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An Extensive Alternative to Intensive Survey - Point Sampling in the Riu Mannu Survey Project Sardinia - Pieter Van de Velde

An Extensive Alternative to Intensive Survey - Point Sampling in the Riu Mannu Survey Project Sardinia - Pieter Van de Velde

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Notwithstanding considerable advances inMediterranean archaeological field surveys,there are several problems in field practicewhich have not been dealt with satisfactorily.In this paper I present a non-traditional fieldsurvey technique developed to deal with anumber of methodical and technical problemssimultaneously: continuous vs. discrete obser-vations, archaeological visibility, and field andwalker effects. Illustrations are drawn from theRiu Mannu Survey Project on Sardinia, carriedout between 1992 and 1999. In this project,our intention has been to reconstruct the his-tory of a rural area in the west-central region of that island, south of Oristano (Figure 1).The general research area of the projectincludes three distinct geomorphologicregions: the limestone and marl hills of theMarmilla; the dry Campidano plain with itsstony slope wash filling interlaced with basalticoutcrops; and the Arborèa, a coastal, sandyarea. The last was originally a marshy wetland,which was reclaimed at the beginning of thetwentieth century. The fieldwork of the RiuMannu Project focused on the transition zonesbetween the plain and the marshes, andbetween the plain and the hills that were sys-tematically sampled by means of 1
5 km tran-sects (Figure 2). Every autumn four to sixweeks were spent in the field after the plough-ing season (September/October). Field crewsconsisted of about 10 persons (3 staff and 6–7students), occasionally complemented by spe-cialists (geologist, ceramicist, biologist) forshorter periods.The research questions and some prelimi-nary reports have been published elsewhere(Annis
et al.
1995; 1997). The purpose of the
An Extensive Alternative To Intensive Survey: Point Sampling in theRiu Mannu Survey Project, Sardinia
Pieter Van de Velde
Faculteit der Archeologie, Universiteit Leiden, Postbus 9515, NL 2300 RA Leiden, Netherlands
Email: P.van.de.Velde@arch.leidenuniv.nl
 Intensive surveying is restricted to limited areas. As it is a line-walking method, there is a smearingeffect on the results from averaging over larger stretches of land, compounded by archaeological visibil-ity problems, the definition of ‘diagnostics’ and walkers’ idiosyncrasies. Numerical correction cannot  produce qualitative differentiation, however, and thus reliability (replicability) of the results is compro-mised. The present paper discusses a field methodology in which systematically arranged (gridded) points of two square metres are cleared of vegetation, and all non-soil objects in the points taken in for  further analysis. That way, the definition of ‘diagnostics’, most of the time conceived of as practical/logistic in nature, but in the final count a reliability problem (e.g. Bintliff 
et al.
1999), is obvi-ated and additional fabric analysis considerably enhances the database. Numerical analysis of the results from nine field seasons of the Riu Mannu Survey Project in Sardinia shows that visibility effects arereduced far below customary confidence levels. Illustrations are provided by a general description of the finds in one transect and a more detailed analysis of the finds from a Punic farm site.
Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 14.1 (2001) 24-52
02 Q-JMA 14.1_VanDeVelde 11/9/01 1:01 pm Page 24
present paper is to discuss a number of methodical problems in field surveys that havenot been discussed adequately as yet, not evenin recent symposia (e.g. the Siena symposiumin 1995 [Francovich
et al
. 2000]; Alcock 
et al
.1994), and to suggest alternative field tech-niques which may resolve some of the prob-lems associated with artefact visibility andrecovery.
The Riu Mannu Survey as a LandscapeArchaeological Project
As a summary description of the field tech-niques normally employed in a well-thought-out survey, the following quotation is notatypical (Bintliff 
et al.
1999: 150):
…the field teams not only carried out ourstandard procedure of recording surface sherddensity for every transect walked, togetherwith surface visibility, but also collected asample of the datable surface material from‘off–site’ areas. The field–walkers, surveyinga 2 m wide strip at 15 m intervals betweenwalkers, and recording a count of every visi-ble artefact, were also instructed to collect asmall sample of sherds as appeared especiallydiagnostic for dating (feature sherds, variedfabric and decoration types).
It is generally the case that transects or indi-vidual fields are the observation units, that thedata are integrated per unit visited, and thatby aggregating the units an estimate of thearchaeological record in the region is obtainedthat is usually described as the density of findsper sq m. Unless the survey design is simplyintended to score as many
as possible (e.g.the Biferno survey: Barker 2000), the firstproblem that emerges is the conversion of thewalkers’ counts to densities. From a methodi-cal point of view this problem involves thetransposition of line-counts to surface parame-ters, or of inducing two-dimensional figuresfrom one-dimensional data. Such an upgrad-ing, however, is only valid when the artefacts’distribution in a field is homogeneous, whichis hardly ever the case. In a discontinuous dis-tribution the reported artefact density for thefield will be proportional to the area with findsover total field size. The resulting figures areaverages that are grossly misleading. The den-sities are too low to give a reliable measure of the properties of the concentration, but toohigh for the area outside the core. In nearly
 An Extensive Alternative to Intensive Survey
Figure 1.
Sardinia and the area of the Riu MannuSurvey Project.
02 Q-JMA 14.1_VanDeVelde 11/9/01 1:01 pm Page 25
empty transects, units or
elds the same biasappears. It is the de
nition of the transect or
eld as the observation unit which causes aninappropriate smoothing of the counts (e.g.the Agro Pontino survey: Voorrips
et al.
1991), as modern
elds are agriculturally andhistorically constituted, and bear no intrinsicrelation to archaeological distributions. Theartefact densities per square metre or hectare,estimated from the artefact counts and thesurface size of the
eld, are geographical ratherthan archaeological parameters. This sameproblem arises, of course, when the
elds arereplaced by regular intervals as the observa-tional units (such as counts per 100 m, or anyother length; e.g. the Nemea Valley Project:Alcock 
et al.
1994), since the
nds are aggre-gated over non-archaeological units even if these are independent of present situations.As long as
eld sizes and/or line tracts arelarger than or even on the order of the size of the phenomenon to be examined, this prob-lem will persist. This methodological problemof the appropriate measurement of archaeo-logical artefact densities is discussed below(under
Point Sampling
).A similar dif 
culty is that traditional linewalking only collects
artefacts, while26
Van de Velde
Figure 2.
Riu Mannu Survey Project: the transect sample.
02 Q-JMA 14.1_VanDeVelde 11/9/01 1:01 pm Page 26

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