Space: A Key Archaeological Dimension

Introduction to Archaeology


Space is a fundamental concept within archaeology. It represents a key area for extracting cultural information about the people who created and used the objects we study. Before reading on take a look at the animation for this section.

Space as Time: As discussed earlier time is often expressed in the archaeological realm as the vertical, with earlier time-periods underlying later strata.


Space as Cultural Decision: Spatial organization and the messages it conveys, often give us insights into cultures. Some messages are cross-cultural, and others are closely associated with particular cultures. Spatial organization can be discerned on the artifactual level, on the individual house level (architecture), on the multi-house, or community level, and on the intercommunity level.


Space and Artifacts: In situ artifacts can be viewed spatially. An interesting spatial question might be what sort of artifacts are likely to be found in association with one another in a specific culture? What sort of artifacts are unlikely to be found in association with one another? Go through two rooms (or perhaps a workshop) of your house or apartment. Make a list. What artifacts seem very closely associated? Which objects never appear together? What does that tell us about the function and meaning of the artifacts?
Space as Architecture: The organization of internal space sends messages to the viewer. View the attached page.
Space on the Community and Intercommunity Level: Communities, or towns are not spatially homogeneous areas. Our cities are divided up into reesidential neighborhoods (with different histories, economic conditions, and with varied ethnic make-ups), industrial areas, marketing areas, religious and administrative centers, and recreational zones. The specific layout of communities, and their access to roads, space, markets etc. tell us about a society. Similarly, the layout of hamlets, towns and cities tell us about regional organization, and administrative and marketing hierarchies.
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