Kent Archaeological Review extract

Spatial Archaeology
David L Clarke (editor)
Published by Academic Press, price 9.50.
by (Review by Peter Couldrey).

This book consists of a collection of papers, each concerned with aspects of spatial relationships in archaeology. It is not possible to consider each one in detail here and remarks will be restricted to a few general comments.

The interpretation of spatial relationships has long been undertaken in restricted branches of archaeology. Indeed it forms a basis for the definition of culture zones, tribal areas and trading routes. Until recently, however, this interpretation was largely subjective. Some isolated attempts at achieving objective interpretations have been made, but these have often been based on methods borrowed from other disciplines such as geography and anthropology and tend to reflect the academic background of individual archaeologists rather than the application of a clearly defined theory for such analysis. In general, the analysis of spatial relationships, although of primary importance to their interpretation, has occupied a secondary position in archaeological theory.

It is this need for a theory of spatial analysis that is emphasised by David Clarke in his introductory paper. Here he defines broad levels for its application; outlines its historical background, and indicates directions for its future development. The other papers illustrate different examples of spatial analysis. In a study of historical house-plans, Peter Dickens examines the chances of known examples occurring randomly and identifies those restricted to certain periods. Using the theory of proxemics, Roland Fletcher argues that the spatial relationships of features reflect not only status and functional requirements of a community, but also its tendency to identify spatial categories; thereby characterising that community. This is illustrated by ethnographic examples from Ghana and an archaeological example from 17th century Arizona. Techniques of urban geography are used by R A Raper to study the social and economic development of Pompeii; and a quantitative approach to the study of human palaeoecology is outlined by Robert Foley.

The interpretation of regional distribution maps is discussed in the last two papers: Ian Hodder considers the use of statistical techniques to measure the effects of survival and retrieval on distribution patterns, competition between sites, the spread of settlement and the association between distributions. Peter Danks examines medieval and post-medieval artefact distributions centred on East Anglia. He points out the complexity of known marketing systems and warns against the use of simplistic models when considering prehistoric distributions.

These papers cover a wide variety of examples and indicate the value of studying spatial relationships. New approaches are illustrated and old ones critically re-examined, showing that new and more rigorous interpretations of archaeological data are possible. But theory cannot be developed in isolation. New methods of analysis require the data to be available in an acceptable form, and thus influence the fieldworker's practice of deciding what data to collect.

Some of these methods are controversial and some may be limited in application; but all combine to provide a stimulating book for those interested in reconstructing the past and a valuable source for future reference. Spatial studies are now assured a prominent position in archaeological theory.

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