Browsing Radiocarbon, Volume 43, Number 2A (2001 by Authors
New Methods and Critical Aspects in Bayesian Mathematics for 14C CalibrationSteier, Peter; Rom, Werner; Puchegger, Stephan (Department of Geosciences, The University of Arizona, 2001-01-01)The probabilistic radiocarbon calibration approach, which largely has replaced the intercept method in 14C dating, is based on the so-called Bayes' theorem (Bayes 1763). Besides single-sample calibration, Bayesian mathematics also supplies tools for combining 14C results of many samples with independent archaeological information such as typology or stratigraphy (Buck et al. 1996). However, specific assumptions in the "prior probabilities", used to transform the archaeological information into mathematical probability distributions, may bias the results (Steier and Rom 2000). A general technique for guarding against such a bias is "sensitivity analysis", in which a range of possible prior probabilities is tested. Only results that prove robust in this analysis should be used. We demonstrate the impact of this method for an assumed, yet realistic case of stratigraphically ordered samples from the Hallstatt period, i.e. The Early Iron Age in Central Europe.