7.1 Notes on radiocarbon calibration and statistical analysis

by Magnar Dalland

Calmap shows a space-time distribution of known radiocarbon dated Scottish Mesolithic sites as per February 1998. It is based on radiocarbon dates retrieved from each site. Only dates that are believed to have come from a secure Mesolithic context were included, while dates not directly associated with obvious human activity have been omitted. Dates of marine material were corrected for the reservoir effect before calibration. In three cases dating material had been selected from different parts of the same shell. In those cases the combined date for the shell was used (Caisteal nan Gillean, Cnoc Silgeach and Cnoc Coig).

Dates from each site were calibrated using the OxCal calibration program (Ramsey 1998). This produced the probabilities for each date to fall within four year intervals (6000 BC, 6004 BC, 6008 BC etc), as illustrated in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Calibrated probability distribution of Oxa-1599 at 4 year intervals

The resolution of the data was then reduced by adding up the probabilities for the date to fall within a 20 year interval, see Figure 2.


Fig. 2: Calibrated probability distribution of Oxa-1599 at 20 year intervals

The resolution of the data was then further reduced by adding up the probabilities for the date to fall within a 100 year interval at the centre of every 20 year block (6000 BC, 6020 BC etc). For each site, this curve for all dates was plotted on the same graph, as shown in Figure 3. The probabilities were grouped into five classes represented by different colours on the distribution map.

Figure 3: 50 year probability data for the three dates from Auchareoch

If there were several overlapping dates from a site, the highest value (level) at each interval was used to represent the site on the distribution map. Figure 3 illustrates how the radiocarbon dates for the site Auchareoch were converted into the different probability levels shown on the distibution map. There are three dates from the site: OxA-1599, OxA-1600 and OxA-1601. Over the period 7560 BC to 6760 BC, the site is represented by OxA-1601 at levels 5,4 and 3. Between 6760 BC and 6400 BC the site is represented by OxA-1600 at levels 3,4 and 5. Between 6400 BC and 5600 BC the site is represented by OxA-1599 rising from level 5 to 2 and back to 5.


[Calmap v.1.0.] [Program Notes] [Calmap Homepage] [IA] [Comments]
© Internet Archaeology
Last updated: Thur Aug 13 1998