Repository for information, code, and examples to be presented at a 3 hour workshop on using R for archaeological analysis hosted at the 2017 Society for American Archaeology meeting in Vancouver, BC.
Switch branches/tags
Nothing to show
Clone or download
Pull request Compare This branch is 7 commits ahead, 1 commit behind mrecos:master.
Fetching latest commit…
Cannot retrieve the latest commit at this time.
Failed to load latest commit information.

Using R for Archaeological Data Analysis, Mapping, and Visualization Workshop – SAA 2017

Presented by: Matthew Harris (AECOM-Burlington,, Ben Marwick (University of Washington,

A revolution in many scientific disciplines is reshaping the way researchers understand, analyze, and present their findings. Features of this revolution include open science practices, new tools for reproducible research, novel analytic and modeling techniques, and new modes of public engagement. Applied to the practice of archaeology, this approach has the benefit broadening engagement with our research to a much wider audience, and increasing the value of our research by making available the data and analysis for others to easily study. Additionally, there are many individual benefits of this approach including an increase in efficiency over the long-term, simpler organization of one’s data, documentation of analytical process, and the ability to confidently reproduce an analysis when new data is collected.

One of the most important elements of this new approach is the ability to write computer code to document, automate, and make explicit the data analysis. R is a free and open-source language widely used by researchers for doing publication-quality statistical analysis, GIS, data analysis and visualization. R also has a large, friendly, and active international community of developers and users in many scientific fields.

This 3-hour workshop will introduce you to the capabilities of R, conduct hands-on demonstration of coding basics, introduce project examples, and allow participants to practice on their own data. The workshop is designed especially for novices with no previous experience with R. Our mission is to teach coding basics and provide motivating examples so that you will be able to get started coding your own research in R. We will be using the teaching methods of the Data Carpentry project ( and adapting some of their lesson plans for this workshop (Marwick is an accredited Data Carpentry instructor). You will need to bring a laptop with a fully charged battery.

Who should attend:

This is a workshop for novices: no previous experience with R, coding, or statistics is necessary. A curiosity and a willingness to learn will be an advantage. Enrollment in this workshop is open to anyone including students of all levels, researchers, CRM professionals, and educators. Students are encouraged to register with a reduced rate of $15. The non-student rate is $119.00. This workshop is limited to 25 participants, so please sign up early if you are interested.

What you will learn:

From this course, you will learn what R is and some of the things you can do with it. You will see numerous examples of what other archaeologists do with R and ideas for how it can be applied to your data and research questions. You will learn the basics of the R language syntax, the conventions of data processing, and the most commonly used packages within the R ecosystem. At a higher level, you will hear the benefits of using code and reproducible methods. Finally, you will also start to build a network of other archaeologists who share your interest in these methods. The specific schedule is as follows:

  • Getting data into R: We’ll show you how to import common file types, and how you can save time by easily importing thousands of files in an instant
  • Cleaning data: We’ll look at some very common and powerful programming methods for cleaning data to prepare it for analysis and visualization.
  • Basic data analysis: We’ll work though some of the most frequently used methods of data analysis, which you can easily adapt to your own purposes.
  • Visualization: We’ll show you how to generate several types of plots to explore your data, and how to prepare those plots for publication
  • Mapping: We’ll explore some of the methods for making maps and doing GIS analysis using R If you have something specific that you really want to know about with R, just send us an email to let us know. We’ll see if we can fit it in!

To see an annotated list of many of the things R can do especially for archaeologists, visit

How to prepare:

To participate in this workshop you must bring a laptop with a fully charged battery and web browser (e.g. Chrome/Firefox/Internet Explorer) and you must have working copies of the following software:

If you installed R on your laptop in the past, it’s important that you get the most up-to-date version from the URL above before coming to this workshop. We’ll provide additional R packages and archaeological datasets during the workshop. If you have any questions or problems with these instructions, don’t hesitate to send us an email.

What to bring:

Bring your a laptop with a fully charged battery, snacks, questions, and a friend or two. We find that workshops go a lot better if people come in groups, e.g., 4-5 people from one lab, half a dozen from another department or institute, etc., so that they are less inhibited about asking questions, and can support each other afterwards. So while individual sign-ups are welcome, we encourage you to sign-up with a friend.

Optionally, you may wish to bring a file of your own data. Ideally this is a simple and well-organized Excel spreadsheet with clearly labelled columns of measurements or counts of artifacts. You will use this to practice the programming methods that we learn in the workshop (unfortunately we probably will not have time during the workshop for very detailed or specialized analyses of your data). We will provide data files for everyone to practice with, so don’t worry if you don’t bring any data of your own.


Working on details, but likely Saturday afternoon April 1st, Vancover, B.C.



Thanks to Tobi Brimsek of the Society of American Archaeology for organisational support. Thanks to Microsoft, OpenContext, RStudio, and Data Carpentry for financial and other support to make this workshop possible.

Code of Conduct:

We are dedicated to providing a welcoming and supportive environment for all people, regardless of background or identity. However, we recognise that some groups in our community are subject to historical and ongoing discrimination, and may be vulnerable or disadvantaged. Membership in such a specific group can be on the basis of characteristics such as such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, nationality, sex, colour, ethnic or social origin, pregnancy, citizenship, familial status, veteran status, genetic information, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, age, or choice of text editor. We do not tolerate harassment of participants on the basis of these categories, or for any other reason.

Harassment is any form of behaviour intended to exclude, intimidate, or cause discomfort. Because we are a diverse community, we may have different ways of communicating and of understanding the intent behind actions. Therefore we have chosen to prohibit certain forms of behaviour in our community, regardless of intent. Prohibited harassing behaviour includes but is not limited to:

  • written or verbal comments which have the effect of excluding people on the basis of membership of a specific group listed above causing someone to fear for their safety, such as through stalking, following, or intimidation the display of sexual or violent images
  • unwelcome sexual attention
  • nonconsensual or unwelcome physical contact
  • sustained disruption of talks, events or communications
  • incitement to violence, suicide, or self-harm
  • continuing to initiate interaction (including photography or recording) with someone after being asked to stop
  • publication of private communication without consent

Behaviour not explicitly mentioned above may still constitute harassment. The list above should not be taken as exhaustive but rather as a guide to make it easier to enrich all of us and the communities in which we participate. All workshop interactions should be professional regardless of location: harassment is prohibited whether it occurs on- or offline, and the same standards apply to both.

Enforcement of the Code of Conduct will be respectful and not include any harassing behaviors.

Thank you for helping make this a welcoming, friendly community for all.

This code of conduct is an direct adaptation of the one used by the Data Carpentry and Software Carpentry Foundation and is a modified version of that used by PyCon, which in turn is forked from a template written by the Ada Initiative and hosted on the Geek Feminism Wiki. Contributors to this document: Adam Obeng, Aleksandra Pawlik, Bill Mills, Carol Willing, Erin Becker, Hilmar Lapp, Kara Woo, Karin Lagesen, Pauline Barmby, Sheila Miguez, Simon Waldman, Tracy Teal.