Introduction to Archaeology: Class 12
Site formation, linking arguments, and ethnoarchaeology
Copyright Bruce Owen 2002
So now we are digging.
We want to know about people, cultures, and societies
but we are digging up layers of dirt and garbage.
how can we get from this limited, strange evidence to answers about our anthropological
By using "middle-range theory" that links observations about evidence to inferences about
artifacts were originally made and used by people.
They played a role in a functioning
They were in
not the greatest term, but we are stuck with it here
refers to the setting, use, meanings, value, etc. of things as parts of a living society
this is presumably what we want to know about
strata, artifacts, etc. are found in
this is the relationships among them at the time of excavation (or surface collection, etc.)
the artifacts and their relationships that we observe are the result both of their original
systemic context and subsequent processes of disposal, burial, disturbance, etc. that
that we can observe today
if we want to correctly infer anything about the systemic context, we have to understand how
it has been transformed into the archaeological context
: Processes that create the archaeological record
may be cultural (what Thomas focuses on) and/or natural (which Thomas does not pay much
in dumps, pits, etc.
for retrieval, as food in storage pits or a cache of coins buried in the back yard
not for retrieval, as in burials of the dead, offerings to the supernatural, etc.
abandonment and decay of buildings, walls, etc.
catastrophic burial (mudslides, volcanic ashfalls, sand dunes, etc.)
note that there are two kinds of deposition being discussed here:
deposition of the artifacts themselves, usually by the behavior of people
deposition of soil around and on top of them, either by people or by natural processes
which is often (but not always) important in that it helps to protect and preserve the
and it helps to separate artifacts deposited at different times