Intrasite spatial analysis

Some study areas allow the prehistorian to get closer to the prehistoric person than other areas. The most obvious field is burial studies, where it is occasionally possible to examine the deceased person him-/herself, and secondarily the burial monument with all its imbued meaning. The second most direct way of analysing prehistoric people, behaviour and lives is settlement studies, or intrasite spatial analysis, where the internal organization of settlement sites is investigated through the distribution of artefacts (if possible, in relation to features and contexts). For this to be possible, a number of premises must be met, such as 1) the site ought to be a single-occupation site and not a palimpsest; 2) the site should not have been overly disturbed since it was left by its occupants; and 3) the excavation should meet a number of demands in terms of scope (preferably total excavation of the site at hand), excavation methodology and recording.

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Binford's 'drop/toss'-model (Binford 1983).

Binford's 'drop/toss'-model (Binford 1983).

There are different approaches to intrasite spatial analysis (cf. Cziesla 1990), but most are, to some extent, influenced by ethnographic or ethno-archaeological work. In its simplest form, intrasite distribution analysis is simply a matter of mapping the site's artefacts and applying a degree of common sense. This would usually allow some activity areas to be identified. More sophisticated methods include my own preferred Binfordian approach (Binford 1983), supplemented by other ethnographic input, as well as for example Blankholm's (1991) cluster analysis, Stapert's (1992) Ring-and-Sector method, or general or targeted lithic refitting (eg, Cziesla et al. 1990).

Barmosen I

Barmosen I (after Degn Johansson 1990, Fig. 5). The distribution of the site's cores in relation to the domestic hearth. North is up. 'X' represents the centre of the hearth, 'S' the possible seat of a knapper, 'FT' a potential forwards toss zone, and 'BT' a potential backwards toss zone immediately behind the knapper. The kidney-shaped outline surrounding the hearth represents a find density of more than 100 pieces of flint per quarter-of-square-metre. It should be stressed that there are many, more or less incompatible, interpretations of the spatial patterns at Barmosen I (eg, Blankholm 1991; 1992; Stapert 1992) – this is just one of many (Ballin forthcoming).

Howburn Trench I. Distribution of all scrapers: short end-scrapers (s), blade-scrapers (b), double-scrapers (d) and various scrapers (v).

Howburn Trench I. Distribution of all scrapers: short end-scrapers (s),
blade-scrapers (b), double-scrapers (d) and various scrapers (v).