Encyclopedia of Geoarchaeology

2017 Edition
| Editors: Allan S. Gilbert

Site Formation Processes

  • Rolfe D. MandelEmail author
  • Paul Goldberg
  • Vance T. Holliday
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4409-0_147


Site formation processes are “the factors that create the historic and archaeological records” (Schiffer, 1987, 7). These factors include both natural and anthropogenic forces operating in different depositional environments and contributing to postdepositional disturbances. Formation processes affect the spatial integrity of both artifacts and sites, and they affect cultural deposits in different ways depending on the site’s age, geomorphic setting, sediments and soils, climate, and type and the complexity of occupation (Goldberg and Macphail, 2006). Schiffer (1972, 1987) stressed that the reconstruction of human behavior must be inferred from the archaeological context, which he defined as the three-dimensional spatial patterning of individual artifacts, features, and other debris on a site. However, before archaeologists can reach meaningful conclusions about human behavior from the archaeological context, they must know how it was created (Waters, 1992, 11).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rolfe D. Mandel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paul Goldberg
    • 2
  • Vance T. Holliday
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologyEmeritus at Boston UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.Anthropology and Departments GeosciencesUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA