Examining the Utility of Model Calibration and Verification as a Means of Testing Archaeological Computational Models

Marieka Brouwer Burg


The increasing sophistication and complexity of archaeological models has precluded easy testing of such models, and oftentimes requires assessments that can be as lengthy and complicated as the initial model design and execution. Here, a multi-criteria decision-based model developed to simulate hunter-gatherer land use decisions in the Post-Glacial Netherlands is discussed. To approximate when and where uncertainty occurs, a sensitivity analysis is implemented that involves varying input parameter weights to determine those parameters with the greatest potential impact on model output. This process incorporates linked combinations of statistical and qualitative tests that are unique to each stage of the modeling. While the sensitivity analysis described allows modellers to become better acquainted with both their models and data – and the inherent limitations that lie therein – the utility of such a heuristic exercise is debatable. Thus, another approach is proposed that involves running two spatial analyses that target the same question of human land use decision-making from different directions and harnessing different data. This procedure has the ability to provide archaeological modellers with a better approximation of the robustness of each spatial analysis, especially when the two analyses converge upon similar answers. When the spatial analyses do not produce similarly patterned results, we know it is time to go “back to the drawing board” and reassess the meta-issue of whether the questions we are asking can be answered via our modeling abstractions. These issues are of no small import because if archaeological models are to resonate with researchers conducting similar simulative and decision-based models in other fields, then we must implement comparable post-process tests on our models too.


Multi-Criteria Decision Model; Sensitivity Analysis; Least Cost Path And Current Analysis; Mesolithic Hunter-Gatherers; The Netherlands

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5463/lac.2014.58


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Copyright (c) 2016 Marieka Brauwer Burg

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LAC 2014 proceedings - ISBN 978-90-825296-0-9 - is an open access initiative supported by the University Library, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.