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ARH305H1 (19)

Site Formation and Site Structure

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University of Toronto St. George
Gary Coupland

Monday, October 24/11 Archaeological Interpretation G. Coupland Site Formation and Site Structure Middle Range Theory • Looking at Middle Range Theory (MRT) is not exclusive to time • Study of how archaeological record was formed • I.e., what cultural processes/behaviors/activities form sites and what cultural and natural processes transform sites? • Why bother with MRT? • Before we can deal with Big Theory questions, we myst first account for the origins of our data • I.e., how did stuff get there? • Archaeological record contains traces (in properties of artifacts and deposits) of past formation processes • Archaeological record is traces Brief History of the Study of Formation Processes • Entropy View • ‘Times arrow’- R.Ascher • Quality and quantity of archaeological evidence progressively degrade with time • Transformation View • M. Schiffer • Archaeological record is transformed or distorted view of artifacts and features that were once part of a living system Schiffer’s view critiqued by Binford (The ‘Pompeii Premise’) but widely followed by • others Transformations • Two Types • C-Transforms: c = culture • E.g., law of intensity of site use and location of artifact discard • ‘more intensely site is used, refuse will be disposed in controlled ways’ • N-Transforms; n = nature • E.g., round objects move down slope farther than flat objects • Both invoked law-like statements about processes responsible for site transformations • Effort was to understand site transformations or distortions in terms of series of cultural and natural laws Types of Transformations • Schiffer identified 4 types of transformations that result from cultural and natural processes 1. A-Aprocesses (disturbance) • E.g., flowing, wind erosion, water transport - these really are distortions 2. A-S processes (reclamation)** • E.g., scavenging, collecting • A-S = archaeological living system • Pick up something out of it’s first archaeological context, use it, discard again Monday, October 24/11 Archaeological Interpretation G. Coupland Site Formation and Site Structure • In effect, human culture 3. S-S processes (re-use) • Several different kinds • These processes delay transformation of materials from systematic to archaeological context • Lateral cycling: transfer of object from one use to another where the use or function does not change; change is in the user Recycling: re-manufacture of existing artifact (often broken) for new, different • purpose; change is in the use • Frequency of artifact may be proportional to cost of manufacture of original artifact • i.e. Folsom points more likely to be recycled than simple expedient flakes • Is this a law? • Recycling reduces size of artifact
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