Deposition

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The conventional definition of deposition emerged from geological and processual models of archaeological ‘formation processes’ that developed from the nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. However, the concept of deposit has been used in a variety of meaning: to establish human antiquity, to provide relative dates, to reconstruct the environment, and to analyze site formation processes.[1]

Deposition refers here to natural formation process elaborated by Michael Schiffer.[2] Natural formation processes are events occurring naturally that affect the preservation of the archaeological record. They can be gradual covering of the archaeological record by sand or soil carried by underwater currents, but can also include burial on a much larger scale. Usually, a site that lies buried under sediment reaches a stable anaerobic state with low levels of oxygen and light that reduces the process of material degradation caused by chemical, physical and biological factors. It is important to understand the natural formation processes of an archaeological site, to avoid incorrect interpretations.

  1. Stein, J. (1987). Deposits for Archaeologists. Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, 11, 337-395. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20210100
  2. Schiffer, M. B. 1983: Toward the identification of formation processes. American Antiquity 48: 675-706; Schiffer, M. B. 1987: Formation Processes of the Archaeological Record.