chapter  3
19 Pages

Culture and Context

This chapter moves away from the study of individual sites, artifacts, and food remains into changing ancient settlement patterns. It examines the hierarchy of human settlement from individual sites to entire regions and discuss some of the methods used to study them, including geographic information systems. Landscapes are distinct from settlement patterns, for they are humanly perceived and change constantly through time. The houses and villages of a prehistoric society, like the artifacts and food residues beside their hearths, are part of the settlement pattern. Settlement archaeology is about these many layers of dynamic relationships, some of which are nearly impossible to discern without the careful use of analogy with living societies. The chapter discusses ways in which archaeologists study sacred and secular landscapes in a search for the intangible beliefs of ancient societies. Archaeologists study landscapes in many ways: with ecologically based systems approaches, with technology-laden methods that involve GIS and satellite data, in almost literary fashion.