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Department of Archaeology

 
When: 
Monday, 15 November, 2021 - 16:00 to 17:00
Event speaker: 
David Nicolas Matzig, Aarhus University

The identification of material culture variability remains an important goal in archaeology, as such variability is commonly coupled with interpretations of cultural transmission and adaptation. While most archaeological cultures are defined on the basis of typology and research tradition, cultural evolutionary reasoning combined with computer-aided methods can shed new light on the validity of many such entrenched groupings, especially in regard to European Upper Palaeolithic projectile points and their classification. Little methodological consistency, however, makes it difficult to compare the conclusions of such studies. Here, we present our recently published effort (Matzig et al. 2021) towards a benchmarked, case-transferrable toolkit that comparatively explores relevant techniques centred on outline-based GMM. First, we re-analyse two previously conducted landmark-based analyses of stone artefacts – one from the Paleoindian and one from the Bell Beaker period – using a whole-outline approach, demonstrating that outlines can offer an efficient and reliable alternative. Using a dataset of Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age arrowheads, we then show how a careful application of clustering algorithms to GMM outline data is able to successfully discriminate between distinctive tool shapes and suggest that such data can also be used to infer cultural evolutionary histories matching already observed typo-chronological patterns. Building on this baseline work, we apply the same methods to a dataset of large tanged points from the European Final Palaeolithic (ca. 15,000–11,000 cal BP). Exploratively comparing the structure of design space within and between the datasets analysed here, our results indicate that Final Palaeolithic tanged point shapes do not fall into meaningful regional or cultural evolutionary groupings but exhibit an internal outline variance comparable to spatiotemporally much closer confined artefact groups of post-Palaeolithic age. We discuss these contrasting results in relation to the architecture of lithic tool design spaces and technological differences in blank production and tool manufacture.

Find more about David Nicolas Matzig here

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Event location: 
online
Geographical areas: 
Americas
Europe
Subjects: 
Archaeology
Themes: 
Science, Technology and Innovation
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Computational and Quantitative Archaeology
Cultural Evolution
Periods of interest: 
Copper/Bronze Age
Other Late Prehistory
Other Prehistory
Palaeolithic/Mesolithic
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