While helping

Bugman and

gianmarco with respective problems I became interested in the work they do. I love visualization and I love geographical plotting. But I'm in a field (literacy) that really isn't about geo-spatial representation of data.

Now for what I'm after. I know ecologists and archaeologists do cool spatial analysis but I don't know exactly what you do. I have a feeling you see what deer eat what kinds of foods in what areas but that's my limited understanding. I know there's a spatial component but there's probably a statistical component as well.

Could you all who are in these fields be so kind as to give your take on:

- Overview of what you do
- The types of research questions you may investigate
- Spatial analysis and other visual representations you use
- Types of statistical tests you use and how you might use them with your data
- Anything else you'd like to share...

Thanks @Trinker to create such an interesting thread, devoted to ecologists and to those strange kind of scientists (if they may be defined so) called "archaeologists". I hope I will be able to provide some answers to your questions, provided that: 1) my English allows me to make my points; 2) my English allows me to well understand the main points of your questions.

I believe that the majority of people does not suspect that statistics can be something that archaeologists actually use. On the contrary, quantitative approaches have steadily gained popularity since 1960s, since American archaeologists started a revolution in the field of archaeology with that which would have been named

Processual Archaeology or New Archaeology. This new wave of archaeological thinking introduced into archaeology, among other thing, the use of statistics and of a "scientific" methodology. Many things have changed since than, and New Archaeology has been criticized form many reasons, but I think that the focus on the utility of quantitative methods has remained alive into the discipline.

As for me, I concur with many scholars (i.e., archaeologist) that archaeology, like other social sciences, inescapably has numerical components, and that one cannot escape statistics, provided that the use of the latter and the application of statistical approach to the archaeological documentation are faced with some inherent difficulties.

The types of research questions you may investigate

Overall, I think that there are as many research questions I may investigate as are the questions that may stem in my mind. These, in turn, are stimulated by the theory(ies) and theorethical frameworks one can read from literature. For this reason, I think it is of utmost importance to read a lot, not only what is closer to the own field(s) of inquiry, but also what regards other geographical, cultural, chronological contexts. For example, even though I am specialist in Italian Bronze Age, I benefitted from reading about Neolithic China, Bronze Age Greece, Mongolian Steppe, pre/post contact North and South America, and the like.

Types of statistical tests you use and how you might use them with your data

In recent years, the use of statistics in my studies has steadily increased and has been centered mainly on the analysis of categorical data (i.e., cross-tabulation) and, to a lesser extent, on descriptive statistics, simple hypothesis testing (t-test, Mann-Whitney, 1-way ANOVA, Kruskal-Wallis), correlation/regression and, sometime, on the use of bootstrap approaches.

The predominance of the interest in the analysis of cross-classified data should come with no surprise since in archaeology things are often put into categories. So, it is natural for archaeologists to deal with cross-tabulations. And it has become natural for me to extensively use Correspondence Analysis as an exploratory tools for seeking pattern(s) of association in large contingency tables. I have also, as @Trinker now, created a website on the use of that technique in archaeology. The site has gained a good popularity, with accesses from all over the world (also thanks to Trinker's post on his blog). I coupled Correspondence Analysis also with Cluster Analysis. I am familiar also with other scaling techniques, like Principal Component Analysis and Multidimensional Scaling, even though I did not happen to actually use them.

Since 2011, I got involved into

Bayesian approaches to radiocarbon chronology. This does not mean that I have deep knowledge of Bayesian computation. Quite fortunately, there are out there two on-line facilities (namely,

OxCal,

BCal) which actually perform all the needed calculations once the data have been fed into them. In a nutshell, I happen to use Bayesian approaches with the aim to derive posterior distributions of radiocarbon dates once some prior constraining information are available (e.g., stratigraphy). I have published three articles dealing with such an approach, in 2011 (

Radiocarbon), 2012 (

Journal of Archaeological Science), 2013 (

Journal of Quaternary Science).

I have also recently approached Logistic Regression (especially binary LR), and I have found it very interesting. As always, I approach statistics from a practical standpoint. Since I do not have an extensive math background, I "limit" myself to grasp the principles on which statistical techniques are based, understand the contexts and situation in which they are used, understand the outcomes and results, and how the latter can be used to gain knowledge from data. I have also recently dared to write a journal article that uses Binary Logistic Regression, whose revised version is currently under evaluation.

Spatial analysis and other visual representations you use

Like Bugman, I have used GIS for my studies, and I have recently turned to open platforms like qgis. As one can imagine, tying quantitative information to spatial data is essential to archaeology. Recently, I have played with the possibility to use qqplot2 to build some spatial representation of a dataset I am studying, in an attempt to graphically visualize the distribution of functional classes of objects within a Bronze Age settlement here in Sicily.

That's all for now….

I have to think some more about your other questions.

Cheers,

Gm