Archaeological Site Formation

How do archaeological sites form, and what do patterns at our sites reveal about prehistoric behavior patterns? How archaeological sites form – what patterns are created by hominid tool-making and tool-using activities, and how do these get buried and preserved to form our archaeological record – has become a major concern for paleoanthropological researchers. It has become apparent that we must understand this process of site formation in order to interpret the sites that we excavate.

Research by Stone Age Institute researcher Kathy Schick has actively investigated the dynamics of site formation, helping us identify sites showing good preservation of ancient prehistoric behaviors. This research has included setting out experimental sites along rivers, deltas, and lake margins, and monitoring the changes that occur over the course of time during flooding and burial. Such studies have given us powerful criteria to help us identify the behavioral information contained in early archaeological sites.



Modern depositional environments like this river (above) provide opportunities for controlled experiments in site formation (below)