What does it all mean???

Well, the method works!  I’ve been working on the analysis end of the project for the past several weeks, and that’s what I’ve concluded.  (Hey, this is a pilot study.)  Basically, looking at the data very simply (box plots and scatter plots), I can see that the sherds from the Kiskiak site and the sherds from the Chickahominy site fall into two separate groups – which is exactly what we hoped to see, considering that the sites are located on two different river drainages and the people building pots locally would have had access two different types of clays.  If I were given a single sherd to test with the XRF spectrometer, I would have a really good shot at telling you which site it came from.  So the XRF method can pick up differences in the clays and ceramics of the Chesapeake region, and therefore it has the potential to answer all sorts of interesting questions, like the ones regarding exchange patterns I proposed initially.

Looking at the differences between individual strata, things get more complicated.  Given a sherd, I would not be able to tell you which stratum in the ground it hailed from, using only XRF data.  This is not particularly surprising, however, given that people probably used similar clays through time.  Looking at the overall patterns, though, particularly in the changing number of outliers, may yield some interesting results.  I’ve found that the sherds which look physically different and stood out from the rest during the physical characterization phase actually turned out to be statistical outliers in most elements when analyzed with XRF.  So that’s pretty exciting, all in all!  I know that I have some good data to work with, if I can just make sense of everything.  Find the right patterns, the right statistical method, the right way of seeing things….

I also have to make sure that I don’t misrepresent or exaggerate patterns when I see them, just out of the desire to find something interesting!  At last, I understand how generally ethical scientists introduce bias into their work.  Right now, I’m working through that challenge and attempting to write up my results.  And then I’ll show them to some people who know what they’re doing, and hopefully they can tell me what the next steps should be and what else I should look at.  For now, time to get back to messing around with SPSS….  See you in a few weeks, when I next crawl out from under my rock!


  1. Alex Brown says:

    Haha, thank you, thank you!

  2. Brianna Frentzko says:

    I am so excited that you finally are getting to analyze results! It sounds so interesting. And look at you, you’ve uncovered a useful method for future research. That’s important. I’m so proud of you! I know it’s been an up and down process, but it seems like things have turned out very well. You are required now to enjoy your spring break:-)