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The Quality of the Archaeological Record$
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Charles Perreault

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226630823

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226631011.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 27 October 2020

The Forces That Shape the Quality of the Archaeological Record, II: The Loss of Archaeological Data

The Forces That Shape the Quality of the Archaeological Record, II: The Loss of Archaeological Data

Chapter:
(p.80) 4 The Forces That Shape the Quality of the Archaeological Record, II: The Loss of Archaeological Data
Source:
The Quality of the Archaeological Record
Author(s):

Charles Perreault

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226631011.003.0004

I examine the forces that lead to the loss of information and archaeological material. The forces of loss include preservation loss and observation loss. Preservation loss describes the physical remains that did not preserve or that have been damaged to such an extent that the information-bearing traces have been obliterated. Observation loss refers to physical remains that are preserved in the archaeological record but that have not been discovered or noticed by archaeologists. The cultural practices of ancient people, deterioration, decay, sedimentation, surface cover and field excavation techniques can all lead to both types of loss. Loss impacts the archaeological record in many ways. It creates a “Pull of the Recent” by preferentially decreasing the number of old archaeological sites, affect the size, and the composition of assemblages. It increases the sampling interval of the archaeological record to orders of magnitude ranging from 100 to 103 years, leads us to underestimate the temporal range of cultural traits, can make sudden cultural change appear gradual, slows down apparent rates of change, and limits our capacity to control for covariates.

Keywords:   Information loss, Preservation, Deterioration, Sampling intervals, Site frequency, Sedimentation, Surface cover, Temporal range, Rates of change, Pull of the recent

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