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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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The Quality of the Archaeological Record

The Quality of the Archaeological Record

(p.112) 5 The Quality of the Archaeological Record
The Quality of the Archaeological Record

Charles Perreault

University of Chicago Press

The sampling interval and the resolution of the archaeological record in peer-reviewed journal articles and regional databases is measured. These sources complement each other: journal articles are a good proxy for the quality of the data used by archaeologists, whereas regional databases are representative of the quality of the archaeological record itself. I show that archaeologists have to contend with units that are, on average, separated by hundreds of years and kilometers. The vast majority of the sampling interval and the resolution observed in journal articles and regional databases are greater than one human generation, and usually in the order of 102 and 103 years. Sampling interval and resolution of an order of magnitude of 101 years do exist, but they are the exception, not the rule. Spatially, the gap between archaeological sites is in the order of 101 to 102 kilometers. I also explore the relationship between the age of archaeological deposits and the quality of the record. While archaeologists already know that the quality of the record degrades with time, my analyses allow us, for the first time, to move beyond an intuitive understanding of this principle and to describe it quantitatively.

Keywords:   Regional databases, Temporal sampling intervals, Spatial sampling intervals, Spatial gap, Resolution, Time, Data quality

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