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Bayesian analysis
CATEGORY: measure
DEFINITION: A probability approach that compares the uncertainty of any parameter before and after observing new data. Bayes' theorem provides the basis for combining the prior information with the data to result in a posterior statement, which also has a probability function.
X-ray diffraction analysis
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: x-ray diffraction analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A technique used to identify minerals present in an artifact's raw materials; it can also be used in geomorphologic contexts to identify particular clay minerals in sediments and thus the source from which the sediment was derived. The technique identifies the major chemical components of an artifact, mainly on pottery though stone and weathering products on metal have also been analyzed. A sample is powdered and then bombarded with X-rays and a diffraction pattern is reflected onto and recorded as a series of arcs by photographic film. The patterns are compared with reference standards to identify the minerals present; mineral identification is based on the spacing between the arcs. X-ray diffraction can yield information on the manufacturing processes of pottery and metal and for this purpose the back-reflection diffraction method is used, which is totally non-destructive.
activation analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Method to determine the elements of a material by inducing radioactive reactions to produce radiation characteristic of material composition.
aggregate analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The analysis of debitage using size as the prime criterion.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: analytical archaeology
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A stage in archaeological research design that involves isolating, describing, and structuring data, usually by typological classification, along with chronological, functional, technological, and constituent determinations. The research involves artifactual and nonartifactual data. The method evolved from the tendency to formalize the archaeological process, especially through the work of LR Binford, DL Clarke, and JC Gardin. Computer science and mathematics are used to elaborate the means for transforming simple descriptions of archaeological data into cultural, economic, and social reconstructions of earlier societies. This type of research is attempts to provide archaeology with a theoretical framework based on scientific method.
carbon isotopic analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study of ancient diet using the ratio between stable carbon isotopes - carbon 12 and 14 - in animal tissue.
ceramic analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Any of various techniques used to study artifacts made from fired clay to obtain archaeological data. Color is objectively described by reference to the Munsell soil color charts. Examination under the microscope may reveal the technique of manufacture and allow the identification of mineral grains in the tempering, which will identify the area of manufacture. Refiring experiments often show how the original baking was done.
chemical analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The main use of chemical analysis in archaeology has been the identification of trace, major, and minor elements characteristic of particular sources of raw materials such as obsidian. The methods include X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, optical emission spectrometry, atomic absorption spectrometry, spectrographic X-ray diffraction, and neutron activation analysis. This information can be useful in the study of technology, trade, and distribution.
cluster analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A multivariate statistical technique which assesses the similarities between units or assemblages, based on the occurrence or non-occurrence of specific artifact types or other components within them. It also involves comparing the distances between points or objects, whose dimensions are measurements or scores for a number of variables. Cluster analysis results are normally plotted as a dendrogram, a treelike representation of the distances between objects in hyperspace. Items that are closer together are deemed to be more closely related. Researchers select a case by random sampling and then include contiguous cases as part of the sample.
constituent analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Any technique used to reveal the composition of artifacts and other archaeological materials by examining their constituent parts. This type of analysis is useful in determining raw material sources for the reconstruction of ancient exchange systems.
cost-surface analysis
DEFINITION: The use of GIS software and digital landscape information such as slope and distance, fed into computer along with the figure of one hour for a 5-km walk on the surface that is used to do calculations, using built-in data on the energy cost of traversing different kinds of terrain.
debitage analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study of waste products resulting from tool manufacture to reconstruct stone technology.
diatom analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method of environmental reconstruction based on plant microfossils. Diatoms are unicellular algae, whose silica cell walls survive after the algae die, and they accumulate in large numbers at the bottom of both fresh and marine waters. Their assemblages directly reflect the floristic composition of the water's extinct communities, as well as the water's salinity, alkalinity, and nutrient status.
differential heat analysis
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: differential thermal analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A remote sensing technique in which the variability in heat absorption and dissemination is used to plot hidden archaeological features. In analytical chemistry, this technique is used for identifying and quantitatively analyzing the chemical composition of substances by observing the thermal behavior of a sample as it is heated.
discriminant analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A technique of multivariate analysis in which new variables are calculated from the original, large number of variables and this function is combined with classification. Discriminant functions are especially calculated to show up differences between previously defined groups of items (e.g. artifacts from several different sites), whereas principal components do not make any distinction between groups. The object of the classification is to see how widely separated the multivariate distributions of a number of previously defined groups of items are in hyperspace. The results are presented as a classification results table in which the known grouping of items is compared with the most likely grouping, calculated from the variables supplied from the analysis. An example of useful classification would be in comparing groups of skulls from different sites on the basis of their measurements.
electron probe microanalysis
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: electron probe microanalyzer
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A physical method of chemical analysis which can determine the constituent elements in metal, stone, glass, pigments/stains, and pottery/ceramics. The technique is slightly destructive, requiring the removal of a small sample from the artifact. An electron beam is used to excite the atomic electrons and the result is the emission of secondary X-rays with characteristic wavelengths for the elements concerned. The beam can be focused on to a very small area of the specimen, and can be moved around to sample different points: thus the method is particularly useful for the study of surface enrichment in metals and of pigments. It can be used with samples as small as 10 -11 cubic centimeter and is similar to XRF (X-ray fluorescence spectrometry).
factor analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A multivariate mathematical technique which assesses the degree of variation between artifact types, and is based on a matrix of correlation coefficients which measure the relative association between any two variables. This statistical technique calculates the relative importance of a set of factors that together are assumed to influence some observed set of values or properties.
fall-off analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study of regularities in the way in which quantities of traded items found in the archaeological record decline as the distance from the source increases. This may be plotted as a fall-off curve, with the quantities of material (Y-axis) plotted against the distance from source (X-axis).
faunal analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study of animal remains in an archaeological site, as by identifying bones or shells, examining butcher marks, and so on. The analysis is used to determine past hunting and dietary practices.
fishbone analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study of the remains of fish on archaeological sites, in the form of bones, otoliths, and scales. The latter only survive occasionally in anaerobic conditions, while otoliths have not, to date, been frequently recorded. Fish have markedly different skeletons from mammals. Many fishbones are so small that they appear only in sieving and the bones commonly preserved are the jaws and some other head bones, and the vertebrae. They usually accumulate in refuse deposits and may be interpreted in terms of diet and fishing on the site or in the area that supplied it. Identification of species through comparison with modern fishbones is becoming easier as larger collections of comparative material are built up. When a species has been identified it can lead to evidence for the hydrological conditions around the site; also, the occurrence of the remains of marine species on an inland site has implications for the movement of groups or a trade in fish. A combination of species identification and aging of fish through study of the otoliths can lead to assumptions about the seasonal occupation of certain settlement sites and the subsistence economy of the associated groups.
floral analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study of plant remains from an archaeological site, including identification, association with artifacts and food processing, etc.
formal analysis
DEFINITION: The process of describing the overall shape of an item as objectively and with as much detail as possible.
geochemical analysis
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: geochemical survey
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: An investigatory technique which involves taking soil samples at regular intervals from the surface of a site, and measuring their phosphate content and other chemical properties to determine the natural separation and concentration of elements by Earth processes.
heavy mineral analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method of analysis carried out on artifacts such as potsherds to identify the materials used; the shard is crushed and put into a viscous fluid in which the heavier minerals sink to the bottom. It is used to determine the geological source of the sand inclusions in the clay of the pot, and therefore the probable area of manufacture. The method involves the crushing of 10-30 g. of pottery and the floating of the resulting powder on a heavy liquid such as bromoform with a specific gravity of 2.85. Heavy minerals like zircon, garnet, epidote, and tourmaline sink, while quartz sand and clay float: it is the heavy minerals (separated, identified, and counted under a low-power microscope) which characterize the parent formation, and which enable the source of the sand to be identified.
insect analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Any studies of insect remains in an attempt to reconstruct past environments. Pollen analysis and molluscan analysis can reveal information on climate, the environment and, sometimes, the activities of man. Insect remains are usually found in the form of the exoskeleton, parts such as the wing-cases of beetles, and they always come from anaerobic deposits such as ditches, wells, pits, and peat bogs; many of the parts of insects that are species-distinctive do not survive in archaeological deposits. They can be separated from the soil sample by flotation. Insects respond more quickly than plants to climatic change, and may therefore assist in the identification of micro-climatic phases. Insects also have habitat preferences, which is helpful in identifying specific environments.
instrumental neutron activation analysis
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: A technique that analyzes the trace element composition of the clay used to make a pot and trace the clay to its geological source
isotopic analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Any dating technique relying on the phenomenon of isotopal decay - analyzing the ratios of the principal isotopes. The analysis of isotopes - any of two or more species of atoms of a chemical element with the same atomic number and nearly identical chemical behavior but with differing atomic mass or mass number and different physical properties
lead isotope analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A technique based on the relative abundance of lead isotopes, which differ according to the origin of the lead, allowing scientists to pinpoint the source of a piece of lead once the ratios of the isotopes have been determined. A mass spectrometer is used on a small sample to determine the ratio of the isotopic concentrations, which are similar in different regions if the geological time scale is similar. The method can be used to identify sources of lead impurities in other metals as well as in glass and glaze.
linear regression analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A statistical procedure for determining the relationship between two variables. It has many applications in archaeology, as in the study of variations in population or the size of clay-pipe stems through time, or the relationship between the quantity of an item and the distance from its source. One variable (e.g. time or distance) is regarded as independent, while the second is dependent on it; from a set of know observations, it is possible to estimate the relationship between the two. Thus, given the population figures for different times in a region, it would be possible to predict the population for any other date. The method assumes that there is a linear relationship between the variables, and uses only one variable to explain all the variation in the other; these can be serious limitations.
lithic analysis
CATEGORY: lithics; technique
DEFINITION: The analysis of stone tools and stone tool technology.
lithofacies analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A technique used to identify and interpret depositional environments in which archaeological deposits are found. The lithofacies are determined by geometry, vertical sequences, and lateral associations. Lithofacies models or maps, generalized summaries of sediment characteristics of specific depositional environments, serve as guides to interpretation. Such a map shows variation in the overall lithologic character of a given stratigraphic unit and its changing composition throughout its geographic extent.
locational analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Any of a set of techniques borrowed from geography to study the relationships between a site or sites and the environment. The relationship between sites can be examined in different ways: nearest-neighbor analysis, network analysis, rank-size rule, central place theory, and site catchment analysis. Locational analysis is the search for additional information from the geographical placing and spacing of sites, the significance of which can sometimes be tested mathematically.
metallurgical analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study of metals. Metal artifacts and the tools or waste products of their manufacture are examined to reconstruct manufacturing processes, the source of raw materials, and the usage. This may be done by the various techniques of chemical analysis, or may involve metallographic examination under a microscope. In the case of copper, bronze, and other non-ferrous metals, such analysis may yield information about alloys, casting, cold-working, and annealing. For iron and steel, there may be information about forging, carburization, quenching, and tempering.
metrical analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The practice of taking a set of designated measurements from an item and using those measurements to aid in classification and analysis.
microwear analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study of the patterns of wear or damage on the edge of stone tools, which provides valuable information on the way in which the tool was used.
molluscan analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The analysis of molluscan remains, of both marine and land species, as part of the examination of the environment of man. A mollusk/mollusc is any of a large phylum (Mollusca) of invertebrate animals (as snails, clams, or squids) with a soft unsegmented body usually enclosed in a calcareous shell. Edible species yield information on the subsistence economy of certain groups; in most cases it is the shells which survive. The analysis of marine mollusks involves separation of the shells from the sample by wet sieving, and the identification of varieties. The occurrence of mounds of discarded shell debris in shell middens also allows for a clear understanding of the collecting patterns, seasonal use, and preferences of man in the marine region. Land snails are increasingly used as an adjunct to pollen and insect analysis in attempts to reconstruct past environments.
nearest-neighbor analysis
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: nearest-neighbor statistic
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method of analyzing the extent to which two-dimensionally located points are randomly distributed; a measure of the relationship between a cluster of points in a pattern based on the expected value and the observed value. The statistic equals observed value divided by expected value. This method of analyzing the degree of dispersion in a distribution pattern was first developed by plant ecologists studying the concentration of certain species. A nearest-neighbor index (usually denoted by the symbol R), is calculated from the ratio of the average observed distance from each point in the pattern to its nearest neighbor, to the average distance expected if the pattern were randomly distributed, which depends solely on the density of the pattern being studied. The index R varies from 0.00 for a totally clustered pattern through 1.00 for a random distribution to a maximum of 2.15 for a completely regularly spaced pattern. The index is influenced by the size of the study area chosen; it is therefore essential to select a relevant framework for the distribution being studied. With any boundary, however, it is possible for the index to be distorted by the 'boundary effect' to give a figure closer to the maximum than would be justified; this arises because the nearest neighbors of points near to the boundary may in fact lie beyond the boundary and hence not be properly counted, thus increasing the figure for the observed mean distance. It is also essential that the points in the pattern being analyzed are of the same date and similar function, and that the pattern should be complete. The index R describes only a part of the total pattern and can serve as a useful basis for asking more detailed questions about the factors that underlie the observed pattern. The technique has been useful to archaeologists studying the distribution of sites over a landscape and their relation to each other.
network analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study of any network or system of links, sites, points, and nodes, especially a communication system such as roads. The way in which the network is organized is studied rather than the actual lengths of the links, to determine the degree to which an efficient system has been evolved. Roman roads, for instance, are particularly suitable for this sort of analysis, and the changing patterns demanded by military and civilian usage can be distinguished. The analysis is aimed at understanding the reasons for a particular network configuration, which may be economic, geographical, or social.
neutron activation analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A physical method of chemical analysis used to determine the composition of various substances such as flint, obsidian, pottery, coins, etc. found in archaeological contexts. It can be totally nondestructive to the sample and involves the excitation of the atomic nuclei rather than the atomic electrons. The specimen is bombarded with neutrons which interact with nuclei in the sample to form radioactive isotopes that emit gamma rays as they decay. The energy spectrum of the emitted rays is detected by a scintillation or semiconductor counter. Constituent elements and concentrations are identified by the characteristic energy spectrum of emitted rays and their intensity. The time between the neutron activation of the sample and the measurement of the gamma rays depends on the half-lives of the radioactive isotopes, which may range from seconds to thousands of years: often a few weeks may be necessary before measurement takes place. Neutron activation analysis has an advantage over X-ray fluorescence spectrometry since it analyzes the whole specimen as opposed to the surface only. Care must be taken that the neutron dose is not so great as to make the specimen radioactively unsafe for handling. The method is particularly useful for the identification of trace elements; however, it is not universally applicable since some elements have too short a half-life for measurement, and others do not form radioactive isotopes. The method is accurate to about plus or minus 5 percent. Neutron activation analysis of certain Hopewell artifacts made of obsidian has proven that the source of the obsidian was in what is now Yellowstone National Park.
organic residue analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Use of chemicals to extract and identify traces of plant and animal materials from pottery.
oxygen isotope analysis
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: oxygen isotope examination
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Isotope analysis looking at the O18/O16 ratio in materials. The method can be used to classify glass types and to analyze mollusk shells in order to try and reconstruct their original environment and thus the source. It is also used to interpret deep sea cores. The basis for this technique is the fact that the ratio of two of the stable isotopes of oxygen varies according to the material in which it is found. The oxygen is released from the sample, and is converted to carbon dioxide; the oxygen isotopic ratio is determined after ionization in a mass spectrometer. Variations in the isotopic ratios for the raw materials can lead to a classification of types and even, in some cases, the suggestion of a source for the raw materials. The technique is also used to analyze mollusk shells in an attempt to reconstruct the original aquatic environment. Because temperature variations are correlated with changes in atmospheric O18/O16 ratios, oxygen isotope analysis has also been used to identify seasonal changes in ice cores, interpret temperature variations during speleothem precipitation, and examine isotopic variations in tree ring climates. Foraminifera sampled from deep sea cores have revealed fluctuations in the O18/O16 ratio. These present evidence for glacial-interglacial cycles in the form of continental ice volume change.
pH analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A technique used for measuring the pH (acidity/alkalinity) - hydrogen ion concentration of a soil or sediment. The results of the test may suggest what type of remains are to be expected on a site. In an acid soil, bone, shell, and carbonate lithic debris will not survive, but pollen grains will; in an alkaline soil, there will be only rare occurrences of pollen, but calcareous material should be more plentiful. The pH is tested by moistening a sample of soil with neutral distilled water and dipping indicator paper into it. The resulting color, which depends on the pH content, can be matched against prepared charts of known pH values.
particle size analysis
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: particle-size analysis, size analysis, size-frequency analysis, grain size analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A technique for analyzing the grain sizes of archaeological or geological sediments, used to discover the manner and process of their deposition. The technique also allows the accurate description of a deposit, and comparison with other sediments. There are several methods of particle size analysis. Dry sieving, the sifting of deposits through various sizes of mesh so that particles are grouped into sizes, is suitable for larger grains from pebbles to coarse sand. Light or electron microscopy is used for finer grains of sand, silt, and clay. Sedimentation, the counting of grains dispersed in liquid as they fall to the bottom of a container, is suitable for the finest grains of silt and clay. A combination of methods, is frequently used. The analysis may yield information on whether the deposit is wind- or water-borne, how much it has weathered, and to what extent it has been affected by man. Particles are classified into a number of size grades, normally under such headings as boulders, pebbles, stones, gravel, sand, silt, and clay; sand is often further subdivided. The mixture of particle size grades found in a material is known as the texture.
petrographic analysis
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: A technique that analyzes the mineral composition of an artifact's temper and clay through microscopic observation of thin sections
phosphate analysis
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: phosphate surveying, phosphorus survey
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The examination of phosphates from decayed organic matter; a technique for detecting the presence of phosphate in soil and for using phosphorus concentrations to determine human settlements and activity within sites. Phosphate is a natural constituent of soil, however, it is concentrated by animals' bones, excrement, and food refuse. The technique has been employed particularly in the study of cave deposits (to show human or animal occupation), settlement sites (to identify the uses to which different areas were put) and burials (to show the former existence of bodies completely decayed). Once phosphate is in the soil, it is usually converted into an insoluble form, so that it does not tend to move down profile nor to be redistributed sideways in the soil. For this reason, settlements and farms tend to leave high concentrations of phosphate in the soil, which often remain stable over long periods, sometimes thousands of years. Much preliminary work must be done on the distribution and range of naturally occurring phosphorus because variations are caused by vegetation abundance and type and by soil horizon.
point-pattern analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A basic form of spatial analysis that allows archaeologists to identify concentrations of material, trends in artifact deposition, etc. by examining random patterns.
pollen analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study of pollen grains in soil samples from an archaeological site which provides information on ancient human use of plants and plant resources. This technique, which is used in establishing relative chronologies as well as in environmental archaeology, was developed primarily as a technique for the relative dating of natural horizons. Pollen grains are produced in vast quantities by all plants, especially the wind-pollinated tree species. The outer skin (exine) of these grains is remarkably resistant to decay, and on wet ground or on a buried surface, it will be preserved, locked in the humus content. The pollen grains of trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers are preserved in either anaerobic conditions or in acid soils. Samples can be taken from the deposits by means of a core or from individual layers at frequent intervals in a section face on an archaeological site. The pollen is extracted and then concentrated and stained and examined under a microscope. Pollen grains are identifiable by their shape, and the percentages of the different species present in each sample are recorded on a pollen diagram. A comparison of the pollen diagrams for different levels within a deposit allows the identification of changes in the percentages of species and thus changes in the environment. As a dating technique, pollen has been used to identify different zones of arboreal vegetation which often correspond to climatic changes. The technique is invaluable for disclosing the environment of early man's sites and can even, over and series of samples, reveal man's influence on his environment by, for example, forest clearance. The sediments most frequently investigated are peat and lake deposits, but the more acid soils, such as podsols, are also analyzed. Radiocarbon dates may be taken at intervals in the sequence, and it is possible to reconstruct the history of vegetation in the area around the site where the samples were taken. Palynology plays an important role in the investigation of ancient climates, particularly through studies of deposits formed during glacial and interglacial stages of the Pleistocene epoch.
principal component analysis
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: principal components
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A technique of multivariate analysis designed to reduce redundancy in a body of data and to clarify underlying structural relations. New variables are calculated in a way that most of the variation within the original distribution is contained in the first few components. The principal components may then be plotted or analyzed by conventional means. It can be calculated by computer.
protein residue analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The recovery and identification of proteins preserved in or on archaeological materials.
regional analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Any of various spatial analysis techniques in which archaeologists attempt to examine how behaviors structure a settlement system.
site catchment analysis
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: SCA; site-catchment analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method of reconstructing the economy of a site by studying the resources that are available within a reasonable distance, generally 1-2 hours' walking time from the site. The technique was devised by E. Higgs and C. Vita-Finzi for 'the study of the relationship between technology and those natural resources lying within economic range of individual sites', an extension of the least-cost principle. The catchment area is defined by drawing a circle around the site; the radius has often been set at 5 km (i.e. an hour's walk) for agriculturists and 10 km (i.e. two hours' walk) for hunter-gatherers, figures which represent ethnographically observed averages. Within the catchment area the proportions of such resources as arable or pastoral land are calculated, and from these figures conclusions can be drawn concerning the nature and function of the site. The technique offers a valuable and reasonably objective method for analyzing relationships between site location, technology, and available resources. This type of off-site analysis can concentrate on the total area from which a site's contents have been derived.
skeletal analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The examination of surviving human bones for information, such as the racial affinities, the blood group, etc. The skeleton's sex will be shown clearly by the pelvis and, with less certainty, by the skull. The age at death will appear from the state of fusion of the long bone epiphyses and skull sutures, and the eruption and wear of the teeth. The bones may show signs of injury or disease (palaeopathology). All this information has greater value when many associated skeletons can be studied as a population rather than as individuals.
soil analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study of soil and subsoil to determine climate, vegetation, and human disturbance. It is used to assist the interpretation of deposits. Tools are primarily mechanical grading of particle size, determination of soil color, chemical tests like phosphate analysis, and pollen analysis.
spatial analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The statistical study of concentrations of human activity in a defined space; the systematic study of spatial patterning in archaeological data. Distribution maps showing artifacts or sites have long been used in archaeology, but spatial analysis adds rigorous mathematical and statistical techniques for examining such maps. Techniques adapted from modern geography include locational analysis for the study of settlement patterns, and the use of distance-decay functions, linear regression analysis, and trend-surface analysis for exploring the distribution of artifacts.
spectrographic analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Method for quantitative analysis of small samples of various compounds which has high accuracy. It involves passing the light refracted from a sample through a prism or diffraction grating that spreads out the wavelengths of trace elements into a spectrum. This enables the identification of different trace elements and depends on the fact that light emitted by any element on volatilization shows a characteristic pattern when split by a prism into its spectrum. The elements present can be measured by the intensity of the lines in comparison with control spectra of known composition produced under the same conditions. A small sample can be used, less than 10 milligrams, making the method particularly suitable for archaeological material. The method has been used especially for metal analysis, giving useful information on technology and sources of the raw materials, and also for glass, faience, pottery, and obsidian.
stable isotope analysis
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: stable carbon isotope analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A technique for reconstructing past diets (plant foods) by analyzing the isotopic ratios, particularly carbon and nitrogen, contained in human bone. Human remains are analyzed for a measurement of the ratio between 13C and 12C isotopes in ancient human bone collagen.
stylistic analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Artifact analysis focused on form and function as well as the decorative styles used by the makers, used very often for ceramics.
symmetry analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A mathematical analytical approach to the decorative style of symmetry. Patterns are divided into two distinct groups or symmetry classes: 17 classes for those patterns that repeat motifs horizontally, and 46 classes for those that repeat them horizontally and vertically. Such studies suggest that the choice of motif arrangement within a particular culture is very important.
technological analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study of technological methods used to make an artifact.
thermal analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Any technique used to get information on the physical or thermodynamic properties in which heat is involved; in archaeology, especially to obtain information on the firing temperature of pottery and other clay objects. The techniques include boiling, freezing, solidification-point determinations; heat of fusion and heat of vaporization measurements; distillation, calorimetry, and differential thermal, thermogravimetric, thermometric, and thermometric titration analyses.
trace element analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The use of quantitative chemical techniques, such as neutron activation analysis or X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, for determining the elements present in a mineral in minor proportions. These methods are widely used in the identification of raw material sources for metal, clay, obsidian, etc. Trace elements emit characteristic wavelengths of light when heated to incandescence.
trend surface analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method used to make a generalized map from observed data and used to highlight the main features and important trends of a geographic distribution. Archaeological observations mapped are discontinuous and at isolated points and therefore must be used to give information over a wider area. This is done either by averaging the values at a number of points to produce a general value or by a form of linear regression analysis which finds the contours which best fit the observations plotted on the map. The map produced then shows a general trend of the distribution, along with localized fluctuations. The technique is most useful for displaying archaeological data in a simplified and generalized form, making it easier to examine and explain the broad regional trends and the local variations. It can be applied to several different artifact distributions at the regional level, and has also been used to describe the distribution of artifact types within a site.
type-variety-mode analysis
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: type-variety system
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: A taxonomic classification of pottery based on stylistic attributes that defines a hierarchy of modes and varieties (minimal units), types, groups, complexes, and spheres (maximal units)
unit of analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The unit from which an archaeologist takes measurements.
use-wear analysis
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: edge-wear analysis; usewear analysis; microwear analysis; use wear analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The examination and study of the edges and surfaces of artifacts, mainly stone tools, to determine the type of wear they have experienced and thus the tasks for which they were used. Microscopic analysis is used to detect signs of wear on working edges.

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