---
title: 'aion: An R Package to Represent Archaeological Time Series'
tags:
- archaeology
- time series
- chronology
authors:
- name: Nicolas Frerebeau
orcid: 0000-0001-5759-4944
affiliation: 1
affiliations:
- name: UMR 6034 Archéosciences Bordeaux (CNRS, Université Bordeaux Montaigne, Université de Bordeaux, EPHE)
index: 1
date: 7 June 2023
bibliography: paper.bib
---
# Summary
Numerous R packages have been developed to describe, analyze, and model
temporal data in the context of archaeological studies in the broadest sense.
These packages encompass various functionalities, including handling radiocarbon
data (e.g., `Bchron` by @R-Bchron or `rcarbon` by @R-rcarbon), Optically
Stimulated Luminescence dating (`Luminescence` by @R-Luminescence), Bayesian
chronological modeling (`ArchaeoPhases` by @R-ArchaeoPhases),
using paleoenvironmental proxies (e.g., `shoredate` by @R-shoredate), or other
temporal data (e.g., `kairos` by @R-kairos). This multitude of packages
underscores the significance of computational approaches in archaeology
[@schmidt2020]. However, it also presents a major challenge as each package
employs its own representation of temporal information. Consequently, exchanging
data between different packages within the same data workflow becomes even more
arduous. `aion` is designed to provide a consistent framework for representing
archaeological time series.
# Statement of need
R ships with a lot of functionality useful for time series, in particular
in the base `stats` [@R-stats], or in the `zoo` [@R-zoo] packages[^1].
However, these features are not adapted to most archaeological time series.
Archaeological data is typically collected through field excavations or
surveys, resulting in irregularly spaced observation times. Although several
packages can handle irregular time series, the way they represent dates means
they cannot easily be used for archaeological series. These are indeed defined
for a given calendar era and more importantly they can involve dates very far
in the past.
`aion` provides a system of classes and methods to represent and work with such
time series. This package does not provide tools for temporal analysis or
modeling. Instead, it offers a system of classes and methods to represent and
work with archaeological time series. This API can be extended and used by other
specialized packages (see `kairos` v2.0 as an example).
# Functionality
In base R, dates are represented by default as the number of days since
1970-01-01 (Gregorian), with negative values for earlier dates. `aion` uses a
different approach: it allows to create date vectors represented as *rata die*
[@reingold2018], i.e. as number of days since 01-01-01 (Gregorian).
This allows to represent dates independently of any calendar and makes
calculations and comparisons easier.
In `aion` a time series is represented by an S4 class that inherits from the
base array. A time series object is an $n \times m \times p$ array, with $n$
being the number of observations, $m$ being the number of series and with the
$p$ columns of the third dimension containing extra variables for each series.
This array comes with an extra `time` slot that store the observations times
expressed in *rata die*.
All output produced by `aion` can be formatted with (virtually) any calendar,
as long as the calendar has been defined and the associated conversion methods
are available. `aion` natively supports both Julian and Gregorian calendars
(with the most common eras for the latter, e.g. Before 2000, Before Present,
(Before) Common Era...) and allows to create custom calendars.
# Acknowledgements
The inspiration for this package comes from the `era` package by Joe Roe.
`era` [@R-era] provides a consistent representation of year-based time scales
as a numeric vector with an associated era.
# References
[^1]: See the CRAN Task View about time series analysis: .