Ceramics and Settlement in the Cedar Mesa Area, Southeastern Utah: A Methodological Approach
Mills, Barbara Joan
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This dissertation focuses on the development of methods for using one class of artifacts, ceramics, to independently evaluate settlement variability from archaeological sites. Previous approaches to the study of archaeological settlement patterns have emphasized the use of architectural features for analysis and interpretation. Although architectural remains are an important and valid basis for looking at settlement patterns, this class of artifacts provides different kinds of information on site use than do portable artifacts.The basic principle governing the methodology is that ceramic assemblages from archaeological contexts are the cumulative product of discard processes that occur throughout the use of a site. To understand variation between sites it is necessary to understand the dynamics of ceramic assemblage formation. A model of ceramic assemblage formation is presented using ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological data. Three settlement pattern variables -- range of activities, duration of occupation, and site reoccupation -- are added to the model and their effects are outlined. Analytical techniques sensitive to interassemblage variation are identified including diversity measures that take into account sample size. To apply these techniques, the units of analysis must be functional classes. Specific techniques for classifying artifacts in functional terms are detailed, based on the analysis of size and shape attributes recorded on over 2000 whole vessels from the Anasazi area.The model and analytical techniques are applied to the analysis of some 46,000 sherds from the Cedar Mesa area. The results indicate that range of activities, one of the most common definitions of site function in the Southwest, does not account for differences between assemblages. Instead, differences in duration of occupation coupled with absolute differences in ceramic class uselives were identified as responsible for the observed variation. While some of the interassemblage variation is reflected in feature content, additional significant variation is not predictable from site features alone. Using the independently derived model of ceramic assemblage formation, additional variation in settlement patterns at the regional level is identified and interpreted.