Concepts and methods in network analysis

A Precursor of Digital Humanities ? The First Automated Analysis of an Ancient Economic Network (Gardin & Garelli, 1961). Implementation, Theorization, Reception

Sébastien Plutniak.
From as early as the 1950s, J.C. Gardin's work spanned both archaeology and the emerging automation of numerical computation and documentation. In 1961, with P. Garelli, he published the first automated application of graph theory to historical materials, working from Assyrian cuneiform tablets documenting economic relations. This work was then widely ignored both in archeology and network analysis. However, in the past twenty years, socio-epistemic claims related to the growth of the Internet and computing (digital humanities, computational archaeology, etc.) have brought a surge of interest in Gardin's work, which is now regarded as pioneering. Working from archive materials and publications, this paper shows how a historical sociology of scientific writings can be relevant to the history of automation in historical sciences. The paper examines Gardin's recognition as an influential forerunner of computational archeology, showing that : 1) although Gardin had access to resources (financial, instrumental, etc.) that were rare at the time, and could have provided material for the foundation of a school or a specialty, he did not however pursue this ambition; 2) the demonstrative purposes pursued by Gardin with his study of 1961 economic networks varied between the 1960s (demonstrating the relevance of non-numerical computation) and the 1980s (legitimizing simulation in the social sciences), but were never concerned with network analysis as such.