Thursday, March 1, 2012

0083 - Cutting and re-cutting

Some ditches present evidences of re-cutting. When a previous and larger ditch is totally or partially filled, sometimes another smaller ditch is dug in those deposits. Usually, this is not a total reopening of the first ditch, but simple of a small part. That is the case recently detected at Senhora da Alegria, in a ditch belonging to the Late Neolithic phase.

This means that we cannot look at this reopening as a “maintenance task”, but rather as a new use (even if with similar purposes) of a previous perceived structure. And the argument of saving efforts, by excavating deposits rather than bedrock, is not always an argument. At Senhora da Alegria all ditches are excavated in deposits, being of previous occupations or of weathered sandstones. So, no big difference can be assumed in terms of work invested. So why are there, in the more than a dozen ditches already identified, situations like new ditches using part of previous similar structures?; situations that new ditches are open quite near to others without reopening them?; situations where a new smaller ditch is totally dug inside another?

The answers can be different for all situations and probably related to several dimensions of a living site: changes in space organization; changes in the occupied area; consequences of a seasonal occupation, etc. But what I want to argue is that the reopening of a previous ditch that is filled with stones and archaeological material is not just an economic strategy of those communities or an activity that brings troubles to the archaeologists (because changes and mixes older materials with recent ones): it is an intervention that is strongly conditioned by the earlier structure, in physical terms, but also in meaningful ones. It is a moment when a given community interacts with previous construction and previous materials. What would they think when they dug previous artefacts? Would they just have a “catchment attitude”? Or were those materials seen as a link to ancestors? How would a segment point or an early arrowhead be seen by a person that produces more recent bifacial and all retouched arrowheads? Or a decorated shard in a moment where all pottery was undecorated?

Digging a ditch in previous structures is different from digging a ditch in the bedrock. That is certain, but not only because of the labour involved or because of a similar space organization. It has consequences in other dimensions that are important to understand past decisions and their outcomes.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps the digging, and backfilling,- on or near that place- was itself the ritual.