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.


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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