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Chapter 1 Introduction

Ben Marwick

This website is a early draft of an edited volume of contributions to the ‘How To Do Archaeological Science Using R’ forum of the 2017 Society of American Archaeology annual meeting in Vancouver, BC. The forum was organised by Ben Marwick, who is the editor of this collection. The chapters here are early drafts and are still in preparation. If you see a typo, you can make a correction by editing the source files at

Archaeological science is becoming increasingly complex, and progress in this area is slowed by critical limitation of journal articles lacking the space to communicate new methods in enough detail to allow others to reproduce and reuse new research. One solution to this is to use a programming language such as R to analyse archaeological data, with authors sharing their R code with their publications to communicate our methods. This practice is becoming widespread in many other disciplines, but few archaeologists currently know how to use R or have an opportunity to learn during their training. In this forum we tackle this problem by discussing ubiquitous research methods of immediate relevance to most archaeologists, by using interactive, live-coded demonstrations of R code by archaeologists who program with R. Topics include getting data into R, working with C14 dates, spatial analysis and map-making, conducting simulations, and exploratory data visualizations.

Each chapter represents one of the R code demonstrations presented during the forum. All of the code is runnable, so that the code shown in the chapter generates the results seen in the chapter. In these chapters we raise the code to a first-class reserach product so that other archaeologists can peek ‘under the hood’ to see how R can be used for archaeological science.

All code in this volume is licenced CC-BY, and is freely available for reuse if the author is appropriately credited. Our goal is to speed the progress of archaeological science by sharing code freely for others to adapt and extend.

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