Date of Degree
H. Arthur Bankoff
Arthur R. Murphy
Activity Areas, Anthrosols, Habitation Loci, Human Environment, Landscape Archaeology, Persistent Places
The overall goal of this research is to evaluate the efficacy of pXRF for the identification of ancient activity areas at Pre-Columbian sites in Antigua that range across time periods, geographic regions, site types with a variety of features, and various states of preservation. These findings have important implications for identifying and reconstructing places full of human activity but void of material remains. A synthesis for an archaeology of void spaces requires the construction of new ways of testing anthrosols, and identifying elemental patterns that can be used to connect people with their places and objects. This research begins with an exploration of rich middens in order to study void spaces. Midden archaeology has been a central focus in Caribbean research, and consists of an accumulation of discarded remnants from past human activities that can be tested against anthrosols./
The archaeological collections visited for this research project involved creating new databases to generate a comprehensive inventory of sites, materials excavated, and assemblages available for study. Of the more than 129 Pre-Columbian sites documented in Antigua, few sites have been thoroughly surveyed or excavated. Twelve Pre-Columbian sites, consisting of thirty-six excavated units were selected for study; all of which contained complete assemblages for comparison and soil samples for testing. These excavations consisted almost entirely of midden excavations, requiring new archaeological investigations to be carried out in spaces primarily void of material remains but within the village context. Over the course of three seasons excavations, shovel test pits, and soil augers were used to obtain a variety of anthrosols and archaeological assemblages in order to generate new datasets to study Pre-Columbian activity areas.
The selection of two primary case study sites were used for comparison: Indian Creek and Doigs. Findings from this research indicate that accounting for the variety of activity areas that make up a site can imbue a site with an identity of purpose and shed light on how different sites may have served different purposes within a regional framework. Excavations at the site of Indian Creek identified a series of raised middens that enclosed an open space for approximately 1500 years. This research explores this open space, and questions the meaning of 'void' and 'empty' with respect to past human activities. While archaeologists recognize that areas void of material remains are certainly part of the larger site, the question remains, without an understand of these spaces; what aspects of past life are we possibly masking? The integration of anthrosols alongside archaeological excavations and spatial analysis indicate that the site of Indian Creek contained a ceremonial plaza that formed early on and was maintained until abandonment. The spatial distribution of material objects combined with anthrosol studies provided additional evidence of ritual deposits concentrated in one part of the plaza associated with a nearby creek-bed.
The second site, Doigs represents one of the last intact undisturbed Early Ceramic Age site of its kind in the Eastern Caribbean. Since its discovery in the 1970’s, Doig’s has been partially surveyed and excavated. The identification of residential activity areas including several potential structures, bead manufacturing loci, and cooking hearths were used to help test chemical signatures with archaeologically defined activity areas. Findings from this site illustrated the uniqueness of elemental patterns associated with activity areas, and also generated new questions regarding void spaces enriched with elemental patterns associated with concentrations of plant and vegetation debris.
It is the hope of this study to contribute to our general knowledge for the identification of ancient activity areas as well as the different places that give sites their identity. These assemblages of activity areas can provide Caribbeanists with an alternative approach to studying social organization at a village scale and generate new discussions regarding island wide-community relationships.
Look, Cory, "Archaeology of Void Spaces" (2017). CUNY Academic Works.