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The Quality of the Archaeological Record$
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Charles Perreault

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226630823

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226631011.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 27 October 2020

The Sources of Underdetermination

The Sources of Underdetermination

Chapter:
(p.23) 2 The Sources of Underdetermination
Source:
The Quality of the Archaeological Record
Author(s):

Charles Perreault

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226631011.003.0002

A theory that describes the pathways by which processes can be archaeologically equifinal is developed. There are four aspects of the quality of any set of empirical data: scope, sampling interval, resolution, and dimensionality. The scope refers to the total amount of space and time that is represented in a data set. The sampling interval denotes the interval of time or space that separates the analytical units. The resolution is the amount of space and time that are represented within each unit. And dimensionality describes the independent variables of an object of study that have been measured. Each one of these four aspects of the quality of a dataset can lead to equifinality. Reducing equifinality can be done by improving the quality of the data. But it is always possible that the smoking gun that would resolve a question has been destroyed and is forever lost. When this happens, there is only one thing left to do: to abandon the study of those processes that are equifinal and focus instead on the those that operate over temporal and spatial scales that are similar to that of archaeological data, and where the complexity is matched by the data’s dimensionality.

Keywords:   Equifinality, Scope, Sampling interval, Resolution, Data quality, Temporal scale, Spatial scale, Undetermination

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