Morphometrics for archaeologists 2016 (M2 AGES)

The goal of the course is to learn how to express and quantitaively treat shape information of archaeological artefacts. At the end of this course students should be able to choose the proper method for a given question and proceed autonomously from data collection, preparation, standardisation to shape variables calculation.
Esential part of the course will be then dedicated to the application of inferential and multidimensional statistics (PCA, DA) of shape data.


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Morphometrics of Bronze Age flanged axes

Paper on the morphometrics of Middle Age Bronze axes was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.


The classification of Western European flang734281.gifed axes dating to the Middle Bronze Age (1650–1350 BC) is very complex. Many types of axe have been identified, some of which have numerous variant forms. In the current French terminology, all axes are divided into two generic groups: namely “Atlantic” (Atlantique) and “Eastern” (Orientale). Each of these generic groups, however, is highly polymorphic, so that it is often very difficult for the operator to classify individual axes with absolute confidence and certainty. In order to overcome such problems, a new shape classification is proposed, using morphometric analysis (Elliptic Fourier Analysis) followed by unsupervised model-based clustering and discriminant analysis, both based on Gaussian mixture modelling. Together, these methods produce a clearer pattern, which is independently validated by the spatial distribution of the findings, and multinomial scan statistics. This approach is fast, reproducible, and operator-independent, allowing artefacts of unknown membership to be classified rapidly. The method is designed to be amendable by the introduction of new artefacts, in the light of future discoveries. This method can be adapted to suit many other archaeological artefacts, providing information about the material, social and cultural relations of ancient populations.

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