University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Quantitative methods in italian archaeology: a review
alessandro guidi

Last modified: 2011-12-19


The use of quantitative graphs (chronological diagrams, block diagrams and cumulative diagrams) begins, in Italian archaeology, between the end of Fifties and the beginnings of Sixties in the last century, thanks to the work of Renato Peroni (Bronze and Iron Age), in Rome and of Alberto Broglio (Palaeolithic), in Ferrara, following, respectively, the German and the French tradition..

In the following decade also Classical archaeologist began to use quantitative graphs; in 1972 Alberto Cazzella published an article on the Calcholitic in Southern Italy and Sicily in which he used extensively mathematical and statistical methods imported from the Anglo-Saxon world (e.g. the first correlation matrix).

Two years later Cazzella and Amilcare Bietti organized a workshop on the use of quantitative methods in archaeology and in 1976-77  Dialoghi di Archeologia published their first important article on the subject, while in a monograph on the recently discovered Iranian city of Shar-i-Shokta of 1977, edited by Maurizio Tosi, it’s possible to see the first example of a grave furnitures diagram.

In the same years Bietti began to use computers for the analysis of Upper Palaeolithic industries. Significantly, at the same time, “pioneer” articles by Izcovitch and Pezzoli on the use of computer science in archaeology appeared. The introduction of the personal computer shortly after allowed this growing interest to become a reality.

The Eighties began with the publication, by Bietti, of the first monograph on the use of mathematical and statistical methods in archaeology and, always in “Dialoghi di Archeologia”, of the review article on the use of quantitative methods in the study of Roman pottery by Paul Arthur and Andreina Ricci.

The “wave of advance” of processual school in Italian archaeology between 1982 and 1988 caused also a generalized  interest for the use of mathematical and statistical methods.

As important examples of computer applications to landscape archaeology, it’s possible to appreciate the first important works by Armando De Guio on North Eastern prehistory and the introduction of the simulation models by an équipe (between the members the speaker of the present communication) working on Latial prehistory., a sort of forefathers of predictive modelling in Italan archaeology.

In 1987 the monograph Archeologia e Calcolatori, by Paola Moscati, was published; three years later the first number of the homonymous review was edited by Moscati, involving many of the main foreign scholars, like Dindjean and Orton, and creating the most important “forum” on the matter.

A last “chapter” of this history is the introduction of new methods (functional analysis of objects and GIS) between the end of Nineties and the beginnings of XXI century.

From that period onwards, the use of quantitative methods became a sort of routine in the daily archaeological practice in our country, also if unfortunately, only few of the researchers involved in this history gained an academical position and no chairs of “quantitative archaeology” were created in Italian universities