Barbican Research Associates

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The archaeological literature is permeated with the use of simple statistical graphics, such as histograms, pie charts, barplots, scatterplots and boxplots. This book illustrates how such plots can be obtained using the open source software system R; the other graphical methods covered are kernel density estimates, ternary diagrams and correspondence analysis. Copious illustrative examples using real data are provided and placed in their archaeological context. Full details of the data sets and R code used are available as separate supplementary files.


Part of the motivation for writing the text was dissatisfaction with much of what is to be found in this literature. The authors’ view is that graphs are sometimes unnecessary, where the relevant information is better conveyed in a simple sentence or commentary on a table. Graphical presentation is also often poor, probably because of reliance on the ‘defaults’ in conveniently available menu-driven packages, such as Excel, not specifically designed for statistical analysis. This contention is supported through analysis of, and reference to, real data and the way they are commonly presented in the literature.


Although R is not menu-driven – taking more time to learn than packages in common use – it allows far more control over presentation than such packages. It also forces the user to think about the real need for a graphic, as well as its design. It is hoped that the text will encourage a more critical appraisal of the use of basic graphics in archaeological publications. The same care and attention should be lavished on them as on the main text, into which they should be properly integrated.


The book can be downloaded here.


If you want to work through the text, This file will provide you with all the code which can be cut and pasted.  This file will give you all the datasets used.



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