The Grammar of the Archaeological Record

1. The System

41. Synthetical organization of the record:

Giorgio Buccellati – December 2010

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41.1: Introduction

The section of the record accessed from the left vertical bar presents the data in a version not dissimilar from that found in traditional site reports. Apart from a general introduction, it consists of two major sections: a narrative synthesis and tabulations.

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41.2: Excavations

The narrative synthesis about the excavations proceeds in a way that should be self-evident. One will find here a presentation of the actual data found within each unit, presented in a discursive style. The abundant links to the primary data as given in the analytical portion utilize the resource of the browser edition by linking a maximum of detail with the higher nodes typical of a synthetic overview.

The terminology, too, is for the most part consonant with the current one, although some formulations are at variance. To explain this, a link is given, for each category, to the pertinent section in the Grammar: it describes the theoretical framework and explains, where necessary, the terminology. In particular the following should be noted:

  1. Within the section on stratigraphy, the distinction between emplacement and deposition is adhered to rigorously, and so is the category of built environment within the section on typology. Admittedly, these distinctions are rather idiosyncratic, but this is done for what I believe are important reasons, that justify the departure. Even so, a reading of this narrative should entail a minimum of adaptation.
  2. While the categories of conservation and presentation are also self-evident, a treatment of these data is not generally found in the literature, especially not with the degree of systematicity for which I strive. This is due to the special attention that I place on these categories as necessarily inscribed in the very strategy of excavation, so that the pertinent data become an integral part of the excavation record.

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41.3: Tabulations

The contents and the organization of the tabulations will be immediately clear because they follow closely the standards in the field. Only two points need to be noted:

  1. First, the choice of preset parameters is of course limited. There is no limit to what may be desirable, and while new parameters may be added in the future, any other tabulation that a student of the UGR may wish to have can be obtained by importing the data given in the data base, and processing them through commercial or personal programs.
  2. Second, the stratigraphic summaries contain tabulations about strata sequences that correspond to non-standard criteria, but quite transparent in their import.

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41.4: The limits of an excavation unit

Ultimately, the most unusual aspect of what can be found in this section is not terminological, but conceptual. What is at variance with general practice, and may seem ill-placed or redundant, is the determination to give so much attention to single excavation units. But that is at the core of the “philosophy” behind the entire system (and is developed more fully in the introductory part of the Grammar, devoted to Theory). In a nutshell, not only the atomistic observations that are at the basis of the analytical record (invoked from the right hand side vertical bar), but also the intellectual construct that is fabricated while the work is in progress, and which undergirds the strategy of excavation – in other words, the synthesis that is involked from the left hand side vertical bar, – must be made explicit.

The possible redundancy stems from the nesting of excavation units within areas and further with the Mozan Sitewide (MZ). But this reflects, objectively, the complexity of the process, it is not of our own making. And the careful use of the features proper of the browser edition allows the reader to maintain a control on the process of nesting, and to descend, from the higher nodes (the site and the areas) to whatever level of detail (the units) may seem desirable.

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