Patch-based survey methods for studying prehistoric human land-use in agriculturally modified landscapes: A case study from the Canal de Navarrés, eastern Spain

Grant Snitker, Agustín Diez Castillo, C Michael Barton, Joan Bernabeu Aubán, Oreto García Puchol, Salvador Pardo-Gordó

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

In landscapes whose surface has been modified by terracing and other agricultural land-use, the spatial and temporal patterning of prehistoric settlement can be difficult to detect using traditional, site-orientated archaeological survey methods, especially for small-scale societies. In these contexts, methods that can reveal occupational patterns at landscape scales, without the need to pinpoint specific sites of human occupation, can be especially useful. We employ a stratified, randomly selected patch-based survey strategy to examine socio-ecological dynamics from the Middle Paleolithic through Bell Beaker (Chalcolithic) periods within the Canal de Navarrés, eastern Spain. We divide the study region into survey strata according to differences in topography and vegetation communities and use a random selection of demarcated, terraced fields as data collection patches. All survey data is digitally recorded using tablets in the field, creating a streamlined and more accurate workflow, where observations of artifacts, soils, ground visibility, and photographs are georeferenced and ready for analysis in a GIS. Surface artifact densities, estimated from sampled patches, are used to generate prehistoric land-use maps and empirical Bayesian methods allow us to track shifts in occupational patterns through time. Regional reference collections of well-dated lithic artifacts provide the “prior knowledge” required to make estimates of the probability of prehistoric occupation in each sampled patch. This combination of field and analytical methods makes possible the study of regional-scale land-use dynamics in agriculturally modified landscapes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-22
Number of pages18
JournalQuaternary International
Volume483
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 30 2018

Keywords

  • Bayesian methods
  • Digital data collection
  • Mediterranean basin
  • Off-site methods
  • Patch-based survey
  • Spain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes

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