From E19 to MATCH and MERGE. Mapping the CIDOC CRM to graph databases as an environment for archaeological network research

Posted on 21 February 2017

Talk: Aline Deicke (Mainz), “From E19 to MATCH and MERGE. Mapping the CIDOC CRM to graph databases as an environment for archaeological network research”.


Date: Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Time: starting at 17:00 c.t. (i.e. 17:15)

Venue: TOPOI Building Dahlem, Hittorfstraße 18 D-14195 Berlin (map)


Throughout the last decade, network analysis has become an increasingly popular method of archaeological research (Brughmans 2010; Brughmans u. a. 2012; Collar u. a. 2015; Knappett 2013), incorporating methods of sociology as well as mathematical network science. So far, a wide range of thematical subjects has been covered, from theories of trade and exchange (Brughmans/Poblome 2016; Sindbæk 2007) over spatial distributions of ethnic groups (Blake 2013) to mortuary remains (Donnellan 2016; Sosna u. a. 2012) and more. The diversity of these approaches is testament to the diverse nature of the archaeological record itself, and the questions we can ask from it.

This complexity also poses a fundamental challenge. Unlike sociological research, where from the very start studies are designed with network research in mind, scholars in archaeology often build their analyses upon already existing, detailed data sets. They can be comprised of hundreds or thousands of entities as well as several types of objects. This heterogeneity of the base material poses special challenges for the design of the study as well as to the tools used to conduct the actual analysis. For example, two-mode- or even multi-mode-networks are common, and at times it might be necessary to create and manage multiple networks between different types of objects to grasp the whole complexity and interactions of the source material. Therefore, an appropriate way of storing and querying data is a crucial first step essential to the design of network analytical studies.

For this purpose, graph databases are especially well suited. The storing of data as nodes and edges introduces relationship-based thinking already in the early stages of data preparation and acquisition and avoids the cognitive dissonance of e.g. relational or XML databases.

For archaeological use-cases concerned with material culture, the CIDOC CRM suggests itself as the ontology after which to model the structure of the database. Apart from the fact that it is an established standard in cultural heritage, its structure of classes and properties in itself already forms a graph and as such is easily adaptable to the requirements of such a model. Its use guarantees the semantic interoperability of the database with other data sets and facilitates exchange. At the same time, its capacity for extension allows for the irregularities and specifics of individual studies.

The talk will present a mapping of the CIDOC CRM to the model of a graph database containing Late Bronze Age elite graves. Through a closer look at the resulting structure as well as some exemplary queries, the possibilities of graph databases to archaeological network analysis will be explored in further detail.


Blake 2013: E. Blake, Social Networks, Path Dependence, and the Rise of Ethnic Groups in pre-Roman Italy. In: C. Knappett (Hrsg.), Network analysis in archaeology. New approaches to regional interaction (Oxford 2013) 203–221.

Brughmans 2010: T. Brughmans, Connecting the dots: Towards archaeological network analysis. Oxford Journal Arch. 29, 3, 2010, 277–303.

Brughmans u. a. 2012: T. Brughmans/L. Isaksen/G. Earl, Connecting the Dots: an Introduction to Critical Approaches in Archaeological Network Analysis. In: M. Zhou (Hrsg.), Revive the past. Proceeding of the 39th Conference on Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology, Beijing, 12 - 16 April 2011 (Amsterdam 2012) 359– 369.

Brughmans/Poblome 2016: T. Brughmans/J. Poblome, Roman bazaar or market economy? Explaining tableware distributions through computational modelling. Antiquity 90, 2016, 393–408.

Collar u. a. 2015: A. Collar/F. Coward/T. Brughmans u. a., Networks in Archaeology: Phenomena, Abstraction, Representation. Journal Archeol. Method Theory 22, 2015, 1–32.

Donnellan 2016: L. Donnellan, A networked view on ‘Euboean’ colonisation. In: L. Donnellan/V. Nizzo/G.-J. Burgers (Hrsg.), Conceptualising Early Colonisation (Bruxelles- Roma 2016) 149–166.

Knappett 2013: C. Knappett (Hrsg.), Network analysis in archaeology. New approaches to regional interaction (Oxford 2013)

Sindbæk 2007: S. M. Sindbæk, The Small World of the Vikings: Networks in Early Medieval Communication and Exchange. Norwegian Archaeological Review 40, 1, 2007, 59–74.

Sosna u. a. 2012: D. Sosna/P. Galeta/L. Šmejda u. a., Burials and Graphs: Relational Approach to Mortuary Analysis. Social Science Computer Review 31, 1, 2012, 56–70.


The slides are also available online at