We present a new statistical approach to analysing an extremely common archaeological data type—potsherds—that infers the structure of cultural relationships across a set of excavation units (EUs). This method, applied to data from a set of complex, culturally heterogeneous sites around the Mandara mountains in the Lake Chad Basin, helps elucidate cultural succession through the Neolithic and Iron Age. We show how the approach can be integrated with radiocarbon dates to provide detailed portraits of cultural dynamics and deposition patterns within single EUs. In this context, the analysis supports ancient cultural segregation analogous to historical ethnolinguistic patterning in the region. We conclude with a discussion of the many possible model extensions using other archaeological data types.
- Received November 23, 2015.
- Accepted February 24, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.