University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Uncertainty in sampling and interpretation: can ethnoarcheology help us?
Carla Lancelotti, Bernardo Rondelli, Alessandra Pecci, Fernanda Inserra, Andrea Luca Balbo, Javier Ruiz Perez, Victoria Yannitto, Charusmita Gadekar, Marco Madella, P Ajithprasad, Miguel Angel Cau Ontiveros

Last modified: 2011-12-18


This paper describes a spatial ethnoarchaeological approach aiming at: a) evaluating the understanding of spatial patterns of domestic activities within farmer groups and b) to determine the level of uncertainty of this type of data when correlated to the archaeological interpretation.

Archaeological interpretation of domestic activities is mainly related with sampling strategies and semi-quantitative analysis (archaeobotany, chemical residue, micromorphology, etc.). However a systematic evaluation of sampling strategies reliability and realism (reality exists independently of observers) is often missing in archaeological investigations, due to the difficulty of measuring the uncertainty.

Ethnoarchaeology is a consolidated approach that might be oriented to a) the creation of reference collections for the interpretation of archaeological record (analogical reasoning) and b) the improvement of field research strategies for the detection of anthropic markers (reflexive reasoning). In this paper we propose a spatial, semi-quantitative ethnoarchaeological approach in order to try to tackle the problem of uncertainty in sampling strategies.

To achieve this, a regular sampling strategy aimed at obtaining semi-quantitative data for botanical micro-remains (phytoliths and micro-charcoal) and for chemical compounds present in the floors (analysed with ICP-AES and spot tests) has been applied to a traditional farmer compound of Northern Gujarat (India). Samples of the superficial layer of a plastered mud floor were collected every 50 cm and analysed for multiproxy data. Data resulted from the analyses have been I) integrated in a geodatabase, II) explored using geostatistical methods, and successively III) correlated with the building’s structure and domestic activities mapped. In this paper we present the results obtained by the analyses of multi-element chemical signatures and lipid analyses. Data were analysed spatially at different scales and the result evaluated in terms of representativeness of the correlated activity. The results obtained allow a critical evaluation of the uncertainty in detecting anthropic markers and propose critical elements for future investigations.