecting the dots: towards archaeological network analysis. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 29: 277-303. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0092.2010.00349.x

Brughmans, T. 2012 Thinking through networks: a review of formal network methods in archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. Internet Edition: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10816-012-9133-8

Burford, A. 1972 Craftsmen in Greek and Roman Society. London: Thames and Hudson.

Carpenter, R. 1957 Review of Margarete Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age (New York: Columbia University Press). The Art Bulletin 39(1): 67-73. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3047685

Collins, J.J., and C.C. Chow 1998 It’s a small world. Nature 393(6684): 409-10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/30835

Cowan, R. 2006 Network models of innovation and knowledge diffusion. In S. Breschi and F. Malerba (eds.), Clusters, Networks, and Innovation, 29-53. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Davies, J.K. 1971 Athenian Propertied Families. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ehmer, J. 1997 Worlds of mobility: migration patterns of Viennese artisans in the 18th century. In G. Crossick (ed.), The Artisan and the European Town, 1500–1900, 172-99. Aldershot: Scolar Press.

Erim, K.T., and C.M. Roueché 1982 Sculptors from Aphrodisias: some new inscriptions. Papers of the British School at Rome 50: 102-15. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0068246200009466

Feyel, C. 2006 Les Artisans dans les sanctuaires grecs aux époques classique et hellénistique à travers la documentation financière en Grèce. Bibliothèque des écoles françaises d’Athènes et de Rome 318. Athens: Ecole française d’Athènes.

Ferguson, J.R. 2008 The when, where, and how of novices in craft production. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 15: 51-67. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10816-007-9047-z

Fraser, P.M. 2009 Greek Ethnic Terminology. Oxford: Oxford University Press for the British Academy. http://dx.doi.org/10.5871/bacad/9780197264287.001.0001

Fraser, P.M. and T. Rönne 1957 Boeotian and West Greek Tombstones. Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup.

Freeman, L.C. 1977 A set of measures of centrality based on betweenness. Sociometry 40: 35-41. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3033543

Goodlett, V.C. 1991 Rhodian sculpture workshops. American Journal of Archaeology 95: 669-81. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/505898

Graham, S. 2006a Networks, agent-based models and the Antonine itineraries: implications for Roman archaeology. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 19: 45-64. http://dx.doi.org/10.1558/jmea.2006.19.1.45

Graham, S. 2006b Ex figlinis: The Network Dynamics of the Tiber Valley Brick Industry in the Hinterland of Rome. British Archaeological Reports International Series 1486. Oxford: John and Erica Hedges.

Granovetter, M.S. 1973 The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology 78: 1360-80. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/225469

Granovetter, M.S. 1983 The strength of weak ties: a network theory revisited. Sociological Theory 1: 201-33. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/202051

Hanneman, R.A., and M. Riddle 2005 Introduction to Social Network Methods. Riverside, CA: University of California, Riverside. Internet Edition: http://faculty.ucr.edu/~hanneman/.

Jockey, P. 1998 Neither school nor koine: the local workshops of Delos and their unfinished sculpture. In O. Palagia and W.D.E. Coulson (eds.), Regional Schools in Hellenistic Sculpture: Proceedings of an International Conference Held at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, March 15–17, 1996, 177-84. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Jones, C.P. 2003 Epigraphica vi-vii. Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 144: 157-63.

Knappett, C. 2011 An Archaeology of Interaction: Network Perspectives on Material Culture and Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Knappett, C., T. Evans, and R. Rivers 2008 Modelling maritime interaction in the Aegean Bronze Age. Antiquity 82: 1009-24.

Loewy, E. 1885 Inschriften Griechischer Bildhauer, mit Facsimiles. Leipzig: B.G. Teubner.

Malkin, I. 2011 A Small Greek World: Networks in the Ancient Mediterranean. Oxford: Oxford University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199734818.001.0001

Marcadé, J. 1953 Recueil des signatures de sculpteurs grecs. 2 vols. Paris: De Boccard.

Mattusch, C.C. 1995 Two bronze herms: questions of mass production in antiquity. Art Journal 54(2): 53-59. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/777462

McLean, B.H. 2002 An Introduction to Greek Epigraphy of the Hellenistic and Roman Periods from Alexander the Great down to the Reign of Constantine (323 B.C.–A.D. 337). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Miles, M.M. 2008 Art as Plunder: The Ancient Origins of Debate about Cultural Property. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Muller-Dufeu, M. 2002 La sculpture grecque: Sources littéraires et épigraphiques. Paris: Collection Beaux Arts Histoire.

Osborne, R. 2010 The art of signing in ancient Greece. Arethusa 43: 231-51. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/are.0.0045

Palagia, O. 2006 Marble Carving Techniques. In O. Palagia (ed.), Greek Sculpture: Function, Materials, and Techniques in the Archaic and Classical Periods, 243-79. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Palagia, O., and W.D.E. Coulson (eds.) 1998 Regional Schools in Hellenistic Sculpture: Proceedings of an International Conference Held at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, March 15–17, 1996. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Pollitt, J.J. 2000 The phantom of a Rhodian school of sculpture. In N.T. De Grummond and B.S. Ridgway (eds.), From Pergamon to Sperlonga: Sculpture and Context. Hellenistic Culture and Society 34: 92-110. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Queyrel, F. 1991 C. Ofellius Ferus. Bulletin de correspondance hellénique 115(1): 389-464.

Ridgway, B.S. 1990 Hellenistic Sculpture I: The Styles of ca. 323–200 BC. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Ridgway, B.S. 2000 Hellenistic Sculpture II: The Styles of ca. 200–100 BC. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Ridgway, B.S. 2002 Hellenistic Sculpture III: The Styles of ca. 100–31 BC. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Robertson, R. 1995 Glocalization: time-space and homogeneity-heterogeneity. In M. Featherstone, S. Lash, and R. Robertson (eds.), Global Modernities, 25-44. London: Sage Publications.

Siebert, G. 1978 Signatures d’artistes, d’artisans et de fabricants dans l’Antiquité classique. Ktema 3: 111-31.

Smith, R.R.R. 1991 Hellenistic Sculpture: A Handbook. London: Thames and Hudson.

Stewart, A.F. 1990 Greek Sculpture: An Exploration. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Valente, T.W. 1995 Network Models of the Diffusion of Innovations. Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press.

Vlachogianni, E. 2012 Sculpture. In N. Kaltsas, E. Vlachogianni and P. Bouyia (eds.), The Antikythera Shipwreck: The Ship, the Treasures, the Mechanism, 62-115. Athens: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Watts, D.J. 2002 A simple model of global cascades on random networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 99(9): 5766-71. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.082090499

Watts, D.J. 2003 Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. New York: Norton.

Watts, D.J., and S.H. Strogatz 1998 Collective dynamics of ‘small-world’ networks. Nature 393(6684): 440-42. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/30918



How to Cite

Larson, K. A. (2013). A Network Approach to Hellenistic Sculptural Production. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 26(2), 235–260. https://doi.org/10.1558/jmea.v26i2.235