Amanda Gabriel

"What if not ethnicities?" A Network Analytical Perspective on the Diversity of Late Ancient and Early Medieval Burials between Lake Constance, the High Rhine, and Lake Geneva.

Between 400 and 800 AD, after the withdrawal of the Roman military and the later dissolution of the Western Roman Empire, a process of political transformation took place on the territory of the former Roman provinces in the course of which different successor realms with ethnic designations were formed. For the area of today's Switzerland, contemporary written sources refer to Burgundians, Alamanni and Lombards as migrating population groups, to whom archaeological research, according to the 'geographic principle', mostly attributed the burials in the respective postulated settlement areas. However, the critical examination of the ethnic paradigm, the immediate ethnic interpretation of clothing components, has shown that it is based on several simplifying assumptions. Deconstructing the ethnic paradigm has meant redefining and reinterpreting differences in early medieval burials and tombs that have long been considered to support ethnic interpretation. This dissertation project addresses this area of research and develops alternative concepts for theory-based source interpretation that are validated against a selected data set.

The aim of the dissertation is to investigate communication networks reconstructed on the basis of the spatial distribution of individual features of material culture and social practice in early medieval burials. The central variables of investigation are grave construction (layout of the grave), grave equipment (objects in the grave), and treatment of the corpse (location, clothing, deposition). The characteristics are recorded in a database together with information on the geographical location of the grave (country coordinates). The spatial distribution of the collected features will be investigated usingNetwork Analysis methods. Networks formed by single features as well as by the same 'feature combinations' will be analyzed. The feature distributions will be investigated using the methods ofSocial Network Analysis(SNA) andActor-Network Theory(ANT). The reconstructed communication networks of the actors will be interpreted starting from approaches ofMaterial Culture Studiesand Ethnoarchaeology. Since the interpretation is based on burial and grave evidence, ethnographic comparisons and clues from written sources must be used to investigate what influences a burial cult and what factors may be behind this diversity.

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The study should provide a more nuanced picture of local, regional, and transregional early medieval relational networks. If cultural spaces existed, they would be graspable as a result of the analysis as condensed communication clusters and be understood as the result of intensified communication. Furthermore, it can be traced whether all or only certain individuals of a cemetery were regionally and supra-regionally networked. This allows conclusions to be drawn about interaction spaces of different sizes and different social groups. Through the diachronic approach, it is also possible to trace the spread of the cultural practice of grave goods.