3 Site (de)formation

The nature of the sites is one of the three archaeological correlates used in the Meuse Valley Project to obtain an insight into the economy. It is assumed that the artefacts on the site surface indicate activities performed there in the past. Of course we are well aware of the fact that site-formation processes (Binford 1979), post-depositional factors (Schiffer 1976) and archaeological investigation (Hammond 1980) may make the artefact composition an unreliable image of past behaviour at that location. Just imagine the consequences of reuse of a site, activities without material reflection, decomposition, erosion, visibility of finds in a field survey or a decision to take into account certain amateur collections when making an inventory. How the data from the core region of Venray are processed should therefore be in accordance with the limited quality. In the core region we counted the numbers of each type of artefact for each site. However, it is very doubtful whether these quantitative data on artefact composition are reliable enough to be used for the site-typological analysis.

Fig. 8 The information about the settlement pattern passes through three filters - site formation, post depositional processes and the influence of archaeological research - before it becomes our distribution map [Filtering information]

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more details about:

Filters on the site information

Assumptions about site assemblages

The use of guide artefacts for dating surface scatters

Datable sites in the core region Venray

Sites with inaccurate location

The importance of culturally clean sites

Before finding out which techniques are suitable for analysis of the surface sites, we should first examine which data are available. In 1987 and 1988, a survey was made of the finds in museums and private collections in the core region of Venray. Data were obtained about 356 sites. For dating the surface finds we used chronological guide artefacts. Hardly any artefact type occurs exclusively in a single archaeological phase, but some artefact types exhibit such a clear peak that they could be used as cultural 'markers'. Ratios of different artefact types, as often used in typological dating, cannot be used here. After all, the lack of certainty about the association is characteristic of surface finds. We therefore decided to consider 28 artefact types as guide artefacts. On 241 sites, guide artefacts have been found from one or more cultural phases. Using this method, the remaining 115 sites cannot be dated more accurately than Stone Age.

Documentation on the sites has not always received the same attention in the past. Some sources only mention the parish or hamlet where the finds occurred. Multiple find reports mentioning the same parish have not been combined, although in principle they might concern a single site. Regarding the sites that can be dated, the site location is sufficiently known for 192 find locations only.

A majority of sites are mixed chronologically, with guide artefacts from various phases. For the site-typological analysis it is essential that sites are 'culturally clean'. Only in that case may 'undatable' artefacts such as scrapers be assigned to a habitation phase and may the artefact composition of a site be studied. Only 64 sites are culturally clean. We adopted the principle that culturally clean sites may contain up to 10% guide artefacts from another phase. An extensive late Mesolithic site with a single Bandkeramic arrowhead is for us not too contaminated for a site-typological analysis. Nevertheless, too few sites remain for some phases; only for the late Mesolithic, the Michelsberg phase and the Beaker period are there (barely) enough sites. These small numbers of useful observations complicate the analysis even further.

phaseculturally clean sites
(>=90% guide artefacts from one phase)
late Palaeolithic0
early Mesolithic5
middle Mesolithic0
late Mesolithic14
Beaker period20
Table 1 The 'culturally clean' sites in the core region of Venray by period


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Last updated: Wed Feb 25 1998