Tuesday, November 8, 2011

CAA 2012 [Call for Papers]: Embracing Uncertainty in Archaeology

So, it's time for submitting your paper at CAA2012!!! This year (academic year I mean) the University of Southampton will host the event which will back in Europe after being hosted in China. I'm quite excited about this, since the last time I went it was Budapest 2008... And this time we (Andrew BevanEugenio BortoliniEleonora Gandolfi, Mark Lake and myself) have also proposed the following session:

Embracing Uncertainty in Archaeology
(Session Code: Theory1)

This session aims to develop greater awareness of approaches to uncertainty in archaeology by bringing together both established experts and young researchers from a range of different fields. Its ultimate goal is to generate broader discussion about how we confront uncertainty in the recovery of archaeological datasets, how we treat it analytically and computationally, and how we incorporate it into our inference building, interpretations and narratives.

Uncertainty is at the core of long-standing debate in a wide variety of modern scientific domains, as testified by the recent inclusion of the topic among the twelve most relevant scientific endeavours listed by the Royal Society . Critical debates concerning the assessment, representation and public understanding of uncertainty are also of widespread interest in the social and political sciences.

The increasing availability of tools capable to solve large computational problems has provided a suitable environment for tackling this issue. Examples of such approaches can be widely found in different realms of our discipline. These include the use of advanced techniques in chronometry (Buck et al 1996), predictive modelling (Ducke et al 2009), spatial analysis (Crema et al 2010) remote sensing (Menze and Ur 2011), phylogenetic analysis (Nicholls and Gray 2006), typology and classification (Hermon and Nicolucci 2002), stratigraphy (De Runz et al 2007) and data visualisation (Zuk et al. 2005).
Despite some explicit, epistemologically-oriented contributions (Wylie, 2008; Lake, 2011) a debate encompassing both practical and theoretical aspects has never emerged nor it has determined direction and priorities of mainstream archaeology.


Isolated discussions within single subfields (e.g. radiocarbon dating or spatial modelling) can certainly provide grounds for theoretical and methodological advancement, but we need to develop more integrated approaches to uncertainty across all the aspects of the discipline.
We invite original contributions to the following themes: a) the role of uncertainty in archaeological narratives; b) methodological debates about different probabilistic approaches; c) measurement and integration of uncertainty into archaeological analysis; d) appropriate sampling strategies and missing data problems; e) cultural resource management, risk assessment and decision making; f) public understanding and data visualisation.


Buck, C.E., Cavanagh, W.G. and Litton, C.D., 1996. Bayesian approach to interpreting archaeological data. Chichester:Wiley.

Crema, E. R., Bevan, A. and Lake, M., 2010, A probabilistic framework for assessing spatio-temporal point patterns in the archaeological record, Journal of Archaeological Science, 37, 1118-1130.

De Runz, D., Desjardin, E., Piantoni, F., and Herbin, M. 2007. Using fuzzy logic to manage uncertain multi-modal data in an archaeological GIS. Proceedings of ISSDQ 2007, Enschede, Netherland.

Drennan, R.D. and Peterson, C.E. 2004. Comparing archaeological settlement systems with rank-size graphs: a measure of shape and statistical confidence, Journal of Archaeological Science 31:533-549.

Hermon, S., and Nicolucci, F. 2002. Estimating subjectivity of typologists and typological classification with fuzzy logic. Archeologia e Calcolatori, 12, 217-232.

Lake, M W, 2010. The Uncertain Future of Simulating the Past. In A Costopoulos and M W Lake (eds) Simulating Change: Archaeology Into the Twenty-First Century, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. 12-20.

Nicholls, G,K, and Gray, R.D. 2006. Quantifying Uncertainty in a Stochastic Model of Vocabulary Evolution. In: Forster P., and Renfrew, C. (eds.) Phylogenetic methods and the prehistory of languages. Cambridge : McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. 161-172.

Wylie, A. 2008. Agnotology in/of Archaeology,” in R. N. Proctor and L. Schiebinger (eds.) Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance, edited by; Stanford University Press:183-205.

Zuk, T. Carpendale, S. and Glanzman, W.D., 2005. Visualizing Temporal Uncertainty in 3D Virtual Reconstructions, In Proceedings of the 6th International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (VAST 2005), 99-106.

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