4.7 Metadata: categories of confidence

Archive: An archaeological database of higher-order settlements on the Italian peninsula (350 BCE to 300 CE)

The robustness of the entries in each data category reflect the variable quality and quantity of archaeological evidence available from each site. For the majority of interpretative categories of data, a separate indicator records the degree of confidence assigned to that interpretation. Assessing and assigning categories of data robusticity requires consistent reflexivity and, of course, is itself a process of interpretation. This is nonetheless essential so that, for example, the dating of city walls derived from construction techniques can be distinguished from that derived from stratigraphic sequences. Because the bases for determining the degree of confidence assigned to interpretations differ according to the data category, a detailed description of the process is provided for each category in the explanatory notes that accompany the database, available via the Archaeology Data Service.

Some sites have been the subject of scholarly research for centuries, and others have never been investigated systematically. Explicitly acknowledging these differences serves to increase confidence in the results and interpretation of the analysis. It is thus possible to conduct analyses that include or exclude data on the basis of stated confidence levels. If patterns are revealed using only data of the highest confidence level, it is possible to rerun the analysis including data of increasingly lower confidence levels in order to establish whether or not the pattern remains discernible.

Conflicting published interpretations from multiple scholars are recorded in the database in relation to the chronologies of fortification construction, the sizes of settlements and the cultural groups assigned to them. For the analysis, the interpretation selected was either that which was mostly widely accepted among published works, or the one supported by new evidence not available to the authors of older publications.