Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version



Wandsnider, LuAnn

1996 Describing and Comparing Archaeological Spatial Structure. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 3(4): 319-384.


Quantitative archaeological spatial analysis today is radically different from that introduced more than 20 years ago. Today spatial analysis is couched in more general formational terms that include earlier functional pursuits. Today spatial analysts (1) focus on individual formationally sensitive artifact or element attributes, rather than on types; (2) use distributional rather than partitive methods and techniques; (3) consider a suite of such attributes to construct the formational history of archaeological deposits; and, least commonly, (4) undertake comparative spatial analysis. An elaboration of the latter tactic is proposed here, that of characterizing spatial structure in terms of structural elements (or ''grid cells") and relationships among those elements. This proposal is illustrated through the analysis of five well-known ethnoarchaeological sites with different formational histories. The illustration focuses on the formational process of site maintenance and relies on the relative frequencies of small and large artifacts to monitor the operation of that process. Structural descriptors describe the configuration of grid cells with different artifact size profiles in formationally meaningful terms. lmportantly, these descriptors enable the rigorous comparison of spatial structure among and between ethnoarchaeological and archaeological deposits.