INTER-SECTION Volume II - Page 25

| Detecting cultural formation processes through arthropod assemblages |
Whether cultural or natural , it is likely that arthropods are silent witnesses that hitchhiked along with the deposits . Arthropods , like beetles and mites , are largely abundant in any habitat ( Robinson 1996 , 5 ). Their sturdy chitinous exoskeletons allow them to be preserved in the archaeological record . The use of these remains and their ecological implications are a useful way to separate the cultural from the natural formation processes , but they are often neglected in archaeological research ( Elias 2010 ). In the search for anthropogenic activities , those arthropods that are known to interact with and benefit from humans and man-made environments form great indicators . These species are called synanthropes . For example , the grain weevil Sitophilus granarius cannot survive without indoor stored grains ( King et al . 2014 ), and forms an indication for grain storage , consumption and waste-disposal .
Using ecofacts , or ‘ culturally relevant nonartifactual data ’ ( Binford 1964 , 432 ), as indicators for C-transforms is in sharp contrast with Schiffer ’ s pioneering work on formation processes , where he considers ecofacts solely as natural formation processes ( Schiffer 1987 , 290-291 ). Since then , people have argued against this , showing that ecofact assemblages can well be a cultural formation process ( Welinder 1991 ). The aim of this article is not to define which arthropod groups are indica tors for a certain activity or feature as with indicator packages ( sensu Kenward and Hall 1997 ), nor to describe species associations from urban deposits like Carrott and Kenward ( 2001 ) have done , but to create a preliminary arthropod-based model for understanding cultural formation processes , using an urban archaeological rubbish / cesspit as example . Urban in this sense refers to a human society where people occupy permanent domestic dwellings , with properties linked to those dwellings .
The trajectory of a deposit from the context of origin to the moment of final deposition can be described as the transition from systemic to archaeological context ( sensu Schiffer 1972 ). In the example of the rubbish / cesspit , this feature is considered the archaeological context , and the conceptual systemic contexts are defined using concepts as described in Robinson ’ s work on urban entomology . Conceptual systemic origins and synanthropicity are used to make cultural formation processes visible , by a number of subdivisions of the overall arthropod assemblage .
Between natural and cultural formation processes : defining systemic and archaeological contexts The difference between a natural and a cultural formation process lies in the movement from the systemic to the archaeological context . In order to define move-

Non Local

Local

Natural
Peridomestic
Domestic
Peridomestic
Natural
Tertiary Sub- Assemblage
Tertiary Sub- Assemblage
Secondary Sub- Assemblage
Secondary Sub- Assemblage
Primary Sub- Assemblage
Secondary Sub- Assemblage
Primary Sub- Assemblage
Quaternary Sub- Assemblage
Arch . Context
Figure 1 . Representation of the sub-assemblages and their trajectories from systemic contexts of origin towards the archaeological context .
2016 | INTER-SECTION | VOL II | p . 23