Seriation (archeology)

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The term seriation is derived from the word series, which denotes a series of certain similar things and consequences. In this sense, it is also a design principle to achieve perfect uniformity by regularly repeating free or given shapes, e.g. B. the meander .

In archeology , seriation is the name of a method for ordering sparsely populated matrices according to the unimodal model. It is used for the relative dating of artefacts from different sites in order to put them in a chronological order.

These "sparsely populated matrices" are usually extensive tables that list the closed finds on a certain topic in the rows (e.g. garbage pits, graves) and in the columns specific types of finds (ceramics, jewelry, weapons). The tables show either the occurrence and non-occurrence of these types ("zero" or "one", also: presence / absence matrix or incidence matrix ) or the frequency of occurrence of the types (frequency matrix ).

In everyday life one encounters many phenomena that are subject to the linear model : the more gasoline is filled, the higher the bill. A unimodal model exists when a phenomenon initially becomes more frequent, but after a maximum becomes rarer again. This is the assumption made by archaeologists for phenomena along the time axis: something does not yet exist; it is invented and then occasionally appears; it is becoming increasingly popular and popping up frequently; it is replaced by something new, out of fashion again and less often in the spectrum of finds until it disappears. Seriation is the adequate mathematical procedure for arranging tables that are subject to such phenomena in a suitable manner so that the result is that they show the closed finds and the types in a chronological order.

The procedure was introduced by Klaus Goldmann in 1972 after various - somewhat different - forerunners to organize a presence / absence matrix. After that, it was continuously improved, including in the 1980s by Peter Ihm by taking the frequencies into account. Further research led to the discovery that the optimal type of diagonalization can be achieved with the help of correspondence analysis; the first solution of this potentially multi-dimensional procedure is identical to the result of a seriation.


  • Klaus Goldmann: The seriation of chronological key finds of the Bronze Age in Europe , Spiess, Berlin 1979, ISBN 3-88435-010-2
  • Peter Ihm : Correspondence Analysis and Seriation. In: Archaeological Information. 6, 1, 1983, ISSN  0341-2873 , pp. 8-21. doi: 10.11588 / ai.1983.1.27644
  • Ursula Janßen: The early Bronze Age burial grounds of Halawa, Shamseddin, Djerniye, Tawi and Wreide on the Middle Euphrates. Attempt to date and interpret social structures using multivariate statistical methods (correspondence analysis and seriation). In: Ugarit research. 34, 2002, ISSN  0342-2356 , pp. 223-313.
  • DG Kendall: Seriation from abundance matrices. In: FR Hodson, DG Kendall, and P. Tautu (Eds.): Mathematics in the Archaeological and Historical Sciences. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 1971, ISBN 0-85224-213-1 , pp. 215-252.
  • Oscar Montelius : The Typological Method. Self-published, Stockholm 1903 (reprinted by Marcel Schoch. Documenta-Verlag, Munich (recte: Olching) 1997 ( Documenta historiae 1, ISSN  1433-1691 )).
  • Johannes Müller , Andreas Zimmermann (Ed.): Archeology and correspondence analysis. Examples, questions, perspectives. Leidorf, Espelkamp 1997, ISBN 3-924734-41-0 ( International Archeology 23).
  • Michael J. O'Brien, R. Lee Lyman : Seriation, Stratigraphy, and Index Fossils. The Backbone of Archaeological Dating. Plenum Publishers, New York NY et al. 1999, ISBN 0-306-46152-8 .
  • FWM Petrie : Sequences in prehistoric remains. In Journal of the Anthropological Institute. 29, 1899, ISSN  1359-0987 , pp. 295-301.

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