Floor formation processes and the interpretation of site activity areas

an ethnoarchaeological study of turf buildings at Thverá, northeast Iceland

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Abstract

The importance of identifying activity areas on archaeological sites has focussed much ethnoarchaeological and geoarchaeological research on floor formation processes, especially the cultural practices and preservation conditions affecting the distributions of artefacts, organic residues, and elements. In order to broaden the understanding of site formation processes in northern regions, an ethnoarchaeological study integrating geoarchaeological methods was conducted at abandoned 19th- and early 20th-century turf buildings at the farm of Thverá, northeast Iceland. Micromorphological analysis of the floor deposits in different rooms, compared to the former resident's descriptions of how space had been used and how floors had been maintained, revealed that only a few activities resulted in the accumulation of residues that were diagnostic of how space had been used on a daily basis. Instead, floor layers were dominated by residues associated with maintenance events, such as the intentional spreading of ash, and the laying of fresh turf. This study highlighted the fact that "dirty", "clean", "comfortable" and "waste", are socially constructed concepts that have a significant impact on the composition of occupation surfaces and must be given careful consideration by archaeologists attempting to spatially analyse residues in floor deposits to interpret site activity areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-137
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Volume31
Issue number2
Early online date9 Jan 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

Fingerprint

area of activity
Iceland
building
interpretation
artifact
diagnostic
farm
Ashes
occupation
resident
Deposits
event
Farms
Formation Process
Northeast
Activity Areas
Chemical analysis

Keywords

  • site formation processes
  • activity areas
  • space
  • floors
  • site maintenance
  • ethnoarchaeology
  • geoarchaeology
  • soil micromorphology
  • turf houses
  • Iceland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology

Cite this

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abstract = "The importance of identifying activity areas on archaeological sites has focussed much ethnoarchaeological and geoarchaeological research on floor formation processes, especially the cultural practices and preservation conditions affecting the distributions of artefacts, organic residues, and elements. In order to broaden the understanding of site formation processes in northern regions, an ethnoarchaeological study integrating geoarchaeological methods was conducted at abandoned 19th- and early 20th-century turf buildings at the farm of Thver{\'a}, northeast Iceland. Micromorphological analysis of the floor deposits in different rooms, compared to the former resident's descriptions of how space had been used and how floors had been maintained, revealed that only a few activities resulted in the accumulation of residues that were diagnostic of how space had been used on a daily basis. Instead, floor layers were dominated by residues associated with maintenance events, such as the intentional spreading of ash, and the laying of fresh turf. This study highlighted the fact that {"}dirty{"}, {"}clean{"}, {"}comfortable{"} and {"}waste{"}, are socially constructed concepts that have a significant impact on the composition of occupation surfaces and must be given careful consideration by archaeologists attempting to spatially analyse residues in floor deposits to interpret site activity areas.",
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author = "Milek, {Karen B}",
note = "This research was funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship, a United Kingdom Overseas Research Studentship, the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, a Pelham Roberts Research Studentship, Muriel Onslow Research Studentships from Newnham College, Cambridge, Canadian Centennial Scholarships from the Canadian High Commission in London, and travel grants from the Dame Bertha Phillpots Memorial Fund and the Gamble Fund, University of Cambridge, and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.",
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N2 - The importance of identifying activity areas on archaeological sites has focussed much ethnoarchaeological and geoarchaeological research on floor formation processes, especially the cultural practices and preservation conditions affecting the distributions of artefacts, organic residues, and elements. In order to broaden the understanding of site formation processes in northern regions, an ethnoarchaeological study integrating geoarchaeological methods was conducted at abandoned 19th- and early 20th-century turf buildings at the farm of Thverá, northeast Iceland. Micromorphological analysis of the floor deposits in different rooms, compared to the former resident's descriptions of how space had been used and how floors had been maintained, revealed that only a few activities resulted in the accumulation of residues that were diagnostic of how space had been used on a daily basis. Instead, floor layers were dominated by residues associated with maintenance events, such as the intentional spreading of ash, and the laying of fresh turf. This study highlighted the fact that "dirty", "clean", "comfortable" and "waste", are socially constructed concepts that have a significant impact on the composition of occupation surfaces and must be given careful consideration by archaeologists attempting to spatially analyse residues in floor deposits to interpret site activity areas.

AB - The importance of identifying activity areas on archaeological sites has focussed much ethnoarchaeological and geoarchaeological research on floor formation processes, especially the cultural practices and preservation conditions affecting the distributions of artefacts, organic residues, and elements. In order to broaden the understanding of site formation processes in northern regions, an ethnoarchaeological study integrating geoarchaeological methods was conducted at abandoned 19th- and early 20th-century turf buildings at the farm of Thverá, northeast Iceland. Micromorphological analysis of the floor deposits in different rooms, compared to the former resident's descriptions of how space had been used and how floors had been maintained, revealed that only a few activities resulted in the accumulation of residues that were diagnostic of how space had been used on a daily basis. Instead, floor layers were dominated by residues associated with maintenance events, such as the intentional spreading of ash, and the laying of fresh turf. This study highlighted the fact that "dirty", "clean", "comfortable" and "waste", are socially constructed concepts that have a significant impact on the composition of occupation surfaces and must be given careful consideration by archaeologists attempting to spatially analyse residues in floor deposits to interpret site activity areas.

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