Accepted Paper:

Social stratigraphy: contextualising site formation processes - a case study  


Ben Jervis (University of Southampton)

Paper short abstract:

This paper brings together the technical study of site formation processes (particularly using ceramic analysis) with social interpretations of depositional practice, arguing that deposition plays a role in constructing 'the social'. This is illustrated using a case study from mid-Saxon Southampton.

Paper long abstract:

It is a quirk of archaeology that the processes of site formation are rarely

contextualised from a social perspective. Often deposits are uncritically

assigned as consisting of 'rubbish' or, if slightly unusual, being somehow

'special'. In this paper I argue that all of these rubbish deposits can be considered as active in the assembling of the 'social' in a particular physical and temporal context.

This will be illustrated through the use of a case study from Hamwic

(mid-Saxon Southampton) where there have been large scale, open area

excavations over several decades and where there have been some pioneering

studies into site formation processes. These have, until now, largely been

divorced from social interpretations of the town. The study will principally

use data from ceramic analysis, such as fragmentation analysis and cross-fit

analysis. Rather than being considered a terminal point in an objects

biography I will consider deposition as a transitional point in an artefacts

life. Whilst some material is middened, meaning that it potentially finds a

secondary use as manure, I argue that even that waste discarded as 'useless'

has a role in constructing the social life of the settlement.

By considering the intersection between the biography of the artefacts within features and of the features themselves I intend to demonstrate that no deposit consists of 'just rubbish' and that all deposits are artefacts in themselves, which can be considered as part of a wider 'social assemblage'.

Panel S05
The evanescent milkman cometh: archaeologies of obscure complexities, actions, formation and transformation