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Size Dependence in Assemblage Measures: Essentialism, Materialism, and “She” Analysis in Archaeology

  • Michael J. Shott (a1)


"Assemblage" is a fundamental archaeological construct. By their composition, we interpret assemblages as expressions of activity or cultural identity. Yet they are not simple products of these factors alone but also of formation processes. Assemblages accumulated over varying spans, with varying combinations of tool types and discard rates. They are contexts for the playing out of complex relationships, not static types. This is a materialist view, against the essentialist view that assemblages are exemplars of ideal types (e.g., "base camps," "Quina Mousterian"). Materialism implies that their size and composition, fundamental assemblage characteristics, are correlated variables, not fixed properties, and that composition varies as size increases. I document size dependence consistent with materialism in Paleoindian and Paleolithic assemblages. Among ways to analyze size-dependent assemblage data, I apply "SHE analysis"—the joint study of assemblage richness, heterogeneity, and evenness—to gauge data’s fit to theoretical models. Archaeologists acknowledge size dependence, but we misapprehend it as a methodological bias of assemblage measures that must be suppressed when, in materialist perspective, it reveals meaningful relationships that an essentialist view cannot.


"Conjunto" es un concepto arqueológico fundamental. Debido a su composición, los conjuntos se interpretan como manifestaciónes de actividades o identidad cultural, pero no sean productos exclusivos de estas causas. Por lo contrario, conjuntos son productos complejos de muchas causas, inclusivo procesos de formación. Los conjuntos se acumularon sobre varios plazos, con varias combinaciónes de tipos de útiles y tasas de descarte. Conjuntos no son tipos estáticos, sino contextos en que se juegan enlaces complejos. Esto es una vista materialista, contra la vista esencial en la que los conjuntos sirven como ejemplares de tipos ideales (e.g., "campamento de base," "Mousteriense Quina"). El materialismo implica que su tamaño y composición, características fundamentales de conjuntos, son variables correlacionados, no propiedades fijados. Documento dependencia de tamaño en conjuntos arqueológicos. Entre métodos para tratar datos sujetos a esta dependencia, aplico "análisis de SHE"—análisis en común de riqueza, heterogeneidad, y igualdad/desigualdad de proporciones—para meter los datos en modelos teóricos. Los arqueólogos reconocen la dependencia de tamaño, pero lo malentendemos como un siesgo metodológico que tenemos que suprimir cuando, en perspectiva materialista, deja ver relaciónes significativas que un acercamiento esencial no puede ver.



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Size Dependence in Assemblage Measures: Essentialism, Materialism, and “She” Analysis in Archaeology

  • Michael J. Shott (a1)


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