What is an Archaeological Predictive Model?
An archaeological predictive model is a tool that indicates the probability of encountering an archaeological site anywhere within a landscape. These are sometimes referred to as archaeological sensitivity maps because they indicate that some locations are more sensitive than others for cultural resources. These predictive maps usually contain three zones: a high sensitivity area where archaeological sites are most likely, a medium sensitivity area where sites are less likely, and a low sensitivity area where sites are unlikely. These maps are beneficial for transportation and land-use planning. If construction projects can be modified to avoid areas where archaeological sites are predicted to occur, the result is more cost effective planning.
The dependability of these models is a function of their performance. This can be examined and tested by comparing a predictive model to archaeological field survey results. By comparing known archaeological site locations to the model's predictions , it is possible to determine, with specifiable confidence, how accurately a model performs. It is, in fact, this very approach that gives us confidence in a model and allows us to use it as a predictive tool. Field testing a model is an essential component of demonstrating its reliability.