CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

G1: Timescales of Change - Chronology of cultural and environmental transformations


Graphic chronology
Fig. 1. Schematic representation of the chronology of a transformation in the archaeological record. Time proceeds from left to right (horizontal axis). Vertical axis represents a spatial dimension (e.g. latitude). One phenomenon (triangles) is gradually replaced by another (circles), but there is a region in time/space in which both types occur (light grey shading). Replacement occurs early and relatively abruptly in the south and later and more gradually in the north, but existing dating (horizontal lines) does not reveal this. G1 would assist another CRC project which is already working on several assemblages of the second type (grey circles) to date these precisely, and potentially extend and refine our understanding of the temporality of the transition by dating additional assemblages (black shapes).

G1 was designed to foster collaboration within CRC 1266 on chronological problems, to test ideas about the timing and tempo of transformations in the archaeological or palaeo-environmental record. We aim to apply best-practice radiocarbon (14C) dating and Bayesian chronological modelling to different transformation scenarios, and assess the plausibility of linking observed transformations to external events. G1’s work involves creating realistic simulation models, incorporating legacy 14C dates and relative dating constraints based on expert observations, selecting new 14C samples and modelling the results. In CRC 1266 phase 1, a major component of G1’s work was the validation or rejection of new or legacy 14C dates, through inter-laboratory replication, quality assurance indicators and sensitivity analyses.

Given the increasing emphasis in Phase 2 on regional diachronic patterns, G1 will focus more on improving the use of legacy 14C data and producing realistic 14C-dated proxies for the intensity of archaeologically-visible human activity, such as the number of houses occupied within a site, or the number of sites occupied within a region (‘archaeological time-series’). This is a key methodological challenge for several CRC sub-projects which use ‘archaeological time-series’ in explanatory models of transformations. Existing methods of aggregating archaeological data and 14C results tend to blur temporal variations in the intensity of activity, and may suggest spurious fluctuations. By creating synthetic 14C data sets with known underlying temporal distributions and added statistical ‘noise’, we can show how closely fluctuations observed in aggregated legacy 14C data of variable quality or relevance to the phenomena in question will reflect underlying trends in the intensity of activity.


Research activities 2020-2024

New Publications