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J Archaeol Method Theory (2010) 17:209–230

DOI 10.1007/s10816-010-9087-7

Sampling Design and Inferential Bias
in Archaeological Soil Chemistry
E. Christian Wells

Published online: 9 July 2010
# Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Abstract The ways and extent to which sampling design influences data collection
and archaeological inference is a constant concern for archaeologists. Yet, spatial
analyses based on anthrosol chemistry have been less willing to concede this
problem and to explore potential solutions. This article reviews the recent literature
on soil sampling for spatial studies and then uses an example from prehispanic
Honduras to examine how both quantitative and qualitative interpretations of soil
chemical patterns can shift when sampling design changes. The results of this study
suggest that the principal challenges to selecting an appropriate sampling design are
in determining the sample size and density, as well as recognizing and adequately
dealing with variation in the soil properties being measured. These findings provide
cautionary tales for spatial studies aimed at using soil chemical data to infer activity
patterns in the archaeological record.
Keywords Soil sampling . Anthrosol chemistry . Spatial analysis . Activity patterns .

The only material more abundant at an archaeological site than pots and rocks is soil.
It might seem reasonable then to assume that, since archaeologists have developed a
diverse array of sophisticated strategies for sampling where to excavate and which
artifacts to collect, there are probably an equal or greater number of strategies that
inform us how to sample soils and sediments. Unfortunately, nothing could be
further from the truth. Instead, archaeologists investigating soils mostly borrow
sampling strategies that have been developed for survey and excavation (e.g., Orton

E. C. Wells (*)
Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Ave.,
Tampa, FL 33620, USA



2000). However, sampling designs for site survey and excavation are analytical
strategies that are rather unlike those required for studies of anthrosols (most
generally, soils and earthen surfaces that have been physically or chemically altered
by human activity; see Holliday 2004: 26–27), because of the ways and extent to
which anthrosol properties, such as texture and pH, vary over space and time.
Relying, as we have, on strategies developed to detect physical (discrete) traces of
past human activity has resulted in a mixed bag of sampling designs that are variably
productive for understanding how chemical (continuous) traces of human activities
vary across soilscapes. Although some studies have acknowledged interpretive
challenges coincident with variation in the sample matrix (e.g., Kintigh 1988;
Krakker et al. 1983; Redman 1987), the magnitude and significance of the problem
is not well understood, especially in research on anthrosols and prepared surfaces.
Little consideration has been given to exploring the problem, and even less attention
has been paid to resolving practical ways in which it might be addressed. In this
article, I advocate a more critical approach to sampling anthrosols and prepared
surfaces for spatial analysis in which consideration is given to potential interpretive
bias inherent in different sampling plans.
Given the broad reach of soil analysis in spatial studies (see Wells and Terry
2007), I restrict my consideration in this article to small scales, such as those
concerning the archaeology of households and communities. For studies at larger
scales encompassing landscapes, such as archaeological site prospection, sampling
concerns regarding phosphates and heavy metals have been addressed by Crowther
(1997) and Haslam and Tibbett (2004), respectively. I begin with a brief review of
the recent literature on extant sampling schemes, both systematic and unsystematic,
to highlight some of the patterns in the use of design structures, as well as their
deviations. I then draw on an example of my work in Honduras to explore some of
the ways in which sample design (and coincidentally, sample density) can cause
spurious patterns in anthrosol chemical data that can bias our inferences about the
location and nature of past human activities in the archaeological record. I conclude
with a few recommendations for selecting and employing sampling designs for
small-scale archaeological research on anthrosols and prepared surfaces.

Sampling Designs
In the original methods textbook, A Manual of Archaeological Field Methods, first
published in 1949 (and revised several times since), Heizer (1949: 78) encouraged
archaeologists to collect “soil samples…from every site excavated,” though he failed
to mention how or why, or even what constitutes “soil.” Almost 50 years later, the
seventh edition of this text was published by Hester et al. (1997). The new version
does a much better job of explaining the value of analyzing soils to reconstruct
human activity patterns (Hester et al. 1997: 136), but still does not recommend how
one might go about sampling soils to do so. Specialized volumes, such as Holliday's
(2004) Soils in Archaeological Research and Goldberg and Macphail's (2006)
Practical and Theoretical Geoarchaeology, at least pay some attention to the subject.
Holliday (2004: 35–36) provides sage advice along with some general guidelines
about how one's sampling design and sample size ought to vary according to the

vary in the same way or to the same extent (Fisher et al. archaeologists have come to understand sample design as a formal procedure that determines how many units of analysis are to be selected and how this is to be done. Square Lattice The square lattice is the most traditional approach to systematic sampling for spatial studies employing anthrosol chemical data. This approach involves the selection of units from regular (equal) intervals on evenly spaced transects throughout the sample . He even recognized soil as a sample universe (Binford 1964: 432). Zhang et al.. when collecting soils for chemical studies aimed at reconstructing activity loci.g. and artifacts. wherein each unit has a theoretically equal chance of being selected. The essential requirement of a sample. soil surveys in archaeology have had to rely on systematic sampling strategies. we can seek to reduce the risk that the sample is not representative. I briefly discuss three of the most common lattices in archaeological sampling— square. Binford proposed probabilistic sampling to address this issue. in fact. thus. see Kintigh 1988: 687)—as I have used them in Central America. but a critical problem arises for soil studies: anthrosol properties between samples do not. Binford (1964) proposed sampling as a means of obtaining an accurate representation of the range of variation within a region.Sampling Design and Inferential Bias 211 research question. Marshall 2001). In his classic paper on research design. compositing samples from multiple contexts. this could be either the soil environment or the human activity area) from which it was drawn. or at least we must have evidential reason to believe that it is representative. even if only a few centimeters apart. archaeologists interested in obtaining and making sense of soil chemical data have had to rely on sampling strategies developed for archaeological survey and excavation. although he lumped it into the broader category of “ecofacts. but rarely homoscedastic. where a sample is a subset of its population) composed of units for analysis. Below.” Since his paper.. In other words. may result in mixed activity residues. it is absolutely necessary to collect point samples. periodic. Despite recent advancements and clarifications in soil sampling. 2007). then. As such. variation is often discontinuous. in the way Binford intended. While we can never or rarely be certain of just how representative a soil sample is of its population. the outcome of one procedure is a sample (in the statistical sense. staggered. 1998. Such random samples. Suffice it to say. regularly spaced array of points in Euclidean space) to refer to these sample designs. The key assumption here is that the variances of the values of the characteristics being measured are equal across all sample units (the so-called “homogeneity of variance assumption” in statistics).e. is that it must be representative of the population (for anthrosol research. In other words. and hexagonal (for illustrative examples. or stochastic. often referred to as point lattice matrixes or grid (or mesh) sampling (e. Goldberg and Macphail (2006: 328–333) point out some of the specific archaeological contexts in which it is more appropriate to collect bulk versus point samples. which would confound the purpose of the analysis. features. This is an entirely reasonable approach for sites. In this article I use the term “lattice” (i. can be determined to have a certain probability of being representative of the variation in its associated population. Entwistle et al. 2000.

Samples were collected from an earthen surface (onto which plaster had been added in some areas). which showed that these areas are used for a wide range of small-scale activities (Wells and Urban 2002). we used the square lattice N magnetic 0 5 20 METERS Fig. my colleagues and I used a 2-m square lattice to collect 188 units to study activity areas from the site's main plaza. At the Late Classic (ca. Due to patterns of modern vegetation cover.” or universe. We chose the square lattice in this case because of the shape of the space to be sampled. This design has the advantage of distributing the sample frame more evenly across the population than would be obtained by simple random or judgmental sampling. which measures roughly 30× 30 m (Wells et al. Our sample intensity of 2-m intervals was selected based on previous experience working in modern plaza spaces in this region. 1). Finally. We therefore decided that we would need a relatively high sample density to capture evidence for localized activities. northwestern Honduras. AD 650–850) civic-ceremonial center of Palmarejo in northwest Honduras (Fig.212 Wells “frame.15 m below the modern ground surface. roughly 0. our sampling fell short of the roughly 225 units we might have been able to collect had there been no obstruction by vegetation. with only the first unit being randomly placed. 1 Palmarejo. 2007). Thus. we were unable to select units from every point on the lattice. showing the square lattice on the plaza (upper left) and the rectangular lattice on the patio (lower right) .

which is roughly 70 m east-to-west×50 m north-to-south. AD 250–850) Maya city of Piedras Negras.0). A variation on the square lattice is the “rectangular lattice. Staggered Lattice For a staggered lattice. These strategies provided us with 30 units for analysis. Again. and native metals. 2-m square lattice.. We analyzed the extracts for a range of chemical elements using inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES). 1983: 427). we were able to compare the locations of activity areas within each space through geostatistical interpolation of the chemical data using spherical semivariogram models and kriging (Wells et al. 2001). We found that the patio showed little evidence for activities. the spacing of sample units within a row is equal to the distance between rows. see also Parnell et al. 2002). which we felt was desirable in this case due to the deep and variable substrates and our need to dissolve powdery (recently formed) carbonates. as with the plaza. Therefore. the square lattice was used for the evenly sized house floors. At the Classic (ca. 2). Although sample density varied between the plaza and the patio.Sampling Design and Inferential Bias 213 because.” where the distance between rows is not the same as the sample-unit spacing within a row (Kintigh 1988: 687). 2000. 1). and the substrates were not the same (the plaster-enriched plaza vs the earthen patio). The units can be systematically offset or they can be arbitrary. collecting 136 units. systematic unit intervals would probably not systematically miss activity areas. and our budget would not allow us to process the approximately 875 units that we might have collected from a grid with 2-m intervals. modern vegetation cover prevented us from covering the entire space. in which the distance between rows does not equal the spacing between sample units along the row (Kintigh 1988: 687). earthen surface in an elite residential courtyard referred to as the U-sector of the South Group (Wells et al. Other areas of the site were sampled using 5-m square lattices (Parnell et al. we processed them with a mild acid extraction procedure developed by Lewis et al. and opportunistic sampling to investigate activity patterning on a compact. we expected that activities would not be systematically distributed throughout the space. which combines dilute hydrochloric and nitric acids. and opportunistic samples were taken from specific features (mainly suspected middens). This is one of the strongest of the weak acid extraction procedures. my colleagues and I used a combination of a 2-m staggered lattice. . we chose 5-m intervals. The staggered lattice followed a rectangular sample frame on a terrace alongside the exterior of two buildings. We chose the rectangular lattice because of the shape of the space. Since we needed to sample such a large space. Guatemala (Fig. a prepared earthen surface).e. while the plaza appears to have been used extensively. (1993). poorly crystallized oxides and hydroxyoxides. 2007). we used a rectangular lattice with 5-m intervals in a large elite patio composed of compacted soil (i. but with units in adjacent rows offset one half of this interval (Krakker et al. which resisted a one-sizefits-all sampling approach. We used a combination of sampling designs in this case because of the complexity of the layout of the buildings. At Palmarejo (see Fig. again based on previous work. Since we considered these anthrosols to be ideal for chemical research (they are silty clays with a median pH of 7.

the larger distances between sample units have much higher variances associated with them and. The result was a map of concentrations depicted as isopleth lines.214 Wells N magnetic 0 1 5 METERS Fig. In the laboratory. including evidence for food preparation and consumption and a variety of craft activities (Wells et al. I collected 530 units from . western Guatemala. 2 Piedras Negras. AD 650–850) civic-ceremonial center in northwest Honduras (Fig. thus. a large. such that sampling units are equidistant from each of their six nearest neighbors. 2000: 454–459). We followed this approach because we wanted the results with us in the field to help us make decisions about where to place test units for excavation. Krakker et al. we also used diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid to extract heavy metals (Lindsay and Norvell 1978). Mixing sampling designs and interval distances made the resulting data difficult to analyze spatially. We used a linear variogram model and kriging to interpolate chemical concentrations between our sampling units. 1983: 427). Hexagonal Lattice A hexagonal lattice is formed by the placement of sample units at the vertices of equilateral triangles (Kintigh 1988: 687. showing the staggered lattice (supplemented by opportunistic sampling) on the terrace (lower left) and the square lattice on the patio (upper right) We processed the anthrosols using the Mehlich II dilute acid extraction technique (Mehlich 1978) for phosphate analysis and analyzed them with a portable colorimeter (according to the procedures outlined in Terry et al. 3) roughly 20 km southwest of Palmarejo. Since our sample lattices and intervals were different for each part of the space. are less reliable interpolations. 2000). which were analyzed with ICP-AES. At El Coyote. we found possible evidence for a range of activities around the buildings. Late Classic (ca. Still.

while the patio spaces are much smaller. The plaza measures roughly 100 m north-to-south × 50 m east-to-west. Using the hexagonal lattice. I decided to use a hexagonal lattice over a square or staggered lattice because I had such a large space to cover (a total area of about 15.000 m2) and a relatively meager budget for chemical analysis. 3 El Coyote. showing the hexagonal lattice (supplemented by a square lattice and opportunistic sampling) on the plaza and patio a 5-m hexagonal lattice placed over the lime-plastered surface of the site's main plaza and adjacent residential patio spaces (Wells 2004). The work at Piedras Negras taught me that comparison would not be possible if I used different lattice designs and sample intervals.Sampling Design and Inferential Bias 215 N magnetic 05 20 METERS Fig. While the study area is composed of differently sized spaces. encompassing 20×20 m. I could sample the space with about half as many samples as I could have using a square . northwestern Honduras. I used a single lattice system (supplemented in certain areas with a square lattice and opportunistic sampling) because I wanted specifically to be able to compare the activities in all spaces.

Middleton and Price 1996). the inferences we make about the archaeological record. Reed et al. from a classical statistical perspective. and the resulting data were analyzed with principal components analysis and discriminant function analysis. To process the samples.. 76). on the whole. while those farther apart increasingly become completely different. Variation in soil properties is quite unlike variation in site or artifact distribution and so needs to be considered separately. Stein 1986)—approaches to sub-surface prospection that are relevant to anthrosol chemical surveys. This problem has been addressed to varying degrees for shovel-test sampling (Champion et al. the selection of how to sample and how much to sample impacts the data we collect and. 1983. 1964. I used the Burton and Simon (1993) extraction method that calls for dilute hydrochloric acid (1 M). which allowed me to produce image maps of the interpolated chemical concentrations (Wells 2004: 74. The results allowed me to differentiate three groups of anthrosols: those high in phosphorus (P) and low in potassium (K) in the plaza.g. In a recent article. thus. Kintigh 1988. In other words. e. focus on issues of reliability and validity. Krakker et al. since the mean distance to the nearest lattice point is reduced compared with a square lattice of the same density. Lightfoot 1986. 1989. Samples were characterized with ICP-AES. 1996. thus. Shott 1985. I argue that knowing the sources of variation in the soil properties being measured is critically important for selecting an appropriate sampling design and density. Wobst 1983) and auger sampling (Casteel 1970. The data were also analyzed spatially using an exponential variogram model and kriging. They rightly point out that soils closer together tend to have similar properties (and. Price et al. 1968.. Inferential Bias It has long been recognized in archaeology that different sampling designs can lead to inferential bias. Howell 1993. specifically variation in heavy metals across space. Nance and Ball 1986. soil should be treated as a regionalized variable (Webster and Oliver 1990). They argue that conventional (probabilistic and semi-probabilistic) quantitative modeling of soil chemical data is insufficient for understanding chemical variability in soils because of the underlying assumptions about the independence of measured observations in spatial distribution. such as variogram modeling (e. Haslam and Tibbett (2004) discuss sampling strategies with regard to soil chemistry. both in a statistical sense. 1987. Rather than retread this intellectual ground.216 Wells lattice. those high in K and low in P in the patios. again because of my small budget (this is a very inexpensive technique that works well with calcareous soil. and more complex soils representing a range of activities that took place outside of formally defined spaces (Wells 2004: 78–80). should not be treated as completely independent variables). These papers address a wide range of subjects in sampling theory regarding how to model the probability of finding archaeological sites or features but. Haslam and Tibbett (2004) urge archaeologists to use geostatistics.g. here I wish to add to these insights by discussing how our inferences about activity patterns can be biased through different kinds and scales of parameter variation in soils. . In other words.

that is.. Soil samples are then only collected from the sampling points. With the nested strategy. 1958). Stein and Ettema 2003). This collection strategy allows for quantitative analyses that assume that observations (e.. chemical data) are independent.e.. again at a predetermined distance. which are affected by numerous longterm natural and cultural processes that differentially impact elemental deposition and retention (see Bethell and Máté 1989). The process repeats to k stations depending on the number of sampling strata (or “stages”). analyze.. Meul and Van Meirvenne 2003). and understand control soil samples in any anthrosol study. 2005. sampling points are chosen for each of the kth stations.g.g. Wells et al.. Lark 2003. estimate the “best” data value for each missing data point (Webster and Oliver 1990). (2007) used semivariograms (i. To be sure. its variance is zero. Haslam and Tibbett 2004.” such that. In kriging. 1998. Kriging estimates the missing data values over a certain space (i. At each primary station. those areas not sampled) using these variances. Goovaerts 1999. the classes are divided equally and the components of variance may be regarded as independent (Snedecor and Cochrane 1980). Whereas geostatistical interpolation methods such as kriging have become a standard analytical tool for pedologists (e. variance plays the role of a weighting function (Kitanidis 1997). If the value is known exactly. Therefore. The prime objective in kriging. variance . 2007). such as with the use of z scores).Sampling Design and Inferential Bias 217 kriging). for example. the use of geostatistics to interpret soil chemical data highly influences sampling strategy (e.g. If one places absolutely no faith in a value. a number of primary sampling stations are chosen at a predetermined distance from each other.” Nested sampling requires samples to be taken in pairs at fixed distances that are userdefined. soils thought to be unmodified by humans. then. including the “nested sampling regime. In household archaeology. archaeologists are interested in the magnitude of elemental differences between samples as opposed to how different the samples are from “background” soils. Cook et al. the point of anthrosol chemistry aimed at recognizing ancient activity loci is the relationship between samples and not the absolute concentrations of chemical elements. which treat the dissimilarity between observations as a function of the separation distance. While this approach appears to be quite successful for characterizing natural variation in chemical properties of soils at large scales (e.g. That said.. for instance. The result is the creation of a variance matrix that is the same size as the data matrix. Hammond et al. this kind of sampling is “balanced. For example.e. Haslam and Tibbett (2004: 735) review some of these strategies.. The nested sampling regime is important nonetheless because the structure of the sample is designed to reduce the variance associated with samples that are closer together and to increase the variance associated with samples that are farther apart. At the end. Entwistle et al. few soil studies in archaeology use the predictive modeling capabilities of kriging (e. by doing so. Summarizing some complicated statistical procedures. it is probably much less efficient for examining cultural variation at small scales. Every known data value and every missing data value have an associated variance. two secondary stations are chosen. it is still important to collect. Fisher et al. is to minimize the values of those variances and.g. but that are also components of a larger nested hierarchy of spatially contiguous sample loci. The variance matrix keeps track of the variances not only of the missing data values but also of the known data values. its variance is one (on a normalized scale. at each stage of subdivision.

samples were collected between excavation loci at regular 10-m intervals. Excavation of the plaza surface consisted of 40 2×2-m test units (varying in depth from 0.218 Wells models) to determine the spatial dependence of soil properties. was one of the primary activities in the plaza (Wells 2007). Soil samples were predominantly soft.5 kg was selected from an area of roughly 0. Wells 2004). Their work is significant because it highlights the importance of identifying the spatial covariance of elements and the need for marshalling several lines of physical and chemical evidence when prospecting and interpreting past activity areas.25–1. In sum.50 m) mollic epipedon that formed on a limestone substrate. This case study focuses on the main plaza. stainless steel sample scoop. and they employed ordinary kriging to produce prediction maps of the spatial distribution of these properties. I draw on my work from El Coyote (Fig. In addition. square lattice. Finally. around AD 1300. north. and other faunal remains. Soils were point-sampled from the center of each test unit at the level of the plaza surface. yielding an additional 74 units across the surface of the plaza. the overall dataset of 164 units was repeatedly . Samples were placed directly into sterilized polyethylene bags and sealed for transport back to the field lab for processing. where they were air-dried and sieved in a 2-mm2-mesh plastic screen to remove organic debris and clastic materials larger than sand.50 m) arranged in a hexagonal 100×50-m lattice. As mentioned previously.3).2 (s. the site is composed of a large. approximately 0. AD 700–1000 (Wells 2003). marked by the presence of large ceramic plates and serving dishes. ca. which was cleaned with bottled water between sample collections. hexagonal lattice. where the soil underlying the plaza surface can be characterized as a relatively thin (ca. The mean pH value for all samples was 7. This enabled them to interpolate non-sampled locations in an attempt to study variation in land use practices at eighteenth-century Greaulin in northwest Scotland. and south. and judgmental strategies were employed to collect a total of 164 sample units from the plaza. deer bones. compact sandy clays and ranged in color (moist) from gray (Munsell designation 10YR 4/1–5/1) to dark grayish brown (10YR 3/2–4/2). 0.25–0. There is an elite residential zone with a ball court located immediately to the south of the plaza and smaller residences to the southwest.d. samples were taken opportunistically during the excavations of two low platforms located in the middle of the plaza. Additional sample preparation and analysis procedures were outlined previously. the evidence suggests that food consumption. There is no evidence for occupation or use of the plaza after the site was abandoned in the Postclassic period. To consider how different sampling designs might influence my analyses and interpretations of the chemical data. 4. surrounded by pyramidal buildings on the east and range-type structures on the west.1 m in diameter with a corrosion-resistant.=0. this work yielded another 50 units. For each sample for chemical study. El Coyote was the capital of a regional settlement hierarchy during the Late and Terminal Classic periods. While artifact density was light (an average of 58 ceramic shards/m3 soil) compared to residential areas at the site. central plaza. resulting in 40 units. A Case Study from Honduras To explore some of the ways in which sampling design influences interpretations of ancient human activity patterning as inferred by anthrosol chemistry.

staggered low-density lattice (n=13). staggered highdensity lattice (n=39). and “linked-nested hexagonal” lattice (n=113).Sampling Design and Inferential Bias 219 Fig. showing the main plaza from which the samples for this study were collected sampled (with replacement) to create seven new (smaller) datasets. square low-density lattice (n=40). 4 El Coyote. northwestern Honduras. my samples are statistically independent (i. each of which reflects a different sampling strategy: random (n=50). judgmental (n=20). By using repeated sampling with replacement from a finite population.e. square high-density lattice (n=74). the selection and resulting composition of any given sample has no effect on the selections and ..

The results. 0. as shown by the boxplots in Fig. The experimental variograms all indicated the existence of spatial autocorrelation. Standard square and staggered lattices were used. the “linkednested hexagonal” design is a variation on the nested sample regime outlined by Haslam and Tibbett (2004: 735–736). and Ti). the sample units can be treated as independent observations while covering the area of the plaza systematically and more efficiently than with a square lattice. This test. The spatial dependence allowed for the . Finally. This is true for most of the metals (Ca. K.21. Mn. although not necessarily mutually exclusive (i. 504]—a test of the null hypothesis that the variances are homogeneous— was only significant [p<0.25)2/5. the greater the likelihood that at least some differences between pairs of means will be large due to chance alone. where the primary units are linked together to form a contiguous hexagonal lattice. is based on Welch's (1951) correction to the degrees of freedom (df) of the standard error with the Student's t test but uses the studentized range distribution. P[A∪B]=P[A]+P[B]). and so on) were evaluated to determine which model best described the experimental variograms that were based on each dataset. P does not differ at the 0. some of the samples may contain units represented in other samples. to suggest that P does not vary across space would be misleading. In this way. The procedure was repeated until the new dataset contained 50 cases (an arbitrary number). spherical. Table 1 provides the mean and standard deviation of each element across the different sample designs. The judgmental sample includes only those cases in which artifacts were found in the test unit where the sample was collected. the more means there are to compare. the larger the critical value of the studentized t.29.25 is the radius (in meters) of the circle encompassing a sample unit for which it is assumed that the chemical data are representative. showing the values of the F statistic and related significance probabilities. exponential. The datasets were compared using a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). which gradually diminishes with distance. P[A∩B]=P[A]·P[B]).220 Wells compositions of other samples. However. which differs from the t distribution only in that it takes into account the number of means under consideration. p=0. 6. designed for unequal variances.10) results of Games–Howell post hoc tests for pairwise comparisons of the means of each variable (element) in each group (sample design) are shown in Table 2. Zn. however. where n is the sample size. 5.000. Sampling density is calculated as: nπ(0. this is not the case for phosphorus (P). The random sample was obtained by using a random integer generator from the Internet (http://www. Kriged image maps of extractable soil P across the surface of the plaza are shown in Fig.e.random. The results show that the elemental data collected by the square lattice tend to have the greatest variation. several variogram models (linear. The more means. but the sampling density was varied: “low-density” datasets represent less than 1% of the total area sampled.000 is a constant that represents the size (in square meters) of the sampling frame. for both to determine which samples from the original dataset to disregard.001] for Ca and Sr).and low-density samples. To create the maps. and 5. Gaussian. appear at the bottom of Table 1.. Thus. 504). while “high-density” datasets approximate or exceed 1%. The significant (p<0. circular.1 level of significance among any of the datasets. The Games–Howell test was chosen since most of the groups do not have equal variances (Levene's statistic [where df=7. Sr. compared to the entire dataset. according to the ANOVA results (F=1. df=7. In fact.

18) 2.19) 1.07) 4.13) 3.00 (0.03) 4.10) 2.28 (0.23) 1.07) 1.86 (<0.01) 2.09) 2.54 (0.25) 0.27) hexagonal Na P Sr Mn 1.22) 1.92 (0.90 (0.67 (0.87 (0.75 (0.12) 3.15) 2.07) 2.01) 1.15 (0.30) 4.91 (0.86 (0.09 (0.16) 2.81 (0.09 (0.08 (0.07) 1.10) 2.52 (0.84 (0.95 (0.17) 2.02) 3. ANOVA is reported as “F (significance)” where df=7.08) 1.77 (0.08 (0.07) 3.29 (0.08) 1.87 (0.10) 3.12) 1.29) 3.28 (0.10) 2.25 (0.85 (0.27 (0.58 (0.01) 2.97 (0.83 (<0.12) 3.07) 1.10) 2.68 (0.10) 1.77 (0.88 (0.77 (0.31 (<0.96 (0.77 (0.10) 2.05) 3.12) 2.29) high density Staggered low 4.09) 2.70 (0.31 (0.83 (0.14) 3.10 (0.23) 1.84 (0.07) 3.96 (0.78 (0.24) 1.97 (0.25 (0.94 (0.83 (0.22) 1.84 (0.28 (0.23) 1.18) 2.27 (0.17) 2.18) Ti 0.27 (0.54 (0.3.08) 3.21 (0.33 (0.07) 3.12) Staggered 4.96 (0.01 (0.10) 2.10) 2.23) 1.39 (0.82 (0.04 (0.86 (0.58) 2.20) 1.84 (0.98 (0.84 (0.07 (0.25) K 4.90 (0.01) 3.07) 2.15) 2.68 (0.12) 3.71 (0.11 (0.11) 3.80 (0.88 (0.06) 4.87 (0.11) 4.19) 4.44 (0.73 (0.88 (0.01) 1.06) 2.72 (0.85 (0.10) 2.53 (0.69 (0.23) 1.98 (0.16) 1.16) Mg Data are reported as “mean (standard deviation)” of base-10 logarithm concentrations (ppm). 504 ANOVA 3.96 (0.03 (0.07) 2.15) 2.95 (0.85 (0.04) 4.58 (0.23 (0.95 (0.10) 2.07) 1.05) 4.16) 1.87 (0.36 (0.06) 4.67 (0.08) 1.92) 1.70 (0.07) 1.93 (0.18) 1.85 (0.10) 3.09) 1.08) 2.19) Square low density 3.12) 3.18) 1.38) Fe Square high density Ca All data Ba A1 Sample Design Table 1 Descriptive Statistics and ANOVA Results for Each Element across Sample Designs Sampling Design and Inferential Bias 221 .24 (<0.65 (0.38 (0.95 (0.97 (0.14) Zn 1.10) 2.10) 1.79 (0.18) 2.92 (0.12) 3.76 (0.11) 1.12) 3.07) 1.55 (0.07) 2.36) density 4.28 (0.26) Random Judgmental Linked-nested 4.06) 4.25 (0.85 (0.09) 2.07) 1.11) 2.08) 2.90 (0.08 (0.51 (0.07) 4.

7. which has the lowest set of variances. The minimum value for the variance (0. however. Visually (not statistically) speaking. kriging allows for a variance discontinuity at the known data value.08 Linked-nested hexagonal Sr 0. in which the sample sizes range .” For each known data value.00 Ti 0. as it was assumed that the chemical concentration data are “certain. A neighborhood variance (a single uncertainty value for the range of the data) of zero was used. spherical. all locations outside the range (an area of 0. The patterns generated by kriging in my examples therefore may be affected by small sample sizes. one has no confidence in the data as a predictor.00 Mn 0. commonly referred to as the nugget. one needs at least 100 sample points. This especially appears to be the case for the lowdensity samples (including the judgmental sample). Thus.01 K 0.03 Results are compared to the “all data” design generation of the ordinary (point) kriged maps. In addition to the variance and range. and exponential) was chosen and used to determine variance of data values around the known locations.0) was set at 0.01 Ca 0. The experimental and theoretical variogram models for each lattice are shown in Fig. In the current study. after that. This causes a stepped increase in variance just away from the known data value. Gaussian. Interestingly.02 Zn 0. the square and staggered lattices produce very different patterns of P distribution. the random sample and the linked-nested hexagonal lattice appear to do the “best” job at approximating how P is distributed when compared to the total dataset. where the area is calculated as πr2) are considered to be unaffected by the known data value.25 m away from that point. producing no nugget effect.00 Sr 0.07 Ca 0. neither of which appears to be representative of the variation in activity patterning across the plaza. this value was set to zero.0) is at the known data location and the maximum value (1. one of four variance functions (linear.01 Mn 0.222 Wells Table 2 Significant Results of Games–Howell Post Hoc Tests Sample Design Square high density Square low density Element Significance Ca 0.02 Staggered high density Mn 0. This means that confidence in the data value as a predictor for unsampled points decreases up to 0. It is important to note. to accurately estimate semivariograms. that Webster and Oliver (1990) suggest that.00 Zn 0.00 Sr 0.25 m from its location.1963 m around each data point.01 K 0.

Still. H) linked-nested hexagonal.5 × midspread and extreme values (asterisks) are defined as 3. so as to allow each parameter an equal chance of contributing to the model. One kind of variation that is important can be described as homoscedastic. D) staggered high density. Many classical probability statistical tests require so-called “homogeneity of variance” as a basic assumption. these findings suggest that.Sampling Design and Inferential Bias 223 Fig. . in order to select the most appropriate sample lattice design. for example.0 × midspread from 13 to 40 units. 5 Boxplots of selected elemental base-10 logarithm concentrations (ppm) for each sampling design: A) all data. in which there is an equal distribution of variation across parameter estimates. E) staggered low density. that produced by way of regression analysis or ANOVA. Outliers (open circles) are defined as 1. F) random. one ought to take into account the different kinds of variation in soil properties. C) square low density. B) square high density. G) judgmental.

Young and Hammer 2000).” or within polypedons— taxonomically homogenous pedons (Boekhold and Van der Zee 1992. where the sample units are continuous and evenly distributed. Discontinuous. Thus. deal best with this kind of variation. homoscedacity is an unreasonable assumption for many anthrosol properties sampled within a single pedon. 1993). and even simple linear correlation analysis using Pearson's product moment correlation coefficients (Parnell et al.” sampling. is probably best addressed with random.e. Middleton and Price (1996) use non-hierarchical (K-means). principal components analysis (Hutson and Terry 2006). Soil properties may also exhibit continuous variation in which a graded series of intermediate values falls between the extremes (e. many soil scientists use nonparametric and ordination approaches to data analysis (e. or “soil body.” cluster analysis to group soils of similar chemical composition..g. or “iterative partitioning. Mexico. Darker hues correspond to higher concentrations of P However. Other approaches that have been used include discriminant function analysis (Wells 2004). or “opportunistic. especially if the periodicity . unnamed) inclusions in the study area. 6 Kriged image maps showing the distribution of extractable soil P in base-10 logarithm concentrations (ppm) for each sample design.224 Wells Staggered High Density Square High Density All Data Random 90 90 90 90 80 80 80 80 70 70 70 70 60 60 60 60 50 50 50 50 40 40 40 40 30 30 30 30 20 20 20 20 10 10 10 20 30 40 50 10 10 20 30 40 50 10 10 Square Low Density Linked-Nested Hexagonal 20 30 40 50 10 Staggered Low Density 90 80 80 70 70 60 60 60 50 50 50 40 40 40 40 30 30 30 30 20 20 20 20 20 30 40 50 40 50 70 10 10 30 Judgmental 90 10 20 60 50 10 10 20 30 40 50 10 10 20 30 40 50 10 20 30 40 50 Fig.. Square lattices. For example. in their study of archaeological house floors at Xaaga in Oaxaca. 2002). or periodic variation.g. Robertson et al. Campbell and Edmonds 1984).. such as that produced by the introduction of foreign (i.

staggered low-density (linear).g. The extent to which soils can store chemical information about past human activities depends on several properties. it is essential that one understands the properties of the soils under analysis before selecting a sampling design.g.g. For example. may be the most productive way to deal with this kind of variation. such as by variogram modeling and kriging. Clearly there is enough circumstantial evidence here to prompt a further investigation of these patterns. Recommendations My research into sampling design permits three recommendations for sampling. characterizes many soil properties. 2007). Another avenue would be to vary the density of random and other samples and look more closely at the degree to which sample density influences detection of activity patterns (e. it might be instructive to compare the differences in how kriging plots factor scores from a principal components analysis. Lloyd and Atkinson (2004) provide a thorough overview and rationale for the use of this branch of geostatistics in archaeology. Finally. Kitanidis and Shen 1996). which contain the true value with a given probability (e. judgmental (linear) is known or can be estimated.. with the proviso that the methods reported here need to be extended to test datasets from other archaeological sites where anthrosols were produced from different soil-forming factors in different soil environments. linked-nested hexagonal (exponential). 2002). which would allow one to examine co-variation in multiple chemical elements at the same time (e. which is random or presumed to be random.Sampling Design and Inferential Bias All Data Square High Density Staggered High Density 400000 250000 300000 250000 200000 200000 150000 100000 150000 250000 200000 150000 400000 300000 200000 50000 5 10 15 20 25 0 0 30 100000 50000 50000 5 Lag Distance Linked-Nested Hexagonal 10 15 20 25 0 0 30 5 10 15 20 25 0 0 30 Judgmental 1200000 1000000 100000 100000 120000 100000 80000 60000 10 15 20 25 30 600000 400000 200000 20000 Lag Distance 800000 40000 50000 50000 5 30 140000 150000 0 0 25 Staggered Low Density Variogram 150000 20 Square Low Density Variogram Variogram 200000 15 Lag Distance 200000 250000 10 Lag Distance 160000 300000 5 Lag Distance 350000 Variogram 500000 300000 100000 100000 0 0 600000 350000 Variogram Variogram 350000 Variogram 400000 0 0 Random 300000 450000 Variogram 225 5 10 15 20 Lag Distance 25 30 0 0 5 10 15 20 Lag Distance 25 0 0 5 10 15 20 25 Lag Distance Fig. Kozar et al. such as in co-kriging (e..” or inherent. it may be worth considering changes in confidence intervals associated with point estimates in kriging. variation. Usowicz and Kossowski 2001). square low-density (exponential). Interpolation. First.. Wells et al. including texture and density/porosity (Holliday and Gartner 2007. random (linear). staggered high-density (spherical).g. “Stochastic. . 7 Experimental (nodal line) and theoretical (smooth line) variogram models of extractable soil P in base-10 logarithm concentrations (ppm) for each sample design: all data (linear).. square high-density (Gaussian).

g. The use of geostatistical interpolation at this stage of the research has been suggested as a productive means to determine the optimal sampling interval by solving the kriging equations for several sampling intensities and plotting the maximum kriged variance against the sample spacing (Atkinson 1996.. McBratney and Webster 1981). and then allowing the resulting soil suspension to settle. the “low density” samples in the El Coyote case). By using a pilot study to understand variation in soil properties across the study area.226 Wells Oonk et al. It is also important to keep in mind that any data acquired from randomly obtained samples are not amenable to kriging and other kinds of spatial analysis that involve interpolation. Third. it may be a good idea to use a random sampling strategy. if sampling density is less than 1% of the study universe (e. Sandy soils. sodium metaphosphate). Burgesse et al. Gravity settles the coarse sand particles quickly (within 40 s). The resulting soil chemical patterns may not be representative of the range of ancient human activities represented in the study space. based on what is known about intra-pedon variability of soil properties (Entwistle et al. Second. Clayey soils are very effective at trapping cations in clay interlayers and at adsorbing ions to clay particle surfaces. silt. the pipette (Tan 2005: 169–170) and hydrometer (Tan 2005: 162–166) techniques are most common. the selection of sampling strategy should be . are more conducive to water filtration and erosion and allow cations to migrate more readily in soil bodies both vertically and horizontally. 2007. This is especially the case when the target soil properties vary significantly across the sample frame. followed by the silt (after 2 h) and then clay (after 8 h). which can be treated as the entire sample frame or else subdivided into sampling separate strata from which a consistent number of samples can be collected. that at least one sample per 5 m2 should be collected for small-scale spaces and 20 m2 for larger sample universes. Both techniques involve mixing the sample with a dispersion agent (e. the “highdensity” samples in the El Coyote case). and clay) of the mineral component of soils that vary in size from stone to gravel to powder. There is no good rule of thumb for the number of units to obtain for the pilot study sample. on the other hand. multiplied by 100) yields the percentage of pore space. it can be determined if the sample density should be increased because of poor soil conditions or a high degree of variability in soil properties over small distances. I recommend that it is best used in combination with other sampling strategies. Clayey soil tends to exhibit lower bulk density and higher porosity than sandy soil.. one can weigh standard volumes of oven-dried samples (to determine bulk density) and then measure the moisture content of the soil using the gravimetric method (to determine particle density). but it seems reasonable. Soil texture represents the soil size fractions (sand. Comparing the two results (particle density minus bulk density. divided by particle density. Marshall 2001). 2009).. To determine soil texture.g. shaking or stirring the mixture. Understanding soil properties can be done most efficiently by taking a random sample of soils from throughout the study area. however. Based on my own experience using judgmental sampling. for sampling densities over 1% of the study universe (e. Judgmental sampling should always be done with caution. 1981. because the data violate many assumptions about variance. which are straightforward to measure in a field laboratory.g. For measuring density and porosity (see Tan 2005: 175–188). Soil texture is obviously related to density (the mass of soil per unit volume) and porosity (the portion of the soil volume occupied by air and water).

such as those presented in this article. systematic sampling using a lattice may. López Varela. Yfantis et al. 1983). Madison. Puerto Rico. akin to radiocarbon dating or chemical provenance studies of artifacts. 1981). square and staggered grids) for use when sampling density meets or exceeds 1% of the sample universe. 5(4/5). Palacios-Fest for inviting me to participate in the original symposium in which a preliminary draft of this paper was presented at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in San Juan. With applications in both geostatistics (Atkinson 1996. For very large sample sizes relative to the size of the space being sampled. which is only sometimes the case. because standard lattices may bias inferences about activity patterning. Funding for my research was provided by the National Science Foundation (BCS-0108742) and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (GR. and three anonymous reviewers read drafts of this manuscript and provided very useful comments that helped improve the arguments in this paper.e. M. Acknowledgments I would like to thank Sandra L. Urban and Edward M. P. I would add to this point that the hexagonal lattice has the additional advantage of having a smaller maximum lag distance on adjacent sample unit transects. Still. systematically miss evidence for activity loci. Global Ecology and Biogeography Letters. López Varela. Schortman for allowing me to conduct this research and for their support throughout the project. Dore. 2007: 397). A pressing issue is sampling. Thus. for which this article opens a dialog that needs to be extended. and for all their hard work on its subsequent expansion and publication. Both strategies incorrectly assume that soil chemical behavior is patterned at regular intervals across any given space. . For systematically obtained samples. Optimal sampling strategies for raster-based geographical information systems. Research at El Coyote was conducted with the permission and assistance of the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia. and Manuel R. 271–280. since the interpolation between data points is more closely constrained and. Dore. thus decreasing the maximum kriging variance when using kriging to interpolate the data (see Burgesse et al. lattices of any kind should be used with caution. 1987) and archaeology (Kintigh 1988. Burton and T. In this article.. Christopher D. Soil analysis was conducted with the support and advice of James H. Karla L. regular and closely spaced intervals lend themselves especially well to contour plotting. Sampling archaeological soils for chemical study in spatial analysis is a complex problem that can be addressed productively through the accumulation of collective experience in various test cases. References Atkinson. the square lattice produces very different results from the staggered lattice. therefore. it has been demonstrated that a hexagonal lattice is more efficient than a square lattice. 6810). anthrosol chemistry will soon become a standard part of archaeologists' analytical toolkits. more representative of the underlying trend in the data than if collected in a random or opportunistic fashion (Entwistle et al. (1996). I offer the “linked-nested hexagonal” strategy as an alternative to the standard lattices (i. Davis-Salazar. If recent trends in archaeological research are any indication. I am exceedingly grateful to Patricia A. lattices appear to be less sensitive to outliers or batches of samples with generally high concentrations (compared to other batches). Douglas Price at the Laboratory for Archaeological Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin. Moreover.Sampling Design and Inferential Bias 227 restricted to a lattice matrix. in some cases. Krakker et al.

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