The Archaeology Coursebook: An Introduction to Study Skills, Topics and Methods

By Jim Grant; Sam Gorin et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter 9

The Archaeology of Settlement

YOUR GOALS

You need to

become familiar with a range of case studies of different types of site, settlement and structure

understand and appraise techniques archaeologists use to interpret the function and status of sites and structures

understand some of the methods used to study the relationship between human activity and the environment

develop your use of case studies and plans to help you with essay writing.


WHAT DOES THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF SETTLEMENT COVER?

Whether you are studying a range of different cultures or following a thematic course, settlement is likely to be a central topic. However, the term itself can mean several things.

Today, when we think of settlements we usually mean cities, towns and villages. However, for most of human history none of these existed. For periods when the population was mobile rather than sedentary humans created a range of temporary camps and sites for processing raw materials and food.

Sometimes caves or rock shelters were repeatedly used for occupation and rich deposits remain. Other sites consist of scatters of flakes from stone tool making (debitage) or animal bone remains from a butchery site. It is likely that these people identified with an area of the landscape, through which they may have moved on a seasonal basis, rather than living in one fixed place as we do.

For many past societies, off-site areas that we sometimes detect as flint-scatters or field systems were as important as the ‘sites’ which archaeologists have tended to excavate. The work of Binford in particular demonstrates that individual sites can provide a rather biased

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