Where are the lives? Characterising settlements from small artefactual debris

Author(s): Rachel Ballantyne

Year: 2015


This paper is inspired by consideration of how charred plant macrofossil assemblages relate to past human lives, as one component of the small artefactual debris on settlements. Cultural decisions regarding activity location, rhythm and ‘waste’ deposition mean there can be wide variation in the archaeological remains of an otherwise identical plant processing activity; this issue is common in archaeology as many classes of material, including plant assemblages, are understood with models from actualistic studies. Our understanding of the past also pivots on the inherent temporality of all archaeological contexts, which embody many scales of process compared to present-day observed events (a duality much-debated from Schiffer and Binford onwards).

I thus present a strategy to identify patterning in small artefactual debris across excavated settlements by comparing multiple classes of materials from bulk sediment samples; and the implications of the results for understanding associated charred plant assemblages and lifeways. As daily life is the very basis of social meaning and identity, identifying and understanding small artefactual debris is vital since it is imbued with conscious and unconscious cultural decisions regarding the juxtaposition of materials. The case studies are all from rural Roman Britain, however the concepts and methods are widely applicable.

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Cite this Record

Where are the lives? Characterising settlements from small artefactual debris. Rachel Ballantyne. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395466)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;