Pattern detection in archaeological data: quantum modelling, Bronze Age Aegean lead weights and Greek Classical Doric architecture

Jari Pakkanen (RHUL)

Institute of Classical Studies Digital Seminar 2012

Friday June 8th at 16:30, in Room G37, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Can statistically significant patterns detected in Late Bronze Age Aegean balance weights made of lead? How should we approach the question of what type of a design system the fifth-century BC Greek architects used for Doric temples? Is it possible to say whether one of the several modern interpretations is more likely than another?

Lead is far from an ideal material for a balance weight: it oxidizes quickly and thus causes the object to gain mass, but the oxide is also very friable and easily breaks away thus reducing its mass. Despite this most Late Bronze Age balance weigths were manufactured of lead: it was cheap, dense and easy to shape. Analyses of building plans and façades show that arithmetical proportions can with reasonable precision be fitted to architectural measurements, but there is far less consensus among scholars about the possibly used metrological units and whether the fifth-century Doric design system can be classified as being based on a fixed-size module.

Modern measurements are the main source material for studying the questions posed at the beginning: however, these measurements can be quite far removed from the initial mass of a balance weight or any original architectural design. I will demonstrate that computer-intensive statistics can help to find answers. The considered methods are based on Kendall's quantum modelling and Monte Carlo computer simulations.


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.

Audio recording of seminar (MP3)

Presentation (PDF)

Bibliography (PDF)