Lithic Technology and Discard at Marki, Cyprus: Consumer Behaviour and Site Formation in the Prehistoric Bronze Age

By Webb, Jennifer M. | Antiquity, December 1998 | Go to article overview
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Lithic Technology and Discard at Marki, Cyprus: Consumer Behaviour and Site Formation in the Prehistoric Bronze Age

Webb, Jennifer M., Antiquity


This paper examines the ground stone industry from the Cypriot Bronze Age settlement of Marki in the light of notions of curation and expediency, and explores the relationship between these aspects of the assemblage and the discard and fracture patterns of stone artefacts. It has significant implications for understanding processes of systemic inventory depletion and consumer behaviour, both of which are widely used contexts in archaeological interpretation.

Marki, located on the Alykos River in the northeastern foothills of the Troodos Range [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED], has well-preserved domestic architecture of Early Cypriot III/Middle Cypriot I (c. 2000-1800 BC) [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED] (Frankel & Webb 1996; 1997). Site economy focused on cereal agriculture and animal husbandry, supplemented by the hunting of Persian fallow deer. Other activities included the manufacture of ceramics, textiles and chipped and ground stone tools. The architectural system is multicellular and conjoining and recognition of spatial and behavioural boundaries between households is therefore difficult. This is a major constraint for analyses of consumer behaviour as the household is the basic economic unit within which consumption occurs and the acquisition, use and discard of objects are best understood at the household level.

An alternative approach focuses on artefactual residues and non-portable facilities in an attempt to identify the defining characteristics of autonomous households (Blanton 1994: 9-10). This involves an understanding of abandonment strategies and occupational curate and discard behaviour, as these can deplete assemblages and distort the systemic integrity of residual material (Schiffer 1972; 1976; 1985; Cameron & Tomka 1993). The Marki settlement appears to have been subject to gradual and pre-planned abandonment (Webb 1995). Consequently, both localized and final abandonment allowed a high degree of curate behaviour (sensu Binford 1976; 1979), which severely depleted the amount of de facto refuse left on pre-abandonment floors (Schiffer 1972; 1976; 1987). Occupational discard behaviour also resulted in little or no accumulation of refuse within or adjacent to households. In these circumstances the identification of households and room function through contextual and distributional analyses is also problematic.

Alternative methods of analysis are needed to understand domestic consumption and those aspects of household behaviour which conditioned the entry of artefacts into, and their removal from, household assemblages. This paper looks at the lithic material from Marki in this context. The notions of curation and expediency operate to identify fine-scale distinctions in the depositional history of the stone assemblage within the wider framework of curate/discard behaviour and systemic inventory depletion.

Curation and expediency

Two hundred and six ground stone artefacts, published in Frankel & Webb (1996), form the basis of discussion. They include axes, adzes, querns, rubbers, mortars, bowls, basins, perforated hammers, pounders, grinders, hammerstones, rubbing stones, pecking stones, ornaments, gaming stones and architectural elements. The assemblage divides into two classes, here identified as curated and expedient artefacts. The strategies of curation and expediency were introduced into studies of technological organization by Binford (1973; 1977; 1979) and refined by Terrence (1983; 1986; 1989), Bamforth (1986) and Andrefsky (1994). They are commonly recognized in chipped stone technologies but may also be applied to ground stone from settlements of longer duration. It is suggested here that these strategies are relevant to the organization of the lithic industry at Marki and provide a useful conceptual framework for understanding the acquisition, use, maintenance and depositional history of these objects.

Curation is a strategy of caring for tools and toolkits which includes manufacture, transport, reshaping and storage.

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Lithic Technology and Discard at Marki, Cyprus: Consumer Behaviour and Site Formation in the Prehistoric Bronze Age


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