CLA260H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Classical Archaeology
Lecture 6: Archaeological material
Archaeology = a spatial discipline
o This is obvious in the stress laid on find-spot and context, which can be subdivided
matrix: the material surrounding the find (usually a soil of some kind): this
will affect what has survived, and how well.
provenience: the find’s location (specified both horizontally and vertically)
within the matrix. Note in passing that ‘provenience’ as used by
archaeologists is more specific – to location within an archaeological context
– than ‘provenance’ (as used e.g. in museums or auction houses), which
implies the full history of an object’s manufacture, deposition, discovery and
association: usually a given find will be discovered with other finds in the
same matrix: what they are can be of great importance in
o virtually all archaeology is someone’s local history;
o the spatial nature of archaeology is key in distinguishing it from art history (a line
which is particularly prone to being blurred in classical archaeology).
What survives from antiquity?
o Some materials are just much more likely to survive in the archaeological record
Survival/preservation depends not just on the nature of the material itself,
but on how and where it is deposited.
Generally speaking, organic materials only survive in unusual, extreme
(principally waterlogged or very arid) environments.
Some materials may be reused, which may affect their chances of survival
(e.g. building stone, many metals).
Ceramics are the most commonly found materials in most classical sites;
individual vessels may be broken (and are hard, though not always
impossible, to repair), but the actual fabric of many ceramics is almost
indestructible in most environments. The most abundant ceramics on most
sites will be building materials (bricks and/or roof tiles, collectively referred
to as CBM) and/or everyday ceramic vessels used for storage and cooking.