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Assessing Systematic Bias in Museum Collections: A Case Study of Spindle Whorls

  • Angela C. Huster (a1)

Abstract

Archaeologists often overlook museum collections for research purposes due to concerns about the representativeness of the artifacts in the collection. Such concerns can be addressed by comparing non-scientifically produced collections to collections of known standing, such as those from more modern projects, using the same exploratory data analysis and basic statistical methods that archaeologists use to compare sets of artifacts in other situations. As a case study, this article compares spindle whorls recovered during the 2007 excavations at the Aztec site of Calixtlahuaca with two museum collections of whorls attributed to the site. A variety of metric and non-metric traits were recorded for each item in the three collections and were compared using Kolmogrov-Smirnov, Chi-square, and Fisher's exact tests. Both museum collections show a bias toward more elaborately decorated pieces, but with varying side effects on other attributes of analytical interest.

Muchas veces, los arqueólogos evitan usar las colecciones de museos porque dudan que los artefactos de la colección sean una muestra representativa. Estas dudas se pueden por medio de comparaciones entre las colecciones de museo y las mejor documentadas, usualmente de excavaciones más modernas. Se pueden aplicar los mismos métodos de comparación que los arqueólogos usan para comparar grupos de artefactos en otras situaciones—las exploraciones preliminares de información y las pruebas estadísticas. Como un caso ejemplar, comparo los malacates (husos de volar) recuperados en las excavaciones del sito azteca de Calixtlahuaca en 2007 con dos colecciones de museo atribuidas al sitio. Anoté una variedad de características métricas y no-métricas para cada pieza en las tres colecciones y las comparé por medio de los pruebas Kolmogrov-Smirnov, Chi-cuadrado, and prueba de Fisher’s. Ambas colecciones de museo tienen piezas más decoradas, pero los efectos secundarios en la distribución de otros atributos varían entre las colecciones.

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