Mind the Gap: Archaeological Approaches to Null Data Spaces

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

"One of the basic tenets of archaeological practice is locating material remains and pinpointing their location. In doing so we often create arbitrary islands of data, both spatial and temporal; clusters on a map or timeline surrounded by blank space. Despite awareness that these 'empty' or null spaces were integral parts of past landscapes, they are often left out of or dismissed by archaeological interpretations. When gaps in spatial knowledge are equated with gaps in cultural knowledge and/or landscape use, null data areas become cordoned off behind seemingly rigid boundaries. Instead, archaeologists can problematize these spaces and theorize about the methodological, cultural, and natural processes that create and perpetuate gaps. In this session presenters with different temporal, spatial, and methodological specialties will confront the gaps in their data in an effort to create a comparative dialogue of how we treat empty space. "

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-12 of 12)

  • Documents (12)

  • Absences and Abandonments in the Mississippian Midwest (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Meghan Buchanan.

    Archaeological studies of hypothesized regional abandonments often perform what Tim Ingold (2008) refers to as "a logic of inversion;" by drawing lines around sites, regions, and spaces we create boundaries in which life is lived, and by extension, create spaces where life is not lived. In examples of abandonments, the absence of evidence related to human living spaces is taken as the absence of (human) life. In other words, when we demarcate "abandoned" or "unoccupied spaces" (noted as such by...

  • Analyzing activity areas when only one material remains: The interpretation of low density, "empty" spaces in open air Middle Paleolithic sites (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Amy Clark.

    It is common for open air sites dating to the Pleistocene to lack organic preservation, including bone. Many of these sites also do not contain features such as hearths. Therefore, the dominant signal that remains is the result of lithic reduction. Because knapping is a reductive process, it creates a large amount of waste material and this debris dominates the artifact count numerically and volumetrically. Lithic pieces associated with other types of activities, such as wood working or...

  • Bridging the Gap: Understanding the empty Medieval landscape of post-Roman Aquitaine (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Zenobie Garrett.

    The end of the Roman Empire is marked archaeologically by an impressive shift in material culture. Changes in land organization and the use of more ephemeral building materials created a largely invisible and difficult to detect post-Roman landscape. Archaeologists initially assumed such landscapes were abandoned as a result of the political and economic chaos resulting from Rome’s fall. Work in northwest Europe in the past two decades, however has shown that new techniques can help locate these...

  • Courtyards, Plazas, Paths: Empty Spaces Full of Meaning (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Erin Nelson.

    In recent years, geophysical survey techniques have allowed archaeologists to identify subsurface cultural features—a dataset that has filled previously empty spaces on our site maps and made our interpretations of ancient landscapes all the richer. Significantly, geophysical datasets reveal not only features, but also the empty spaces in between those features. This paper explores the spaces between geophysical anomalies—the courtyards, plazas and paths that are common yet rarely investigated...

  • Enter the Void: A GIS Analysis of the Visibility of Empty Spaces at Copan, Honduras (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Justin King. Heather Richards-Rissetto. Kristin Landau.

    The concept of visibility: what or who is visible and who can see what, provides archaeologists with information about power, ideology, and interaction. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) allow us to quantify the visibility of archaeological features in landscapes and 3D visualizations and gives us a way to experience these past landscapes. In Maya archaeology, most visibility studies measure the visibility of monuments as a means to understand the role of architecture within ancient Maya...

  • A geoarchaeological approach to the interpretation of incomplete spatial data (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Eva Hulse.

    As in all archaeology, geoarchaeologists sample discrete loci and use those data to make generalizations about broad areas. When interpolating and extrapolating from known data points, errors may be introduced which can bias interpretation. Here, examples from CRM illustrate some of the challenges of analyzing discontinuous or otherwise incomplete spatial data. SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity...

  • The Importance of the Center: Exploring Circular Spaces in the Lower Mississippi Valley (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Megan Kassabaum.

    The mound-and-plaza complex is a hallmark of late prehistoric sites in the Lower Mississippi Valley. While these mounds and the spaces between them have been the focus of much productive research, many mound-and-plaza centers began as circular or oval-shaped middens and only later incorporated mounds. Moreover, sites organized around central "empty" spaces are common starting in the Archaic period. I argue that by examining these earlier and less frequently studied examples of "plazas," we can...

  • Manufacturing the Gap: Discrete Data, Archaeological Sites, and Cultural Resource Management (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Stephen Wagner.

    Archaeology in cultural resource management uses methods designed to cover large areas of land, however the results are rarely interpreted as part of a landscape. Instead, the focus is usually on the densest areas of artifacts, without consideration for the types of data that might lie within the less-dense areas. This is primarily a problem of interpretation, although it is exasperated through the use of discontiguous sampling units and through the continued requirements of out-dated methods...

  • Mapping Contagious Abandonment and Resilience, North of New York City (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only April Beisaw.

    The lands around New York City’s rural reservoirs contain ruins of residences, schools, churches, farms, and other businesses, displaced by watershed creation that began in the mid-nineteenth century. But even the forests around them are artifacts of the abandonment. Here, the spaces in between buildings and trash piles are the places where the region’s economy flourished before the reservoir changed everything. Treating each ruin as an individual site would ignore the interconnectedness of...

  • Networks through Time: Filling in the Gaps (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kevin Wiley.

    The Middle Neolithic circular ditched enclosure of Goseck in Central Germany was built and used during the Stichbandkeramik period. Subsequently, during the Gatersleben period, another ditched feature was constructed, which intersected the earlier enclosure. However, between these two periods, in the intervening century, during the Rössen period, the site was not in use. This temporal gap has been glossed over in narratives of the site that stress continuity. This paper will examine the...

  • Sighting sites: viewshed analysis and site boundaries in archaeological survey (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Elizabeth Watts-Malouchos. Zarko Tankosic.

    The identification, designation, and definition of the ubiquitous archaeological "site" are foundational to archaeological survey. These standard classificatory practices frequently emplace rigid spatial and temporal boundaries around human activities and portray past landscapes as simply consisting of "sites" and the unoccupied spaces outside of "sites". However, the people, places, and material things that constitute physical and social landscapes are dynamic, and the boundaries between them...

  • Space as place: understanding emptiness in archaeological landscapes (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Susan Johnston.

    One of the basic tenets of the landscape approach in archaeology is that we need to think beyond the idea of discrete sites and consider instead the use of an entire landscape (or landscapes). From this perspective, places in a landscape that do not contain "sites" as understood in the conventional sense were nevertheless woven into the lives of ancient people. This means that, in order to understand the past, we need to understand both the places where people left things behind and the places...