Pattern to process: methodological investigations into the formation and interpretation of spatial patterns in archaeological landscapes

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

15320 Downloads (Pure)


My research has shown that the type of regional archaeological data analysis required by landscape archaeological approaches is an area where both theory and method are still in their infancy. High-level theories about the occurrence, scope, and effects of processes such as centralization, urbanization, and Hellenization/Romanization cannot yet be supported by middle range theory, which itself cannot be developed until the basic business of generating information of sufficient quality about the archaeological record has been tackled. Currently, archaeological data can be made to fit almost any interpretation generated, ultimately, on the basis of the ancient written sources. If we are to escape from this selfreinforcing cycle, research should perhaps no longer be focused on the classical themes generated by culture-historical approaches, but should seek its own proper field of operation. In the area of methods and methodology, I have demonstrated the pervasive influence of systematic research and visibility biases on the patterns that are present in the archaeological data generated over the past 50 years or so. There are mechanisms at work, both in the traditional archaeological interpretation of limited numbers of excavated sites and historical sources, and in the landscape archaeological approach, that cause the systematic undervaluation of unobtrusive remains. The significance of systematic biases in both the coarse site-based data sets resulting from desktop and ‘topographic’ studies and the more detailed site-based or ‘continuous’ data resulting from intensive field surveys has become much clearer as a result of the studies reported here. This should have practical consequences for the ways in which we study the existing archaeological record, plan future landscape archaeological research, and conduct field surveys. Site databases, the traditional starting point for regional archaeological studies, can no longer be taken at face value; rather, they require careful source criticism before being used to support specific arguments and hypotheses about settlement and land use dynamics. My studies have also shown that future data collection, whether through field survey, excavation or other methods, has to take place in a much more methodical manner if we are to produce data that are sufficiently standardized to be successfully exchanged, compared, and interpreted by others – guidelines for which should become embodied in an international standard defining ‘best practice in landscape archaeology’.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Attema, Peter, Supervisor
Award date30-May-2002
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Proefschriften (vorm)
  • Archeologie
  • Ruimtelijke structuur
  • Landschappen
  • 15.39

Cite this