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Journal Article

Evaluating Bayesian Radiocarbon-dated Event Count (REC) models for the study of long-term human and environmental processes


Carleton,  W. Christopher
Max Planck Research Group Extreme Events, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Carleton, W. C. (2020). Evaluating Bayesian Radiocarbon-dated Event Count (REC) models for the study of long-term human and environmental processes. Journal of Quaternary Science, 36(1): 3256, pp. 110-123. doi:10.1002/jqs.3256.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-5B5E-B
Chronological uncertainty complicates attempts to use radiocarbon dates as proxies for processes such as human population growth/decline, forest fires and marine ingression. Established approaches involve turning databases of radiocarbon-date densities into single summary proxies that cannot fully account for chronological uncertainty. Here, I use simulated data to explore an alternative Bayesian approach that instead models the data as what they are, namely radiocarbon-dated event counts. The approach involves assessing possible event-count sequences by sampling radiocarbon date densities and then applying a Markov Chain Monte Carlo method to estimate the parameters of an appropriate count-based regression model. The regressions based on individual sampled sequences were placed in a multilevel framework, which allowed for the estimation of hyperparameters that account for chronological uncertainty in individual event times. Two processes were used to produce simulated data. One represented a simple monotonic change in event-counts and the other was based on a real palaeoclimate proxy record. In both cases, the method produced estimates that had the correct sign and were consistently biased towards zero. These results indicate that the approach is widely applicable and could form the basis of a new class of quantitative models for use in exploring long-term human and environmental processes.