Bayesian approach to interpreting archaeological data and the dating

Archaeologists are increasingly becoming aware of an approach to data M. G. L., and Pilcher, J. R., , Make a date with a tree, New Scientist, , 48– The results of the radiocarbon dating allowed us to understand for the first time the occupation Bayesian approach to interpreting archaeological data. Interpreting the past: radiocarbon dating. London: Image segmentation for archaeological geochemical data, in Rahtz, S.P.Q. (ed.) A computational Bayes approach to some common archaeological problems, in Lockyear, & Rahtz, (ed.): .

Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC This session brings together papers that discuss how archaeologists can use the Bayesian approach to create histories approximating lived experiences on multiple scales. Over the past five years there have been many studies that used Bayesian modeling to revise aspects of ancient European history.

These projects have generally produced chronologies of higher accuracy, transparency, and reproducibility than those created from informal interpretation. This work has been referred to as the third radiocarbon revolution, partially because it has required European archaeologists to completely rethink long-standing culture-historic chronologies and devise new narratives for interpreting the past.

bayesian approach to interpreting archaeological data and the dating

A theme of the session is how chronological re-examinations with Bayesian modeling interface with archaeological theory. In many cases the Bayesian approach has involved the quantification of previously unrealized temporal phenomena and this session will address how our theoretical approaches in archaeology might change due to powerful temporal analyses. Papers in this session will: Long-term cultural change can be non-linear and punctuated by brief episodes of accelerating history.

Such episodes, or emergent phenomena, have been described by a diverse set of theoretical approaches such as complexity theory, complex adaptive systems, panarchy, resilience theory, "eventful" sociology and archaeology, and the Annales School of History. These episodes can result in profound, lasting changes for large groups of people, but can happen too fast to be clearly documented without The application of Bayesian analysis on radiocarbon dates from key sites in southern Mesoamerica has contributed to chronological revisions, which are leading to a re-evaluation of social processes among major political centers.

Main challenges in this analysis include long occupation and mixing of old carbon in construction fills; poor preservation in the tropical environment; and the paucity of short-lived plant remains.

SearchWorks Catalog

Key steps in our application of Bayesian analysis on Mesoamerican Chronology-building in Maya archaeology has long been dominated by relative ceramic typologies based on excavations conducted in the s, with date ranges temporally grounded by long-count calendar dates and a small number of imprecise radiocarbon dates.

Higher-precision chronologies based on more recent methodological innovations in radiocarbon dating, including Accelerator Mass Spectrometry AMS 14C dating, Bayesian statistical modeling of radiocarbon dates, and ultrafiltration and XAD Sedentary agricultural villages, ceramic technology, and evidence for institutionalized socio-economic inequality first appeared in the Maya lowlands during the Preclassic Period cal BC — cal AD The chronological details of these significant cultural developments between different regions of the lowlands remain unclear in many cases because of an emphasis on local ceramic typologies that are often difficult to correlate.

The traditional approach to the Iron Age c. Historically, radiocarbon dating was eschewed in this period, because it was thought to offer less precision than artefact dating. Such views are becoming increasingly untenable, and recent Iron Age research is showing that typological dating produces sequences that are regularly too late.

The class of earthworks that received most attention in recent times are the ceremonial mound and enclosure complexes. These are circular or, rarely, rectangular earthworks with diameters ranging between 15 m and m, and may or may not include central mounds [ 1113 — 15 ].

Mound and enclosure complexes are carefully placed in the landscape, usually on hill tops, in order to command a wide viewshed [ 1116 ]. Central mounds are funerary structures with secondary cremated burials and, more rarely, remains of funeral pyres [ 151718 ]. In more intensely surveyed areas, mound and enclosure complexes have been found to be part of highly structured landscapes, where they always occur in the vicinity of pit house sites [ 1116 ].

Pit houses first appear in the highlands around Cal. There were until now few dates posterior to the 16th century A. These structures appear mostly isolated or in small groups, with some exceptional clusters of up to pit houses [ 16 ]. The structures are circular or elliptical, and normally do not exceed 5 m in diameter [ 6 ]. However, there are oversized houses that can attain more than 25 m diameter and up to 7 m depth, frequently in the vicinity of mounds up to 2 m high [ 521 ].

Oversized pit houses are commonly found isolated from other houses, but sometimes form part of larger settlements, in which case they are often found in a central position, surrounded by smaller pit houses [ 192122 ].

Moments in Time: Re-creating History with the Bayesian Approach

Previous research on oversized pit houses The function of oversized pit houses has been widely debated, but few of these structures have actually been excavated and dated. At site RS-A, the excavation of House 3 14 m diameter revealed no clear activity areas, few artefacts in proportion to the large dimensions of the structure, and a tendency for an increase in the quantity of ceramics over time.

The fact that few artefacts were found suggests that the house was kept clear of debris and ceramic refuse was not incorporated into construction fill. At Bom Jesus, close to the contexts excavated by Schmitz et al. A semicircle of five hearths associated with ceramics and lithics was found around the central post holes of the house. They were originally surveyed by Reis [ 23 ], who was interested in the possible communal function of oversized pit houses.

Bayesian approach to interpreting archaeological data in SearchWorks catalog

She noticed that such structures were rare and tended to occur isolated from other pit houses and far from other sites. A review of the radiocarbon dates then available led her to propose that the larger pit houses were earlier than smaller ones, representing an extended family residential pattern—later replaced by settlements with many small dwellings for nuclear families. Reis [ 23 ] also excavated an oversized pit house SC-CL, 20 m diameternoticing that it contained very few artefacts, but without providing a description of the stratigraphy or distribution of the finds.

These dates led Schmitz et al. Reaffirming the findings of Reis [ 23 ], they also found very few artefacts in the interior of the oversized pit house SC-CL, which the authors interpret as disproportional in comparison to the energy invested in its construction. It should be kept in mind, however, that this could be the result of regular cleaning. In reference to labour, Schmitz et al. Pit house occupation dynamics There were, until now, few dates to inform debates about the degree of continuous occupation in pit houses.

As Saldanha [ 16 ] and Iriarte et al.

bayesian approach to interpreting archaeological data and the dating

On the other hand, Schmitz et al. For example, at site RS-A, with 40 pit houses, single strata from only four different houses were dated [ 2 ].