Spatial Structure and the Temporality of Assemblage Formation: A Comparative Study of Seven Open Air Middle Paleolithic Sites in France
AuthorClark, Amy Elizabeth
AdvisorKuhn, Steven L.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe spatial arrangements of artifacts and features within archaeological sites have often been used to isolate activity areas and draw inferences about site function. This approach assumes that objects found in close proximity were used for the same task, and that artifacts are usually discarded where they were used. However, the location of artifact abandonment often has more to do with patterns of discard and use/reuse of the site throughout time than with the function or location of activities. This dissertation uses a comparative framework to address how the observed spatial structure of Middle Paleolithic sites in France sites was formed through centrifugal dispersion of lithic artifacts, i.e. the displacement of artifacts between their creation and the final location of their abandonments. Seven Middle Paleolithic sites were included in this study. The sites were excavated over large areas, from 200 to more than 2000 m². They range from small single component occupation sites to lithic raw material workshops with assemblages of more than 15,000 artifacts. The movement of artifacts is tracked through an analysis of sets of refitted lithics and through comparisons of the distributions of multiple classes of artifact across areas of the sites with differing artifact densities. Studying the distribution of lithic technological classes and tracking their movement through refitting sets provides new perspectives on the ways Paleolithic archaeological assemblages and sites were formed. The temporality of site use had a much greater impact on site structure than did activities that took place at any one point during a site's occupation. These data enabled me to assess the relative lengths and numbers of occupations for the seven sites in this study. The approach taken in this study not only provides a clearer understanding of site formation and structure than do studies that strive to isolate "activity areas," but it also provides information about the sizes of past human groups and the ways they moved among different localities on the landscape. Such insights are integral to the study of land use, mobility and economic adaptations among Paleolithic hunter-gatherers.
Degree ProgramGraduate College