The following is part of a study of archaeological excavation and documentation methodologies, aimed at developing standards and procedures suitable for recording evidence of post-depositional transformations of-and for evaluating the signifi cance these transformations may have had on-the archaeological record. Problems with recording this evidence will be discussed elsewhere. The present study represents an initial exploration of the problems of modelling the effects of post-depositional transformations on archaeological remains, focusing on the potential use of stochastic methods for estimating the probabilities of loss of different artifact materials over time.
Archaeology has been defi ned as “The systematic description or study of human antiquities, esp. as revealed by excavation” (OED 1997). Archaeologists study human antiquities-artifacts-and not the fossil remains of extinct species (as in geology and/or palaeontology). Much archaeological data is revealed by digging up artifacts (or removing them from their matrix; although tangential to the present discussion, the
complex issue of whether this is soil or sediment is worth noting). In contrast to graverobbers, looters, treasure hunters, and our own antiquarian predecessors, archaeologists aim to be “scientifi c”. Thus, archaeology can also be defi ned as: