3pm - 4pm
Wednesday 3 March 2021

Statistics and Anglo-Saxon archaeology

A seminar in the Applied Statistics Seminar Series designed to give undergraduate mathematics with statistics students a broader knowledge of the applications of statistics.

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Together with students (Giacomo Zanella for his PhD, and  Clair Barnes for her MSc), I have been collaborating with historian John Blair and archaeologists Stephen Rippon and Chris Smart on their Leverhulme-funded project "Planning in the Early Medieval Landscape". The project aimed to use data from a sophisticated geographical information system to investigate the extent to which Anglo-Saxon settlements were part of a planned environment. In this talk I will recount a statistical journey centring on assessing the support offered by these data to various geometrical hypotheses proposed and motivated by historical and archaeological considerations: did Anglo-Saxons build according to a common unit of measurement? Did they lay out settlements along a designed grid pattern? Did their settlements cluster together as complementary specialist communities? Our tools range from directional statistics (Kendall, 2013; Barnes, 2015; Barnes & Kendall, 2020) through Markov chain Monte Carlo (Zanella 2015a,b) to mathematical morphology (Barnes 2015), and deal with questions of units of measurement, gridding, and clustering of complementary settlements. The talk will be designed to be accessible to mathematical science undergraduates.


  • Rippon, S., Blair, J. & Smart, C., Planning in the Early Medieval Landscape  (http://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/archaeology/research/projects/title_335791_en).
  • Barnes, C. (2015). Statistics in Anglo-Saxon Archaeology. MSc dissertation, Dept. Statistics, Univ. Warwick.
  • Barnes, C, & W.S. Kendall. (2020) "Perches, Post-Holes and Grids." In Planning in the Early Medieval English Landscape, J.Blair, S.Rippon, and C.Smart, Exeter Studies in Medieval Europe. Liverpool University Press,, pp 213-31.
  • Kendall, W. S. (2013). Modules for Anglo-Saxon constructions: Appendix to "Grid-Planning in Anglo-Saxon Settlements: the Short Perch and the Four-Perch Module" by J.Blair. Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History, 18, 55-57.
  • Zanella, G. (2015a) Bayesian Complementary Clustering, MCMC, and Anglo-Saxon Placenames. PhD thesis, Dept. Statistics, Univ. Warwick.
  • Zanella, G. (2015b) "Random Partition Models and Complementary Clustering of Anglo-Saxon Place-Names." Annals of Applied Statistics 9, no. 4: 1792-1822.
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