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added by**archaeologs**

The natural statistical distribution of a series of measurements around an arithmetic mean value; a measure of the scatter (variability, dispersion, spread) about the mean in a distribution. In archaeology, it is used in association with chronometric dating techniques like radiocarbon dating, where each measurement is a calculation of date for the sample, and the final date given, e.g. 2,400 ? 200, is a statistical description of a 'real' date. The standard deviation (?) as quoted means that there is a 66% chance of the real date lying within that range (for the above example, between 2,600-2,200). For greater probability, the date must be taken to two standard deviations (there is a 95% certainty that the date lies between 2,800-2,000) or three standard deviations (99% certainty). A single date with a relatively large error is generally of less use than a series of dates from the same context, which may show a clustering around a central date.

added by**archaeologs**

A measure of the scatter about the mean in a distribution. The values of 68 per cent of cases fall within one standard deviation either side of the mean, 95 per cent between two, and 99 per cent between three standard deviations. The plus-or-minus of a radiocarbon date works in a similar way to a standard deviation, but is not strictly the same thing and should perhaps be called a ‘probable error’.

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