University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Surface artifact survey and analysis of ceramic concentrations
Ondřej Malina, Jakub Šilhavý

Last modified: 2011-12-16


This paper will focus on the GIS based analysis of the surface artifact survey data and their capability of reflecting settlement transformation of the High Middle Ages.

Artifacts obtained during the surface artifact collection are important especially for recognition of topography of the deserted settlements and their agricultural background. Former early medieval habitation sites are indicated as concentrations of pottery fragments which were moved from sunken features or layers to the topsoil. Surface artifact collection mostly enables us to suggest positions or intensity of deserted settlement. Moreover, selected topological characteristics of artifacts could be used for determination of chronology.


The issue of transformation shifts was being solved by the author at eight sites with Early Mediaeval settlement remains in Bohemia. Seven of them are situated in the proximity of a mediaeval church now standing aside of the settlement.

Special attention was paid to taphonomy - topographical origins of the potsherds - for the issue of recognition of the change in site location and its relation to the manuring practice. The key feature is the ability to distinguish between artifacts originating in the former habitation site and the ceramic debris spread over the field by the manuring in later periods.

The Standard Distance tool as a part of ArcGIS 9.3 was employed for quantifying dispersal of the ceramic potsherds. Application of the method on particular chronological categories throws light on their probable origin and, hence, on the transition process in the terms of chronology and rapidity.


The analysis of Spatial Autocorrelation forms the important part in the origin recognition. This statistical tool tests the hypothesis that the artifacts found have a spatially random pattern. This allows determining whether the artifacts are randomly distributed or clustered across the study area. The results support the archeological interpretation of the artifacts origin for every chronological cathegory.


As the next, link to the spatial shifts within settlement structure the position of the centroid (centre of gravity) of particular category could be used as well. The "manuring" ceramic collections tend to have their centre close to the village built-up area. The centroid location of the early mediaeval potsherds lies usually elsewhere and so it could serve as source of knowledge of the former topography.


The method of analysis was used on eight sites with different size and quality of potsherd collections. The interpretation limits are therefore various but on all of the sites there are the older (Early Medieval) categories (distinctly) more concentrated then the Late Mediaeval or the Modern. This basic rule could be used for the categories missing better dating as a link for their age. In the case of cathegories in primary position could follow the assessment of location and extant of former settlement.


GIS; settlement; spatail analysis; spatial statistics; surface artefact survey