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Modeling Spatial Innovation Diffusion from Radiocarbon Dates and Regression Residuals: The Case of Early Old World Pottery

  • Fabio Silva (a1) (a2), James Steele (a1) (a3), Kevin Gibbs (a4) (a5) and Peter Jordan (a6)

This article introduces a method of exploratory analysis of the geographical factors influencing large-scale innovation diffusion, and illustrates its application to the case of early pottery dispersal in the Old World. Regression techniques are used to identify broad-scale spatiotemporal trends in the innovation's first occurrence, and regression residuals are then analyzed to identify geographical variation (climate, biomes) that may have influenced local rates of diffusion. The boundaries between the modeled diffusion zones segregate the western half of the map into a Eurasian hunter-gatherer pottery-using zone affiliated by cultural descent to the Siberian center of innovation, and a lower-latitude farming and pastoralist zone affiliated by cultural descent to the north African center of innovation. However, the correlation coefficients suggest that this baseline model has limited explanatory power, with geographical patterning in the residuals indicating that habitat also greatly affected rates of spread of the new technology. Earlier-than-predicted ages for early pottery tend to occur in locations with mean annual temperature in the range approximately 0–15°. This favorable temperature range typically includes Mediterranean, grassland, and temperate forest biome types, but of these, the Mediterranean and the temperate deciduous forest biomes are the only ones on which regression residuals indicate earlier-than-predicted first observed pottery dates.

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