On measurement, uncertainty and maximum likelihood in skyscape archaeology
Authors: Parracho Silva, F.
Editors: Henty, L. and Brown, D.
This chapter considers the nature of measurement, with its unalienable uncertainty, within the context of the study of structural orientations. It contends that it is high time for an approach that treats field data not as a mere descriptive quantity but one that is used for inferential purposes. With recourse to thought-experiments and a case study, this chapter shies away from a full statistical treatment but, in its stead, theoretically demonstrates the dangers of ignoring and underestimating measurement uncertainty, as well as how one can use that uncertainty for inferential purposes by means of an intuitive version of the method of maximum likelihood. This approach turns uncertainty on its head, and can lead to precise inferences, even in the presence of large measurement uncertainties – making this not only a more robust, but also a more honest and transparent approach to the study of structural orientations.