The Origins of Domesticity in the Late Upper Paleolithic: The Use of GIS Spatial Analysis at the French Magdalenian Site of Verberie
Ezra B. Zubrow Principal Investigator
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With National Science Foundation support, Ezra Zubrow and Scott Branting will analyze spatial organization in the eight occupation levels of the Magdalenian site of Verberie in the Paris Basin. They will collaborate with an international team of researchers headed by Francoise Andouze (CNRS) and Jim Enloe (U Iowa). Verberie is exceptional for many reasons. Foremost, the data are of excellent quality on a very fine scale because a single researcher - Andouze - excavated the site continuously between 1975 and 2002. The resulting dataset locates more than 150,000 artifacts from eight occupation levels to the nearest 0.25 centimeters. Verberie potentially will reveal how people organized their communities in the Upper Palaeolithic of the Paris Basin. Regular flooding of the site preserved the patterns left by Verberie's residents during their daily activities. Verberie provides an opportunity to identify nuclear family units and observe changes in community structure between the different occupations of the site. This project will be the most extensive analysis done to date, on one of the highest-resolution excavations ever done of a Palaeolithic site.<br/><br/>New methods and tools will be used in the spatial analysis of Verberie. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is one of the most powerful tools, employing a variety of very appropriate methods for spatial analysis. The team will construct a GIS database containing locational and descriptive information on all of the artifacts, and apply sophisticated intra-site spatial analysis methods to the dataset (locational cluster analysis - kernel density estimation; and Whallon's and Djindjian Class Composition analyses - unconstrained). These methods should reveal activity areas on each of the eight occupation floors. Initial results from spatial analysis of level II.1 (the most recent occupation floor) show three structures and several hearths, as well as significant clustering of and correlations between the many artifact and tool types in the activity areas. Using various ethnographic and archaeological models of hunter-gatherer site structure, conclusions will be drawn about the behavioral organization of the site and the social relations of the occupants. In particular, the project aims to test a nuclear family area model and its relevance to the origins and development of communal domesticity.<br/><br/>This study has both intellectual merit and a broad potential impact. The intellectual merit is that this is the first study to apply new and sophisticated spatial analysis methods to the origins of domestic life and the origins of community. It makes public a new set of data (Verberie), as well as the interpretations and analyses of a technically proficient international team of scholars. The potential impact of the research is that it explores the origin and development of community and domesticity, the building blocks of society. It thus enhances our scientific understanding of ourselves. The results will be disseminated broadly on both sides of the Atlantic to promote scientific and technological understanding via a specific website, conference and publication schedule in conjunction with CNRS. Finally, the project will help to inspire undergraduate student participants, and establish the scholarly careers of the graduate students participating in the research and the dissemination of the results.