Off-Site Scatters and the Manuring Hypothesis in Greek Survey Archaeology: An Ethnographic Approach

by Hamish Forbes

Hesperia, Volume 82, Issue 4
Page(s): 551-594
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2972/hesperia.82.4.0551
Year: 2013


This article addresses the debate over the origin(s) of “background” artifacts found between archaeological sites in Greek survey projects, within the general context of refuse disposal practices. Ethnographic and practical data on manure formation and deposition, combined with archaeological and ethnoarchaeological studies, indicate that both the definition of refuse and its disposal are governed by complex, culturally determined rules. In antiquity these rules meant that the wholesale disposal of artifact trash into organic waste used as fertilizer was not the norm. Quantified models demonstrate that despite this fact, the high levels of “background” found in some survey projects are best interpreted as resulting from low levels of artifacts inadvertently incorporated in manure.