Seriation methods order a set of descriptions given some criterion (e.g., unimodality or minimum distance between similarity scores). Seriation is thus inherently a problem of finding the optimal solution among a set of permutations of objects. In this short technical note, we review the combinatorial structure of the classical seriation problem, which seeks a single solution out of a set of objects. We then extend those results to the iterative frequency seriation approach introduced by Lipo et al. (1997), which finds optimal subsets of objects which each satisfy the unimodality criterion within each subset. The number of possible solutions across multiple solution subsets is larger than n!, which underscores the need to find new algorithms and heuristics to assist in the deterministic frequency seriation problem.
Madsen, Mark E. and Lipo, Carl P., "Combinatorial Structure of the Deterministic Seriation Method with Multiple Subset Solutions" (2014). Anthropology Faculty Scholarship. 17.