Statistics for archaeologists 101: part 1

Archaeology is a science that is strongly influenced by many other scientific fields. This can be seen in the different theories and methods that materialize contacts with disciplines like philosophy, anthropology, sociology, geology, chemistry, topography, and so on. However, this also shapes how archaeologists position themselves within Archaeology and the techniques they resort to, to strengthen their interpretative frameworks. 

One of the most widespread tools is statistical analysis or just statistics in general.

But what are statistics and how can they be helpful to archaeologists? Summing up, “statistics are a collection of numerical facts that summarize information that has been collected from multiple observations” (Wilshaw, 2022). This makes a lot of sense when used in Archaeology since we usually deal with large assemblages that consume large amounts of time, which can be tricky to comprehend if only simple analyses are made. 

Nevertheless, to properly use the infinite amount of statistical methods and tests, we must perfectly understand the basics of it. In this sense, to consolidate and improve the quality of the research that is being made in Archaeology, and to provide an active and friendly learning environment, ICArEHB organized the second Training In Frontier Archaeology also known as TIFA, entitled “Statistics for archaeologists”, with lectures given by Alex Wilshaw (Liverpool James Moores University) and by João Cascalheira (ICArEHB). The course has two parts, the first simpler one “An introduction to Statistics and Univariate Analysis” and the second with “Advanced Statistics and Multivariate Analysis”. 

Last Wednesday marked the beginning of the first course, bringing together around 20 researchers but mainly Ph.D. students, from ICArEHB, University of Seville, University of Leiden, and the University of Rome. In an exciting environment we were taught how to prepare our data for statistical analysis, how to recognize the different applicable tests and how to interpret and report results from Chi2, independent and paired samples t-test, one-way ANOVA but also correlation and regression analysis. 

We first learned about the theoretical applicability of each analysis, putting out knowledge into practice in both SPSS and R. However, we still had time to enjoy some Portuguese delicacies during the four days: wine, cheese, pastries, and the outstanding Algarve sun. 

Most of the participants will return for the second part of the course, which will happen in a few weeks (4th to 7th of May 2022). Stay tuned for future updates. 

Author: Ana Catarina Basílio


Wilshaw, A. (2022) – TIFA: Statistics for Archaeologists 1. Guiding book for the ICArEHB TIFA Statistics for Archaeologists. 47 p.

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