Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Managing Lithic Scatters - but Ignoring Artefact Hunters

Here is another reason why archaeological support of an "Institute of Detectorists" in the UK is bonkers. The archaeological record is not being collected away just by people screeching across the fields of the UK with metal detectors. Yet the effects of artefact hunting and collecting (apart from the notion of 'paying attention to legacy collections') is pretty well omitted in this document:
Managing Lithic Scatters
Oxford Archaeology, Oxford Archaeology (2019) Managing Lithic Scatters. Historic England: Archaeological guidance for planning authorities and developers .

Due to their durability stone artefacts are a significant source of archaeological evidence, and are usually found either sealed in their original context as undisturbed sites, or as lithic scatters displaced by natural or agricultural processes. For much of prehistory both types of lithic sites provide the majority, and sometimes the only evidence, of past human activity and subsistence strategies. By studying and understanding their formation, spatial distribution and technological attributes, we can get closer to understanding the activities of the people who created these artefacts. Lithic sites are an important archaeological resource that can provide valuable insights into prehistory. They are an ubiquitous, but often neglected, resource found in different landscape settings and depositional environments; as such, they can inform on the ways people in the past engaged with the world they inhabited. Lithic sites are archaeological sites where people worked with stone. Foremost this involved reducing nodules of raw material into flakes, blades and tools which could be used in a variety of tasks. This type of activity defines many undisturbed sites and scatters, but worked stone can be found in a variety of contexts. In relation to undisturbed sites, these often constitute secondary depositional environments; for example, where worked stone is moved from its primary context into middens or pits. In some instances, this has been taken to imply the use of worked stone as a metaphor, referencing how people interacted with specific places in the landscape. So, in addition to their practicality, lithics may also have accrued symbolic meanings relating to the experiences of those who made, used and discarded worked stone. Lithic scatters are frequently recovered from the ploughzone through fieldwalking, test pitting or evaluations. Undisturbed sites can also be found through trenching and excavations, where lithics have been sealed by alluvial, colluvial or silting deposits and/or deposited in sub-surface features. Detailed recording and analyses of lithic sites can significantly contribute to our understanding of how gatherer-hunters and early farming groups lived from the Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age. This guidance replaces the existing Managing Lithic Scatters. It is intended for everyone involved in working with lithic material, ranging from developers to those involved in community based projects. As such, it considers key themes relating to the definition and significance of lithic sites; the means to identify, assess, evaluate and excavate them; and their mitigation and management. Therefore, it encompasses a broad range of advice and techniques that can be applied to a wide variety of project types and budgets.
Obviously if a survey is examining and documenting a surface site, the degree to which it has been depleted of diagnostic artefacts by rapacious collectors attempting to create an ephemeral personal artefact collection will need to be taken into account in any assessment of its composition. The degree to which such so-called 'citizen archaeology'[= collecting] (when done with metal detectors) has entered archaeological mainstream in the UK is not reflected in this document.

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