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Downscaling in Archaeology: From digital forest to probable trees

Author(s): Daniel Contreras

Year: 2017

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Integrating archaeological and paleoenvironmental data about the past is a longstanding archaeological goal. It is often central to basic archaeological interpretation, fundamental to addressing questions of human-environment interaction, and vital to realizing archaeology’s potential contributions to studies of vulnerability, resilience, and sustainability in the face of climate change. However, such integration faces challenges of scale, resolution, and mechanism. Increasingly abundant digital data open the possibility of adoption of statistical downscaling approaches used in ecology and paleoclimatology, which offers one means of addressing these challenges. In this paper I use a case study in Provence (France) as an example of the downscaling of paleoclimate data to explore the human consequences of Holocene climate change, particularly through its impacts on agricultural potential. The promises and pitfalls of downscaling in archaeology, I argue, exemplify the potentials of digital data: downscaling enables generation of interpretive possibilities, but also risks reifying one of them by producing seductive results. At the same time, downscaling is so explicit in its probabilistic foundations that it is a useful epistemological metaphor for digital archaeological data more generally.

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Downscaling in Archaeology: From digital forest to probable trees. Daniel Contreras. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431592)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17340

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America