Provenance Studies in Archaeology

  • Charles C. Kolb
Living reference work entry


A primary objective in the study of ancient artifacts is to discern where they were produced. When archaeologists, other scientists, students, the public, or children inquire about an object – “Where is it from?” – there are, of course, two answers. One is the place or location at which the object was found or discovered, for example, the context of its finding, and second, a more difficult question, what is the source of the object. The latter entails a diagnosis of the origin of the materials that comprise the object, the location, or site where it was produced or fabricated, who made it, and why and for what purposes. A related set of questions, often with complex answers, is how the object was relocated from its place of origin to location at which it was recovered. In archaeology, these questions apply as much to the composition of a pottery vessel as they do to a lithic tool or stone ornament but also to glass, metals, and textiles as other major artifact classes. To...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles C. Kolb
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Preservation and AccessNational Endowment for the HumanitiesWashingtonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • E. Christian Wells
    • 1
  • Arleyn Simon
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  2. 2.School of Human Evolution & Social ChangeArizona State UniversityTempeUSA