Kernels of Truth in Archaeological Temporal Frequency Analysis



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Temporal frequency analysis (TFA) broadly refers to statistical tools both for the description of temporal fluctuations in the abundance of recovered archaeological material and for the construction of probability distribution models underlying such samples. Over the last three decades, summed probability distributions (SPDs) have enjoyed wide usage in TFA, though kernel density estimates (KDEs) have begun to eclipse SPDs over the last decade. Taken alone, neither tool is wholly adequate to solve the dual problems of chronometric uncertainty in radiometric dating and random sampling error. Recently, researchers have attempted to accommodate both sources of uncertainty by applying novel statistical techniques, including a two-step "composite KDE" approach introduced by W. Brown and others, as well as a hybrid Bayesian-Frequentist method for fitting KDE models introduced by C. Bronk Ramsey and implemented in OxCal. In this presentation, I explore an alternative approach that falls more squarely within the conceptual boundaries of Bayesian statistics, coupling finite mixture modeling and hierarchical regression analysis to simultaneously accommodate chronometric uncertainty and random sampling error in a single analytical operation. I illustrate this approach using a sample of archaeological radiocarbon dates from the Kuril Archipelago in the Northeast Pacific Rim.

Biographical Information

Will Brown was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. He received a BA in History and Philosophy from Northwest Nazarene University in 2000 and an MA in Ancient Near Eastern Studies from Brandeis University in 2002 before shifting focus to anthropological archaeology, receiving a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Washington (UW) in 2019.

His research focuses on improving the statistical basis of and rigor in archaeological demography. He currently serves as a Lecturer in the UW Department of Statistics, where he teaches introductory courses in statistics to undergraduates, as well as graduate-level courses in event history analysis and Bayesian statistics.


Archaeology -- Russia -- Kuril Islands, Archaeology -- Methodology -- Case studies, Excavations (Archaeology) -- Statistical analysis, Radioactive dating, Radiocarbon dating, Bayesian statistical decision theory



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Kernels of Truth in Archaeological Temporal Frequency Analysis