TRACING TAPHONOMIC PROCESSES. MULTIPLE LAYER ANALYSIS OF CERAMIC DISTRIBUTION FROM SURFACE COLLECTION AND EXCAVATION AT THE EARLY BRONZE AGE SETTLEMENT OF VRÁBLE-FIDVAR
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Surface find distribution analysis is a standard tool within the archaeological prospection arsenal. Nevertheless, the results are often met with a certain degree of scepticism and disapproval. The most common objection revolves around the idea that recent agricultural impact causes too much ‘noise’. The Early Bronze Age (EBA) settlement of Vráble has been subjugated to intensive agricultural use over the past decades meaning that thousands of archaeological finds are scattered over the surface of the site. The richness of these finds and the availability of multi-layered information offer exceptional preconditions with which to evaluate the potential of surface distributions. In order to investigate the possibilities and limitations of these phenomena, we focussed on making a detailed analysis of the spatial pattern of ceramic finds within different scales and layers. The excavation data from the two key areas were used to analyse the correlation of archaeological features with the occurrence of sherds in different layers in order to understand and reconstruct the taphonomic processes involved. Our starting point took the form of a large-scale surface collection which covered the settlement and delivered detailed information regarding its internal structure. Subsequent steps analysed higher resolution data from collections in a 2 x 2 m grid as well as from topsoil sampling from 1 x 1 m squares. This data was juxtaposed with that from excavations which took place in the very same area at a later date. What was crucial here was the question of the transformation of the upper settlement layer to the recent arable topsoil and the traceability of EBA houses, paths or pits in terms of sherd distribution. The sum of these results has enabled us to evaluate both the possibilities and limitations of the spatial analysis of ceramic finds. Specifically, this example illustrates the potential of revealing more general structures in a given settlement through analysis of ceramic distributions.
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