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Methodology of survey archaeology

Methodology of survey archaeology

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A survey archaeologist inevitably works with superficial data; potsherds from the ploughsoil (the so-called surface artefact scatters), removed from their original stratigraphical context by a manifold of natural and anthropogenic processes, often collected by students under harsh climatic (or social) conditions. In other words, field survey data is inherently biased in a great number of ways. Because the focus of survey archaeology has initially been on the distribution of sites at the regional and intra-regional level, and related research questions, completeness of site distributions has ever been an issue. To cope with this problem (and to prove its very own raison d’être) survey archaeology has always been a discipline with great emphasis on methodology. Strongly influenced by the focus in the processual/New Archaeology on scientific practice and argumentation (i.e. quantification and generalization), survey archaeologists became aware of the importance of recognizing all possible biases and attempted to deal with them by applying new methods and techniques, not only in field-walking strategies but also in the post-processing of the survey data.

Because of the great variety of archaeological landscapes, no one single, ideal set of methods suitable to all survey projects exists. Moreover, the study of survey methodology is an ongoing debate, based on all kinds of new, often experimental, research. Therefore, it is impossible for the following sections to provide a complete overview of survey methodology nor can they adduce a single set of ideal strategies and techniques. They merely offer a synopsis of the wide arrange of survey methods commonly used today and in the past decades.

Research topics: Survey Methodology