Archaeological Assemblages and Practices of Deposition

Rosemary A. Joyce and Joshua Pollard

in The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199218714
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

 Archaeological Assemblages and Practices of Deposition

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  • Archaeology
  • History and Theory of Archaeology


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Archaeologists routinely describe sites as composed of assemblages encountered in deposits. But what is actually meant by ‘assemblage’ and ‘deposition’? This article explores how these concepts have been developed and considers the implications of contemporary understandings of deposition and assemblage that depart significantly from conventional definitions, many still to be found in introductory text books. Conventionally, the term ‘assemblage’ is applied to a collection of artefacts or ecofacts recovered from a specific archaeological context — a site, an area within a site, a stratified deposit, or a specific feature such as a ditch, tomb, or house. This article further explains in details the histories of archaeological approaches followed by contemporary approaches. The conventional definitions of assemblage and deposition emerged from geological and processual models of archaeological ‘formation processes’ that developed from the nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. Analysis the contemporary approach towards archaeological assemblages finishes this article.

Keywords: archaeology; assemblages; archaeologists; artefacts; ecofacts; twentieth century

Article.  7087 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; History and Theory of Archaeology

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