Publication date: March 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 79
Author(s): Ben Marwick, Elspeth Hayes, Chris Clarkson, Richard Fullagar
Understanding post-depositional movement of artefacts is vital to making reliable claims about the formation of archaeological deposits. Human trampling has long been recognised as a contributor to post-depositional artefact displacement. We investigate the degree to which artefact form (shape-and-size) attributes can predict how an artefact is moved by trampling. We use the Zingg classification system to describe artefact form. Our trampling substrate is the recently excavated archaeological deposits from Madjedbebe, northern Australia. Madjedbebe is an important site because it contains early evidence of human activity in Australia. The age of artefacts at Madjedbebe is contentious because of the possibility of artefacts moving due to trampling. We trampled artefacts in Madjedbebe sediments and measured their displacement, as well as modelling the movement of artefacts by computer simulation. Artefact elongation is a significant predictor of horizontal distance moved by trampling, and length, width, thickness and volume are significant predictors of the vertical distance. The explanatory power of these artefact variables is small, indicating that many other factors are also important in determining how an artefact moves during trampling. Our experiment indicates that trampling has not contributed to extensive downward displacement of artefacts at Madjedbebe.