Huge Weight off the Shoulders!

May 15, 2009

I’m still in Jordan but I finally got that pesky thesis finished and into the multiple revision process. I’ll have to say I am fairly happy how it turned out. There were a few times when I wasn’t too sure if it was going to come together. Now, I don’t mean get it finished on time because the submission deadline isn’t actually until June 15th. I was worried about how to effectively portray all the variables I needed on one graph. However, thanks to the great help of a friend in my lab, the Computational Archaeology Lab at McGill, I was able to figure it out.

Since it’s been a while, before I tell you about the graph I better review the thesis. The whole point is to test current descriptions of the prehistoric transition from chipped stone to ground stone technology on the southwest coast of British Columbia, Canada. Specifically, I am looking at whether or not the concept of phase (prehistoric periods of time for which all sites get grouped together) has an impact on interpreting archaeological change. So, I analyzed the above mentioned transition using prehistoric periods and then again without them, using strictly carbon-14 dates, to see if there was a difference in the temporal and spatial pattern of change. The tricky graph I mentioned was the final one, placing all the assemblages (75 of them) on one graph that had time and space (coordinates) represented as continuous axes as well as including the proportion of chipped stone, ground stone, and faunal tools for each assemblage. That makes 6 variables for one graph…and voila….kind of

composite_plot _2

What we came up with is this graph. It is a basic scatterplot with the Y-axis being time, the X-axis being space, and the assemblages coloured using an RGB composite where Red = ground stone proportions, Green = faunal tool proportion, and Blue = chipped stone proportion. This gives every assemblage a unique colour based on the combination of the three colour proportions. There were two tricky parts. First, the spatial axes is actually two variables, the latitude and longitude. Luckily our sites are positioned on a fairly east/west axis so we reclassified them as the distance from the mouth of the River. Zero kilometers is the river mouth and everything East is inland up the river while everything to the West is in the delta or coast islands. You can see the division between deltaic sites and coastal island sites clearly on the graph between 30 and 50km W. The other tricky part was the legend but thanks to some helpful colleagues we got it figured out properly. What the graph shows is a pattern that goes against the current descriptions of the transition and suggests that continuous axes of time and space are more appropriate than archaeological phases for understanding change through time. I’m sure more info is needed but that will have to come later.

For now, enough technical mumbo jumbo. I’ll get you up to speed on the work here in Jordan very soon!

Time to stop procrastinating…wait a minute!

February 22, 2009

I have been slowly setting up this blog for at least the past 4 months. I’ve been waiting for that one perfect topic for my first post and now I have a folder full of random thoughts that range from the concept of race in national food guides to the current problem with the relationship between academic archaeology, consulting archaeology, and museums. But today I am not going to write about any of these topics. I’ve decided to stop waiting for what I deemed the “perfect” first blog post (i.e. procrastinating) because I realized that nobody is likely to read this first post. Funny thing is this realization came about while searching for a justifiable means of procrastinating from my MA thesisĀ  – I am presenting it on March 6th at McGill…yes that is only 12 days away!

What is this thesis you ask? Right now it feels like a side project. I’m in the cross-over period where I will be starting my PhD next fall (location yet to be determined) and finishing up my MA. The tricky part is that these two projects, although they do overlap thematically, are very different. My MA focuses on the technological transition from chipped stone tools to ground and polished stone, bone, and antler on the southwest coast of British Columbia. The PhD is a geoarchaeological reconstruction of a deeply stratified site in Jordan that goes back to the late Acheulian and is capped by the Epi-palaeolithic, with pretty much everything in between. Seeing as I am really excited about this PhD I went ahead and started it. I spent last summer in Jordan and am going back in May, plus I am presenting on the geomorphology of the site at the Association of American Geographer’s annual meeting at the end of March and at the Prehistoric Archaeology conference in Amman at the end of May. The tricky thing is my MA thesis is due on June 15th…hmmm….

Don’t get the wrong impression I love my thesis topic and it is really coming together. I’ve got a database of approximately 40 sites with well-dated assemblages, each assemblage having a designation to one of the phases/culture types in the local cultural historical sequence. From this data, over the next few days, I am going to be making the bulk of the figures for my thesis. I am testing the often cited fact that the transition I mentioned above is gradual and uniform across the region, specifically I am looking at if/how the concept of archaeological phase or culture type influences the interpretation of archaeological change through time. I’ll keep updating my progress on here and maybe post a few teasers as I finish some figures and graphs (for any of my projects that is).

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