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Temporal uncertainty and artefact chronologies Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology: Session: Embracing uncertainty in archaeology.

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Presentation on theme: "Temporal uncertainty and artefact chronologies Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology: Session: Embracing uncertainty in archaeology."— Presentation transcript:

1 Temporal uncertainty and artefact chronologies Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology: Session: Embracing uncertainty in archaeology Southampton, 28 March 2012 Andrew Bevan (with contributions from many colleagues) UCL Institute of Archaeology

2 Chronology and Periodisation Lots of work emerging in other disciplines about space-time analysis and how to handle uncertainties associated with the timing of events Archaeological time poses its own peculiar challenges… a native archaeological tradition associated with radiocarbon dating (and mapping) but the handling of categorical dates now increasingly considered as well

3 Aoristic Analysis Ratcliffe 2000 Int. J. GIS Johnston CAA Crema, Bevan, Lake 2010 J. Archaeological Science Crema in press J. Archaeological Method and Theory A probability of presence of an event, site, artefact is assigned to a series of time-block, usually based on defining start and end dates, with a uniform distribution in between. Works well for existing archaeological datasets and supports Monte Carlo simulation Typically, done long after data collection, when some information is already lost … Aoristic time-blocks are often equal and absolute … …mixes up the uncertainty of attribution to a time period (a relative scale) with the fixing of this period in absolute units (e.g. to a range in years BCE)

4 Intensive Surface Survey on Antikythera Directed by Andrew Bevan (UCL) and James Conolly (Trent University, Canada), in collaboration with Aris Tsaravopoulos (Greek Archaeological Service) Stage-one survey by walkers spaced 15m apart Stage-two survey of certain localities on a 10x10 grid.

5 Uncertainty in Assigning an Artefact to a Period Initial impression of date: possibly Hellenistic…more likely Late Roman…but not in between Perhaps recorded in a traditional database as: Late Roman, Late Roman? or Late Roman/?Hellenistic Jar handle An alternative is percentage confidence… 30% Hellenistic, 70% Late Roman Bevan, Conolly, Hennig, Johnston, Quercia, Spencer, Vroom in press. Archaeometry

6 First or Second Palace Late Roman Diagnostic Confidence by Period

7 Sherds with 70% confidence of being Middle Byzantine to Early Venetian (c AD). Mapping Diagnostic Confidence Sherds with 70% confidence of being Middle Byzantine (c AD) Sherds with 20% confidence of being Middle Byzantine (c AD)

8 Close-up (diameter 600m) with percentage confidences of Middle Roman date shown as graduated colours overlain on all other sherds (in grey) All possible candidate sherds for a Middle Roman date (i.e. >0% confidence), Mapping Diagnostic Confidence

9 Overall Uncertainty Example for period 2: ( ) / ( ) = 1 and for period 3: ( ) / ( ) = 0.389

10 Pairwise Uncertainty Example for period 2 and 3: ( ) x 2 / ( ) = 140/250 = 0.56.

11 First or Second Palace Late Roman

12 Relative chances of defining Middle Roman dates compared to Early and Late Roman Local Uncertainty

13 Wider Implications for Archaeological Fieldwork Observer Variability – ability to explore intra- and inter-observer variability Permanent Collection – ability to demonstrate added value of the collection and long-term storage of artefact assemblages. Physical Re-investigation – can be used to design strategies for new fieldwork Regional Profiling – supports construction of a regional uncertainty profile and exploration of case-by-case departures from it.

14 Thank you…. …and to those involved in… The Antikythera Survey Project …and on behalf of ASP to… The Greek Ministry of Culture The Canadian Institute in Greece Datasets available as ADS Collection 1115


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