Geometrical and planar graphs in ancient iconography studies, a heuristic tool

Thomas Huet


By definition, Prehistory’s symbolic systems are not readable; one of the main attributes of the writing -the syntactical axe- is lacking in almost all of ancient iconographical compositions (painted caves, engraved rocks, ceramic decorations, etc.). In those compositions, graphical units (GU) are commonly displayed with what Chippindale called a “weak tendency of avoidance” between each other. Therefore, despite the chrono-cultural attribution work (by comparison, study of superimpositions, seriation, etc.) of GU, recognition of associations and recurrent compositions (patterns) remains difficult. Furthermore, in almost all statistical analysis on ancient iconography, GU are quotes in term of presence/absence in data table and their proximity links are lost during the analysis process.
We will present different cases studies showing how geometric and planar graphs, belonging to network analysis, are heuristic tools to manage “weak organised” compositions of graphical units.