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Feature (archaeology)

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Title: Feature (archaeology)  
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Subject: Archaeological plan, Hearth, Posthole, Cut (archaeology), Artifact (archaeology)
Collection: Archaeological Features, Methods and Principles in Archaeology
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Feature (archaeology)

Feature in archaeology and especially excavation has several different but allied meanings. A feature is a collection of one or more contexts representing some human non-portable activity that generally has a vertical characteristic to it in relation to site stratigraphy. Examples of features are pits, walls, and ditches. General horizontal elements in the stratigraphic sequence, such as layers, dumps, or surfaces are not referred to as features. Examples of surfaces include yards, roads, and floors. Features are distinguished from artifacts in that they cannot be separated from their location without changing their form.

Features tend to have an intrusive characteristic or associated cuts. This is not definitive as surfaces can be referred to as features of a building and free standing structures with no construction cut can still be features. Middens (dump deposits) are also referred to as features due to their discrete boundaries. This is seen in comparison to leveling dumps, which stretch out over a substantial portion of a site. The concept of a feature is, to a certain degree, fuzzy, as it will change depending on the scale of excavation.

Generic feature types

Features specific to certain architecture types or eras such as trilithon for the purposes of this article are not considered generic. Generic features are feature types that can come from a broad section in time of the archaeological record if not all of it. Generic types can include:

  1. Cuts
  2. Re-cuts
  3. Pits
  4. Post holes
  5. Stake holes
  6. Construction cuts
  7. Robber trenches
  8. Walls
  9. Foundations
  10. Ditches
  11. Drains
  12. Wells
  13. Cisterns
  14. Hearths
  15. Stairs and steps
  16. Enclosures
  17. Lynchets
  18. Graves
  19. Burials
  20. Middens
  21. Pit-houses
  22. Fire pits

See also

References

  • The MoLAS archaeological site manual MoLAS, London 1994. ISBN 0-904818-40-3. Rb 128pp. bl/w
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