Effects of Scale on Archaeological and Geoscientific Perspectives
Within the disciplines of archaeology, geosciences, and geoarchaeology, the issue of scale is crucial for research. Scales are considered twice while conducting research; once while describing data and again while interpreting the data. During both description and interpretation scales are considered by practitioners as the size and resolution of the described data, as well as the temporal and spatial resolution of the interpretation. Thus scale includes not only the size of the phenomena observed but also the resolution at which interpretations are made. Because archaeology, geosciences, and geoarchaeology are all historical sciences, the scales of their interpretations incorporate resolutions dictated by the nature of the record. The older an event, the lower the resolution of the interpretations. In addition to restrictions imposed by the record, the concept of scale and resolution is a tradition developed in each of these discipline’s past and handed down to the present. These traditions dictate what are appropriate scales for interpretations, and these traditions have evolved in separate disciplines in recent decades. Geoarchaeology is the newest of these disciplines involving historical events. Geoarchaeologists are being asked to use Earth science techniques to make interpretations about the human past at the scale (resolutions) defined in archaeology. Such interdisciplinary interpretations are difficult to provide, because most geoarchaeologists were trained in geosciences to make interpretations about Earth processes using Earth science techniques at Earth science resolutions. Geoarchaeologists can, however, avoid these difficulties by making explicit the scale and resolutions of their interpretations.