From site formation processes to human behaviour: Towards a constructive approach to depict palimpsests in Roca dels Bous

Jorge Martínez-Moreno, Rafael Mora Torcal, Miquel Roy Sunyer, Alfonso Benito-Calvo

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19 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA Study of the archaeological record underpins characterization of human behaviour in the past. However, site formation processes modify archaeological deposits affecting identification of activities and/or contexts which provide information on those behaviours. Such phenomena form palimpsests in which associations between artefacts and behaviour are not always clear. Roca dels Bous is a multi-layered Mousterian rock shelter where we apply a series of high-tech approaches. Design of a digital environment is connected with assessment of the influence of site formation processes on archaeological levels. We present examples of this application which represent a significant improvement in the quality of information recovered during fieldwork. Integration of these technologies enables development of a constructive approach to fieldwork which does not concentrate exclusively on the recovery and recording of artefacts during excavation with a view to their future ‘reconstruction’ through post-excavation techniques. Alternatively we propose to intervene directly with the archaeological record in parallel with its excavation. The application of new technologies integrates spatial and contextual information obtained during fieldwork with which to create hypotheses that will be verified or rejected according to data obtained in excavation. The continual interaction between data and hypotheses makes it possible to detect errors in interpretation of the archaeological record which would be difficult to recognise when applying post-excavation techniques where, at times, associated contextual evidence is lost. This approach reminds us of the difficulty in defining concepts such as ‘spatial/temporal association’ or ‘archaeological level’, which are basic to discussion in Archaeology. Finally, we think this constructive approach to fieldwork enables us to address the study of palimpsests, a key concept in the interpretation of the archaeological record.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-93
JournalQuaternary International
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sep 2016


  • Archeological level
  • Association
  • High-tech fieldwork
  • Palimpsest
  • Site formation processes
  • Superposition


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