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Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research

Off-Site Pottery Distributions: A Regional and Interregional Perspective


Author(s): John Bintliff and Anthony Snodgrass
Source: Current Anthropology, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jun., 1988), pp. 506-513
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological
Research
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2743472
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506 | CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY

NegevandtheSinai.Paperpresented at thecolloquium"L'ur-
banisationde la Palestinea l'age du Bronzeancien:Bilanet per- Off-SitePotteryDistributions:
spectivesdes recherches actuelles,"October20-24, Centrede
RechercheFrancaisde Jerusalem. A Regionaland Interregional
ROSEN, A. M. I986. Environmental
AgeofPalestine.Paperpresented
changein theEarlyBronze
at thecolloquium"L'urban- Perspective'
isationde la Palestinea l'age du Bronzeancien:Bilanet perspec-
tivesdes recherches actuelles,"October20-24, Centrede Re-
chercheFrancaisde Jerusalem. JOHN BINTLIFF AND ANTHONY SNODGRASS
ROSEN, S. A. I983a. Lithicsin theBronzeandIronAgesin Israel.
Ph.D. diss.,University ofChicago,Chicago,Ill. School ofArchaeological Sciences, Bradford
. I983b. The CanaaneanbladeandtheEarlyBronzeAge. University,BradfordBD7 iDP/Museum of Classical
Israel Exploration Joumal 33:15-29. Archaeology,Cambridge University,Cambridge,U.K.
. I983c. The tabularscrapertrade:A modelformaterial 9 IX 87
culture dispersion. Bulletin of the American Schools for Orien-
tal Research249:79-86.
. I984. KvishHarif:Preliminaryinvestigations
at a late Since ig80 the Cambridge/Bradford BoeotianExpedi-
Neolithicsitein the CentralNegev.Pal6orient Io: II-I21. tion,an archaeological
surveyunderourjointdirection,
. I987a. Demographictrendsin theNegevHighlands:Pre- has been recording the densityof pre-modernsurface
liminary resultsfromtheEmergency Survey.Bulletinofthe potteryin a landscapeofCentralGreece(Bintliff
i985,
American Schools for Oriental Research 266:45-58.
. I987b. "The potentialsoflithicanalysisin theChal- Bintliff
and Snodgrassi985). Initiallyourpurposewas to
colithicofthenorthern Negev,"in ShiqmimI. EditedbyT. E. justifyquantitatively
ourseparationofhabitationsites
Levy,pp. 295-3i2, 6 Io-i2. BritishArchaeological ReportsIn- fromless permanenttracesof humanactivity("non-
ternational Series. sites"or"off-site
activityareas"),since,untilrecently,
a
I985. Nahal MitnanII (in He-
ROSEN, S. A., AND M. HAIMAN.
brew).HadashotArhkeologiyot 86:36.
"site"foundbyfieldsurveywas distinguished merelyby
ROTHENBERG, B. 1972. Were these King Solomon's mines? Lon- qualitativejudgementor even on purelyhistorical
don: SteinandDay. grounds.Althoughthis firstaim provedrealistic,we
ROWTON, M. 1973. Autonomy and nomadism in WesternAsia. soon foundthatoff-site potteryscattersformedan al-
Orientalia42:247-58. mostunbrokencarpetthroughout thosesectorsofthe
. 1977. Dimorphic structureand theparasocial element.
Joumal of Near Eastern Studies 36:I8I-98. landscapethat were amenable to human settlementand
RUS SELL, K. w. I986. The ecologyand energetics A secondaryaim,therefore,
ofearlypastoral exploitation. has beenthe
and cerealfoodproduction in theNearEastandNorthAfrica. elucidationof the processesthatmayhave led to the
Ph.D. diss.,University ofUtah,Salt Lake City,Utah. creationand preservationofsuchan off-site landscape,
SERVELLO, F. 1976. "Nahal Divshon:A Pre-Pottery NeolithicB
huntingcamp," in Prehistoryand paleoenvironments in the
given thatthevast majority ofthe pottery observedbe-
CentralNegev,Israel,vol. I. EditedbyA. Marks,pp. 349-70. longsto the Classical Greekand Late Romanperiods,
Dallas: SouthernMethodistUniversity. withlessercontributions fromprehistoric, Hellenistic
SIMMONS, A. H. I980. EarlyNeolithicsettlement and economic to earlierRoman,medieval,andpost-medieval times.
behaviorin theWestern NegevdesertofthesouthemLevant.
AnnArbor:University Microfilms.
SHERRATT, A. I98I. "Ploughandpastoralism:Aspectsofthesec- THE RECORDING OF OFF-SITE DATA
ondaryproductsrevolution,"
in Patternsofthepast: Studiesin
honourofDavid Clarke.EditedbyI. Hodder,G. Isaac,andN. Morethan40 squarekilometers ofrurallandscapein the
Hammond,pp. 261-305. Cambridge:Cambridge University provinceof Boeotia,CentralGreece,have been field-
Press.
. I983. The secondary ofanimalsin theOld
exploitation
walkedby membersof the Boeotiaprojectsince ig80.
World.WorldArchaeologyI 5 (I:90-104. Thefield-walking
proceedsin regular transects, withob-
SMITH, P., AND L. HORVITZ. I984. Radiographicevidencefor servers
normallyspacedat I5 -mintervals. It is assumed
changingpatternsofanimalexploitationin the southernLe- thatgroundobservationis limitedto a rangeofapproxi-
vant. Joumnal of Archaeological Science 11:467-75. mately 21/2m on eitherside of each field-walker;hence
TCHERNOV, E., AND 0. BAR-YOSEF. i982. Animal exploitation
in thePre-Pottery
Neolithicperiodat WadiTbeik,southern thedirectcoverage, in strips5 m in width,amountsto
Sinai. Pal6orient 8(2):17-37. one-third of the overallgroundarea in each transect
WEIR, S. 1976. The Bedouin: Aspects of the material culture of walked.As theobservers pass alongtheirswathes,they
Jordan.London: World of Islam Festival Publishing Co. recordvisiblesurfacepotteryon a hand-heldcounting
I980. Prehistoryof the eastern
WENDORF, F., AND R. S CHILD.
Sahara.New York:AcademicPress.
deviceorclicker.At theendofeachtransect, individual
and collectivecountsand an assessmentofthesurface
visibilityare recordedby teamleaders;areaswithun-
usuallyhighcountsmaythenbe studiedingreater detail

i. ? I988 byThe Wenner-Gren


Foundation
forAnthropological
Research. All rights reserved oo0I-3204/88/2903-ooo8$I.oo. We
areverygrateful
formanyhelpful
comments
inthepreparation
of
thisarticle
from,
amongst M. Kirkby,
others, B.Davies,
J.Thornes,
D. Davidson, M. Millett, C. Haselgrove,P. J. Reynolds,T.
Whitelaw,C. Gaffney,
and S. Limbrey.
VOlUMe 29, Number 3, Iiine i988 1507

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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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igpi

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in.:
zR.: Z:i:
z:eN;;;; MAM
Not surveyed :j:j
..... ....... ..............
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...........................
..........................

FIG. i. A typicalBoeotian densityplot, showingan area immediatelywest of thehuge citysite ofancient


urbanperiphery;diagonalstriping,over 6oo
Thespiai. Solid areas,sites (withserial numbers);checkerboard,
sherdsper hectare; finedots, ioo-6oo sherdsperhectare;wider-spaceddots,40-100 sherdsper hectare; hatching,
10-40 sherdsper hectare.In thenorthernsector,thegroundslopes steadilyfromnorthto south; in the southern,
it is virtuallylevel.

as potential"sites"; otherwise, the countsare multi- intensivesurveys. Byfirstattempting an explanation of


pliedbythreeandusedtoconstruct totaldensity plotsof thisphenomenon, we hopeto offer at leasta regionally
thelandscape,kilometer bykilometer (fig.I). validanswerto theselatterquestions.
This surfacedistributionis thusan observedfact.In
attempting to explainit,we pose a seriesofquestions: MODELS FOR OFF-SITE SCATTERS
i. How didtheoriginal horizontaldistribution across
thelandscapeoccur? One modelforoff-site a featureofarchaeolog-
scatters,
2. How farhas displacement takenplacein the verti- ical is
folklore, themythical donkey offwhosebackpots
cal dimension, and through whatprocesses? are supposedto have fallen,leavingtrailsof sherdsin
3. Whatis the relationship, whetheron- or off-site,otherwiseunimportant zones of the landscape.Given
betweenthepresentsurfacescatterandsubsurface con- thesheerquantityofoff-site potteryand its carpet-like
centrations? as
distribution, well as theclearcorrelation ofitsdensity
Afteroffering ourpreferredanswerto Questioni, we withproximity to occupationsites (fig.I), thismodel
shallraisea numberofproblems involvedin Question2 mustbe ruledout as a majorcausalexplanation.
andthenturnto an issuewhichbearson boththisand A secondmodel,testedandfoundconvincing inNorth
the thirdquestion,namely,the remarkable degreeof Americansurveys,relatesoff-site scattersto activity
geographical variationof surfacedensitiesrecordedin areas less intensively used thanthe "normal"perma-
5o8 | CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY

nentoccupationsite.Thisinterpretation is bettersuited Itseemsclear,therefore, thatthedatarequirea further


to a patternwithat leastsomedegreeoflocalconcentra- modelto explainat leasta majorpartofthecharacteris-
tionthanto a virtuallycontinuousspreadof artifacts tic patternin theBoeotianlandscape.The modelto be
like ours,unless one is dealingwith special circum- introduced here appearsat presentto offerthe most
stancessuch as the discarding of projectilepointsin satisfactory explanation forthe carpet-like distribution
primehuntingzones (see Thomas I973). Althoughit is we have described. Put simply,it proposesthatprehis-
morethanlikelythatwithintheBoeotiancarpetofoff- toric,ancient,medieval,and earlymodernfarmers in
sitepotterythereexistminoractivity fociwhosebound- Boeotiasystematically collectedanimalandhumanex-
arieshavebecomeblurred overthemillennia, thedistri- crement, together withhouseholdrubbish, andregularly
bution actuallyrecordedover the landscapeargues spreadit acrossthe cultivatedlandscapeas fertiliser.
againstthismodelas a primary explanation. Largeareas Leaveningthis mainly organicmaterialwas some
displayrelativelyuniformdensitylevels,and density ceramicdebris-brokenpots,house tile-which thus
tendsto decreaseregularly withdistancefroma known foundits way continuously into thosesectorsof the
site. landscapemostassiduouslycultivated.
A thirdmodelemphasisestheroleofnaturaltransport Thatancientpopulations storedfertilising manureon
and post-depositional disturbance. Originating in dis- theirfarmsandspreadit overtheirfieldsis wellattested
creteconcentrations or "sites,"individual in thehistoricalsources(perhapsthebest-known
of artifacts, refer-
piecesareremoved fromtheircontextbyrain,wind,and encebeingthedescription ofthemanureheapbesidethe
incidentalhuman activity(especiallyploughing)and palace in Ithakain Book I7 ofthe Odyssey).Medieval
smearedacrossthelandscapeintervening betweenoccu- landscapesin WesternEuropehavebeenrecognised for
pationsitesand otheractivityloci. Commonsense ob- sometimeas havingbeencoveredwithpotsherds resid-
servationof surfacefindson sites confirms thatthis ual fromnight-soil disposal.A recentsophisticated anal-
modelaccountsforsomecontribution ofartifacts to the ysisofhistoric andprehistoric anthropogenic soilsinthe
off-sitesphere,and experiments have shownthatpot- Northern Isles ofScotlandhas beenable to distinguish
sherds planted in the immediatesubsoil undergo betweenlandscapesin whichsoil enrichment was prac-
significant lateral displacementwithinseveralyears tisedto countera naturaldeclineinfertility andthosein
(Ammermann I985). However, currentexperimentsby whichmiddenand manurematerialsimplyaccumu-
Reynolds(i982 and personalcommunication,I987) sug- latedat thefarmbecauselocal soilswereinherently fer-
gestthatlong-term lateralmovementbeyonda site of tile (Davidson I986).
deposition is likelyto be rare.The creationof"haloes" Ourcurrent view,preparatory to moredetailedanaly-
withdecreasingdensityas one movesoutwardsfrom sis of the exactcomposition and micro-distribution of
sitesmightperhapsbe connected, in thissamefashion, off-site material,is therefore that the most probable
withsite weathering. But whilstit is undeniablethat primefactorunderlying the off-site pottery scattersis
artifactsspreadout fromdomesticsitesin thisway,it deliberate manuring. This is followed, bothin timeand
shouldbe equallyclearthatthedistribution ofsuchoff- in importance, by a substantialimpactfromlateral
sitematerialoughttobe highlypreferential inlandscape transport, especiallydownslope, ofweathering products
context.Potteryerodingfroma site shouldhave min- bybothnatureandtheplough.Lessercontributions will
imal upslopedistribution, particularlyat any distance have comefromtemporary activityareas,vestigialdo-
fromthesupposedsource,andbarriers to long-distancemesticsites,andcasualartifact loss.Whether thereader
movementshouldbe commonenoughto preventsite acceptsthisrelativeranking as reasonableorwouldpre-
materialfromreachingeverysectorof a settledland- ferto altertheorderofsignificance, theexistenceofthe
scape.Furthermore, it has beenarguedthatsurfacepot- potterycarpetis an undoubtedand striking featureof
teryundergoesregularstressfromnaturaland human the "fossillandscape"thatis worthyofmoredetailed
activitythat should reducelong-exposed and much- attentionfor otherreasonsand, indeed,in its own
travelledpiecesto a highlywornandfragmented condi- right.
tion.The Boeotianoff-site material,fromourprelimi-
naryinvestigations, demonstrates clear contradictions
ofthesepredictions. The off-sitecarpetstretches across EROSIONAL HISTORY AND SURFACE POTTERY
the landscape,ignoring naturalbarriersto movement
fromknownsites;thereis plentiful materialfoundup- Froma combination ofempirical experiment andtheory,
slope fromexistingsites and beyondthe reasonable Kirkby and Kirkby (I976) suggested that abandoned
scopeofploughing smears;thereis no regulardistinc- habitationsitesunderwent a seriesofprocesseson dif-
tion in qualityof preservation betweensherdsfound ferenttime-scales.Initially,decayproducedan abun-
withina site and sherdsfromoutlyingquartersofthe danceofmaterialon thesurface, butin themediumto
landscape.Thattheoff-site pottery doestendtobe more longtermthissurfacepottery sufferedprogressive attri-
heavily concentrateddownslopefromknown sites tion.Humanandanimalmovement acrossa former site
(ReynoldsI 982: 325), whilst conceivablyreflectinga lo- comminuted sherds,andthephysicalnatureofthepot-
cationalpreference foran occupationsiteabovean area terymadeit verysusceptible to stresses(inducedbyex-
of concentrated humanactivity,does,however,more posureto varyingdegreesof warmthand moistureon
plausiblyreflect theinfluence ofdownslopetransport. and withinthe soil) thathastenedthebreak-upofpot
Volume 29, Number 3, JuneI988 1509

fragments. Kirkby andKirkby predicted a progressive at- withtraditionalviews,forhe maintainsthatcurrent an-


tackon potsherds withage (seealso Reynoldsi982:3 i6) nual weathering ratesare neitherhighnorparticularly
and,assuminga continualgrowth in soil depthoverthe damagingto theregolith. Rather,it is extremeerosion
landscape,arguedthateventually onlya tinyproportionevents,occurringat intervalsof a centuryor more,
oftheoriginalsurface collectionwouldremainunburied whichareresponsible formajorphasesoferosionacross
forsurfaceobservation. thelandscape.The factthatlargeareasoftheMediterra-
Fromthisstudy,it wouldseemto followthatsitesof neanlandsarecurrently coveredbysoilsofan immature
increasing agewouldbecomeless andlessvisibleon the profile(A[B]C,A/C,or even C) is, he wouldargue,the
surfaceand thepottery morefragmented and in poorer resultof truncated development broughtaboutby ex-
condition. Butitmustbe notedthatKirkby andKirkby's tremerainfallevents,which workeddifferently on
assumedprogressive soil increment, gradually burying highlysusceptiblelithologies.
sites,was derivedfromfieldwork in alluvialplainenvi- The implicationsof Thomes's Spanishresearchfor
ronmentsand may not be applicableat all to non- Boeotiaare clear-cut. Giventhenatureofthesoils and
riverine zones such as thehill-landofBoeotiawhence climateand an earlyhistoryoflandclearance,we may
oursampleemanates.Yet althoughtheprogressive dis- confidently
inferrecurrent phasesofsoilerosiontohave
appearanceofsurfacepottery intothesubsoilowingto takenplace since BronzeAge times,witha recurrent
alluvialburialis noteverywhere appropriate, otherem- truncation ofthe soil profile.In contrast, therefore, to
piricalstudieshaveshownthatsurface sitesnonetheless Kirkby andKirkby's modelsituationofpositivesoil in-
suffer appreciable downward loss ofartifacts as a result crement oversites,we mustnowconsidertheeffects on
of such processesas the burrowing activitiesof soil surfacedensitiesofcyclesoftopsoilstripping.
macro-and microfauna and pressureexertedbyhuman Recentresearchon theerosionalhistory oftheGreek
and animal movementover the surface(Hemingway landscapefitssurprisingly well withThornes'spredic-
I98I). Indeed, it is widely attestedby practitionersof tions.The mostimportant advancecamein i980, with
fieldsurveythatsurfacesitesappearand disappearin theappearanceofa well-documented regionalstudyof
one localityfromseasonto season;fortheBoeotiasur- thechangingenvironment ofAtticaby a Belgianteam
veythisoccurredevenduringa singlefieldseason(es- (Paepe,Hatziotis,and Thorez I980). Carefulgeomor-
peciallythrough ploughing events,whichcan bothre- phologicaland pedologicalstudies,combinedwithar-
expose and reburysurfacesites). Peter Reynolds's chaeologyand history, showeda seriesofcyclesduring
experimentswith buried sherd replics at Butser the main phasesof farming exploitation (fromBronze
(i982:322) demonstratethat I6-I7% ofthe total subsoil Age to present), consistingof lengthyperiodsof land-
pottery maybe brought to thesurfaceaftereachplough- scape stability(soil growthand maintenance)punc-
ing event.Demonstrably here,and undeniably foran- tuatedbyshortphasesoflandscapeinstability (soilloss
cientsitesvisibleon thesurfacetoday,mostofthisma- and riveralluviation).Paepe and his team correlated
terialmustreenterthe subsoil(cf.similarresultsfor thesecycleswithsecularchangesof climate.Remark-
lithicsin FrinkI984). able confirmationforthe Atticsequencehas now ap-
Recent work by Thornes in south-eastern Spain pearedfroma regionallandscapestudyin the Argolid
(Thornesand Gilman I983, Gilman and Thornes I985) peninsula(Popeand VanAndelI984). A virtually iden-
has openedup a majornew perspective on surfacepot- tical sequenceof stableand unstablephasesis docu-
terybyconcentrating on thechanging natureofthesoil mentedwith the same chronology as in Attica.The
matrix.Thornesarguesthat,whilethegeomorphologyAmerican Argolidteam,however, minimises theimpor-
of the Mediterranean landscapesuggestscontinualse- tanceofclimaticfluctuations, postulating insteadthat
vereerosion,thisimpression is verymisleading, as the phasesofintenseerosionareassociatedwithdepopula-
linesofplateaux,hillslopes,andvalleyshaveremained tionand neglectofterraces. It is certainlystriking that
littlechangedduringtheHoloceneeraandarerelictsof such timesof destabilisation ofthe landscapesucceed
earlierweathering processes.Exceptions to thisgeneral- apparentpopulationpeaks, such as the EarlyBronze
isationare highlymobilesectorsinvolvingcliffretreat Age,theClassicalera,and theLateRomanera,butthe
and upwardmigration ofstreamheadwaters. Butifthe absenceofa corresponding eventafterthecollapseofthe
shapeof landforms is relatively stableovermillennia, Mycenaean(Late BronzeAge) civilisationis a serious
the oppositeis trueof the thincoatingof weathering flawin theargument.
productsoverlying the landforms-theregolithor soil Forthe purposesofthispaper,it is notnecessaryto
cover.HereThornes'sdetailedresearchsuggestsa dra- pursuein detailthisfascinating questionofprocesses,
maticinstability duringtheHolocene.Once clearedof sinceourprimeconcernis to confirm thestronglikeli-
naturalvegetation,Mediterranean soils show a wide hoodofregularsoil truncation and redeposition in the
rangeofsusceptibility to naturalerosion.Amongstthe long-settled landscapeofBoeotia.Whatever solutionwe
mosteasilyerodedaremarlsandsandstones ofmarineor propose,likewise,forthesimilarly unresolved question
lacustrine origin,sediments whosesoilshaveprovedto oftheoriginofsurfacepottery we mustaccept
carpets,
be highlyfavoured forprehistoric and ancientfarming the probability thatpresentsurfacedistributions also
(BintliffI977). The commonest soil typeunderlying the beartheimprint ofone ormoresevereerosionalphases,
surface pottery carpetin Boeotiais justsucha sediment. in whicha significant partofthe soil matrixhas been
Here once again,however,Thornes'sfindings contrast removedfromits originallocation.
5IO I CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY

Background
ROMAN Halo
ESSEX I

Total Total
Roman - Medieval
Prehistoric
EAST l
HAMPSHIRE I I
Roman Roman

MADDLE FARM I
Background Halo

(BERKSHIRE)
Total
- Medieval
Prehistoric
SOUTHERN I
ITALY I
Intensive
Total Background Manure Halo
BOEOTIA
GREECE
_ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _

Background Halo
TELL SWEYHAT ///,/ *. ..
SYRIAVYAA ..
Prehistoricto Classical
Peak
Background Halo Halo
SOHAR
OMAN
Medievaland earlier

Rainfallaverg 75 mRainfall average 500 mm Rainfallaverage 2-300 mm 11al average 80 mm

I I I I I I I 11 1 I I!

.001 .005.01 .05 .1 .2 .4 .6 .8 1 5 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 1000 2000 3000 4000


SHERD DENSITIES PER 100 m2
FIG. 2. Sherddensitiesper Ioo m2 at a sample ofsites. Roman Essex, backgroundo.8, site haloes 4 ormoreper
hectare (Williamson I984:228 and fig.2); East Hampshire,fora walked stripioo m long and 2 m wide, Roman
finds O.I, total prehistoric-to-medieval 0.2I per 200 m2 (Shennan I985:75, 8I, 9I, and personal communication;
figuresseem to include portionsofsites bisected by transects);Maddle Farm,Berkshire,backgroundo.o5, halo
0.5 per Ioo m2 (Gaffneyand TingleI985; Gaffney, personal communication);southernItaly,0.007 per m2 on a
transectsystemforall periods,thoughit seems thatprehistoricand Classical predominate(Hodder and Malone
I984:I27, table I; figureseems to include portionsofsites bisected by transects);Boeotia,Bintliffand Snodgrass
(I1985); Tell Sweyhat,background20-40, halo 40-I00 + per Ioo m2, findspredominantlyprehistoricand
Hellenistic (WilkinsonI982:328); Sohar,average2.5-I0, peak 37.5 per m2 (Wilkinson I982:328).

OFF-SITE SURFACE POTTERY: A COMPARATIVE


ANALYSIS
Aninitialquerymustrelatetothehomogeneity ofthe
data.In chronological
terms,thisis certainlynotpres-
Off-sitesurfacepotterydensitiesare stillnotregularly ent,as thedataplottedrepresentbothsingle-period and
beingrecorded in Old Worldfieldsurveys, andthesmall multiperiod scatters,
scattersprimarilyprehistoric,Ro-
comparative sampleherereviewedis in any case not man,medieval,orall ofthese.Yetit is difficult to argue
intended tobe complete.Nonetheless, theredoesappear thatsuch variabilityexplainsthe cline of density.In
to be a highlyconsistentpattern(fig. 2) in absolute England, forexample,thedensityofsurface potteryofall
values,whichfitsa clinerunning fromEnglandthrough periodsin the East Hampshiresurveyclustersclosely
Italyto Greeceand thenvia Syriato Oman.In simple withthe densityofRomanpottery fromthe same sur-
terms,the densityof off-sitepottery increasessteeply vey,whichin turnclusterswithRomanpottery densi-
fromtemperatenorth-western Europe throughthe ties in Essex and Berkshire.Certainof our sites in
Mediterranean to theMiddleEast.2 Boeotiaare,withtheirperipheries,
also essentiallyone-

potteryin the lant'soff-site


2. The recentstudyby Gallant (i986) of off-site "background"densityofpotteryforall periods(P.4I7)
IonianIslandsoffthewestcoastofGreecedemonstrates phenom- is 8 to I 5 per Ioo m2, comparableto the denserend of off-site
ena identicalto thosediscussedfromBoeotiain thispaper.Gal- densitiesin CentralGreece(cf.ourfig.2).
Volume 29, Number 3, JuneI988 15II

periodRomansitesandso maybe fairly compared with and the progressive burialof pottery by increasedsoil
these.Again,primarily prehistoric densityaroundTell depth,whilstfurther southand east,conditions forsoil
Sweyhatin Syriais farhigherthaneven multiperiod increasewould becomeincreasingly unfavourable. Al-
densitiesin Italyand Greecebutis in turneclipsedby thoughthisobservation is in generalcorrect, therateof
medievalscattersin Oman. soilgrowth in Britainis in factso slighton averagethat,
It maybe noteworthy thatthethreeEnglishsurveys evenovermillennia,burialbydirectsoil overgrowth is
showa tendency forincreasedsherddensitiesassociated unlikelytobe a majorfactor in surface pottery availabil-
withlithologies ofgreater susceptibility to erosion.The ity.Infiltrationofartifacts intothesubsoilbyincidental
Essex data stem predominantly fromBoulderClay, processes, whether naturalorhumanin origin, is,as we
whereas the East Hampshiredata base includes a havesaid,likelytobe important in all regions, butit can
significantsectorofChalk.The MaddleFarmdatacome be shownthatconditions fortheburialofsmallartefacts
entirely fromChalkdownland.We aregrateful to John such as potsherdsare increasingly favourableas we
Thornesforthesuggestion, basedon his ownresearches movealongtheclimaticclinefromtheMiddleEastto
in the Mediterranean (see Gilmanand ThornesI985), north-western Europe.The moister,less extremecli-
thata corollary ofa climate/vegetation clineforsurface matespromotea morevigoroussoilfauna,whoseactiv-
exposureofpottery mightbe a clineofpottery density itywithinthesoil tendsoverallto siftthrough thesur-
withineachregionreflecting geologicalandpedological face and subsurfaceand therebylevigateartefactual
controlsoversusceptibility to erosion. inclusionsdownward through thesoilprofile. Especially
Althoughcommonsense suggeststhattherewill be potentin temperate climatesis earthworm activity,and
measurablevariability in all regionsaccordingto the indeedit was Darwin'sworkon Romanandotherruins
lengthofhumanoccupationand its scale ofactivityin inEnglandthatdemonstrated thepowerofthesehumble
thelandscape-indeed,wherescatters canbe subdivided creatures:"Archaeologists are probably notawarehow
byperiod,as in EastHampshire, thisis demonstrable- muchtheyowe to wormsforthepreservation ofmany
the underlying trendis clearlyinterregional and not ancientobjects.Coins, gold ornaments, stone imple-
chronological. ments,etc.,ifdropped to thesurfaceoftheground, will
MartinMillettand Colin Haselgrovehave suggested be buriedbythecastingsofwormsin a fewyears,and
(personalcommunication) thatone probableindepen- thusbe safelypreserved" (DarwinI896:I76, quotedin
dentandregionally distinctfactoris therateofpottery Wood and JohnsonI978). Hofman (I986) provides
supplyandpottery consumption perunitofsettledland- figuresforstone tool verticaldisplacementof20-40 cm
scape.In thismodel,peripheral Englandwouldhavehad in temperate environments overperiodsof7,000-9,000
a poorerpotterysupplysystemand ruralsiteswould years.Morearidenvironments producefarslowerrates
characteristicallyemploymuchsmallerassemblagesof (TerraAmatain Mediterranean Francehas datasuggest-
pottery by comparison withGreeceand Italy,and the ing an averageof 40 cm displacement over200,000-
samewouldholdforcomparisons betweenthelatterand 400,000 years;northern Kenyaproducesevidenceofup
the MiddleEast. Whilstthisfactorcannotbe ignored, to 50 cm displacement overI.56 millionyears).How-
the followingconsiderations weakenits significance.ever,as S. Limbrey has pointedout(personalcommuni-
First,relativepottery supplyanduse wouldneedto fol- cation),thesefigures shouldnotbe takento implycon-
low an almostunchanging cline acrossthesevast dis- stantdownward movementofartefacts oversuchlong
tancesof space and time,beginning withprehistorictime-periods. Thereis likelyto be an exponential fallin
Syria and extendingto medievalOman. But more therateofmovement anda limiting depthto theactiv-
damaging to thisexplanation is theelementofscaleop- ityofmuchoftherelevantsoilfauna.It is possiblethat
eratingalongthedensitycline:whereasit mightbe rea- the currentbasal positionsof displacedartefacts were
sonable,forthe sake of argument, to postulatethata established overmuchshorter time-spans.
Romanfarmer in CentralGreecehadtwiceas manypots Ifwe turnto theoppositetendency, soil stripping, we
as hiscounterpart in RomanEssex,theactualmultiplier have an even more promisingpicture.The average
requiredto elevatetheupperrangeofEnglishdensities valuesfornormalerosionrisefromtemperate environ-
to thelowerpartofthecorresponding rangein Greeceis ments to a peak in areas with 2oo-300 mm of rainfall
io. The multiplier requiredfromBoeotiato Syria,for (based on observationsin the AmericanSouthwest
generalbackground scatter,is a further 4, while the [Langbeinand SchummI958]), wherearidityis com-
Boeotiandensitiesmustbe multipliedby I77 to reach binedwithstormviolenceanda lowdegreeofvegetative
thelowerend ofthe Oman scatters.The wholerange, protection. We can therefore predictthatsoil stripping
fromEnglandto Oman, requiresa multiplierof I,500! would becomeincreasingly important alongour cline
Althougheach of theseconsiderations deservesfur- fromEnglandto Syria(peakerosionconditions). In re-
ther,moredetailedexamination, we feelthatthefunda- gionswithlowerrainfall-andhereOman,with8o mm,
mentalregularity and scale of thisclinecannotbe ex- is well below the erosionpeak-water erosionis ex-
plainedadequately byanyofthem.A farmorepromising tremelylimited.But forOman,Wilkinson(i982) has
avenuelies ingeographical variability.The density cline arguedthatthehighlyaridsoilsundergomassivewind
correlateswithannualrainfalland temperature (fig.2). deflation.
One mightarguethattemperate north-western Europe As our workinghypothesis we wouldtherefore sug-
wouldbe an idealenvironment forhumusdevelopment gestthatthemostsignificant factors underlying theap-
5I21 CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY

parentclinein off-site pottery densitiesare differentialspreadbymanoverthelandscapein themanuring pro-


soil erosion,whichis exposingevergreater amountsof cess,it mightat firstsightseemthatall regionswould
subsoilpottery in semi-arid areas,in proportion to the beginwithcomparable surfacedensitiesoff-site, andthe
intensityof soil loss, and differential soil levigation, amountofsoilloss wouldbe irrelevant here.Ithas been
which is buryingsurfaceand subsurfaceartefacts in pointedout(seeJameson I978),however, thatmanuring
temperate areas. is oflimitedvalueunlessthefertiliser is ploughedinto
We areled immediately to ask how,in thefirstplace, thesoil:ifitis not,theorganicnutrients willoxidiseand
thepottery visiblefoundits wayintothesubsoil,ifwe be lost to plantroots.We can therefore expecta con-
have alreadyhad to limittheroleofnaturalburialfor tinual pushinginto the subsoil of surfaceadditions,
manyareas.Forone thing,somepottery originates from which,whenaddedto thefurther internalprocessesof
sitereservoirs, especiallyrubbishpits,cellars,etc.Here migration downwardsand laterally, will have created,
differentialsoil loss shouldrevealdifferential surface understablesoil conditions, a pottery reservoir thatis
densities.Thisaspectoftheproblem, at least,shouldbe predominantly locatedin thesubsoil.It is thephasesof
susceptibleto empiricaltesting:wherean intensively instability, especiallyeventssuchas thosedescribed by
surveyedlocalityis latersubjectedto excavation,full Thomes,thatsee the potentdifferential effects ofsoil
recording of sherddensitiesby bothsurveyor and ex- stripping actingto differentiate visiblesurfacedensities
cavatorshouldmakeit possibleto establisha ratiobe- andhencecreateourdensitycline.
tweensurfaceandsubsoildensities.The surfacedensity A finalquestionremains:ifthesoilmatrixinMediter-
mightthenbe expressed in termsofa "depositvalue" raneansoilsundergoes cyclicaldisplacement, whatexactly
namely, thatdepthofsoilwhosesherdcontent provedto happensto its sherdcontent?Clearly,sincethepottery
correspond, in absoluteyield,withthe amountprevi- carpetis as prevalent on watersheds as on lowerslopes,
ouslyvisibleon thesurfaceofexactlythesamepieceof thepottery does not simplygetwashedawaywiththe
ground. fines.Kirkbyand Kirkby(I976) arguefora processof
This modeof proceeding has not yet,to ourknowl- "lagging"wherebythe finesoil particlesare washed
edge,beenreported, at leastfromanywhere in Mediter- awaybuttheheavieritems(stones,pottery) remainin
raneanlands,but some interesting data are shortlyto position(leavingso-calledarmoured surfacesoil).When
become available from the Kea Survey;here the soil growthbeginsagainandpersists, ifit has a chance
NeolithicsiteofKephala,previously excavatedbyJohn to,forlongperiods(as oftenappearsto be thecase),the
E. Colemanwitha fairlydetailedrecording ofpottery "lagged"depositis reincorporated intoa newsoilmatrix
yields,was subjectedto laterintensivesurvey.The fac- and pusheddownwards overtimeby man and nature.
torsare obviouslymorecomplicatedherethanthose Thisprocessofsoilrecovery is in anycase chiefly down-
thatwould operatewiththe reversesequence.Never- wardsby bedrockweathering, withonlyslightincre-
theless,thesurvey yieldedsurprisingly highsurface den- mentfromhumusaccumulation at thetopoftheprofile.
sities,bothofpottery and ofobsidian,at thislocation. However, thesuccessoffield-resistivity andmagnetic-
At leastin the areasofthemostextensivetrenchesof susceptibility measurements in Greekpalaeolandscapes
Coleman'sexcavation,some consistenttrendsin the suchas theBoeotiaSurveyregionmaysuggestthat,in
ratioofpottery to obsidian,on and belowthe surface, contrastto the total or all-but-total soil replacement
and in the ratioof surfacedensitiesin bothmaterials outlinedearlierforerosioncycles,a significant amount
couldbe observed.Todd M. Whitelawoffers theprovi- oftheoriginalsoil has beenleftin situ.Thisconclusion
sionalestimatethatthesurfacedensities,averagedout conforms betterto current understanding ofratesofsoil
to eliminatethemorehighlylocalisedanomalies,might growth(S. Limbrey, personalcommunication), whichis
correspond to "perhapsi0-20 cm's worth"of deposit a veryslow processin the semi-aridenvironment in
(personalcommunication;we are very gratefulto whichlag depositsarepredominant. It also agreeswith
Whitelawand to JohnF. Cherry, jointdirectorof the the conclusions of Reynolds (i982:334) regardingthe
survey,forallowingus to make use of theseobserva- preservation ofthesubsoilovermillennia.
tions).This at leastgivesa pointerto theorderofmag- Withoutdemonstrating a single,undeniableexplana-
nitudeof soil loss thatmightbe expectedto have oc- tionforthepattern visible,we havetriedto openup for
curred,oversome fiveor six millennia,on an Aegean discussionsome intriguing questions.In the nextfew
island site. Again,at the site of Asteri/Karaousi, in years,manyfurther surveyswilldoubtlessbe published
southernLaconia,surfacereconnaissance (Waterhouse with off-site information thatwill serveto test and
and Hope-Simpsoni960:89-92) gave plentifulprehis- refineoursuggested explanations.
toricsherds,fromNeolithicto LateBronzeAgein date.
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Athens 55:67-I07. i. ? I988 byThe Wenner-Gren Foundation forAnthropological
WILKINSON, T. j. i982.The definitionofancientmanuredzones Research. All rights reserved OOII-3204/88/2903-0009$I.oo. The
bymeansofextensivesherd-sampling techniques.Journal of researchdescribedherewas a doctoralprojectgenerouslysupported
FieldArchaeology 9:232-33 3. bytheDepartmentofPrehistory, ResearchSchoolofPacificStud-
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ies, AustralianNational University.
andagriculturein N.W. Essex. Britazmia I5:225-30. JackGolson,RogerGreen,GeoffIrwin,Pat Kirch,JimSpecht,and
WOOD, W. R., AND D. L. JOHNSON. I978.Asurveyof disturbance Doug Yen fortheircarefulscrutinyofmywork.WinMumford and
processes in archaeological site formation.Advances in Archae- Betsy-JaneOsborneprepared thefigures. readerstomythesis
I refer
ologicalMethodand TheoryI:3I5-8I. foracknowledgment ofotherswho assistedwiththeproject.