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Society for American Archaeology

Surface Collection, Sampling, and Research Design: A Retrospective


Author(s): Charles L. Redman
Source: American Antiquity, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Apr., 1987), pp. 249-265
Published by: Society for American Archaeology
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SURFACE COLLECTION, SAMPLING, AND RESEARCH


DESIGN: A RETROSPECTIVE
Charles L. Redman
Probabilitysampling, controlledsurfacecollecting,and explicit researchdesignsare standardworkingproceduresfor a largeportionof the archaeologicalprofession.The needfor adoptingtheseapproachesand theirutility
in thefield have been persuasivelyarguedin the literaturefor 20 years. Despite their agreed-uponutility,these
approachesare often poorly understood.Field strategiesof four projectsand their rationalesare presentedto
provideexamples of specificapproachesthat have had positiveresults.Based on these case studiesand a review
of the literature,I proposesix basicprinciplesas guidesto theformulationoffuturefield strategies.The researcher
must defineinterpretiveobjectives,specify minimal data requirements,understandthe problemsof data recognition, structurethe flow of researchand evaluation,choose appropriatetoolsfor each stage of research,and
maintaincost effectiveness.
Over 20 years have passed since Lewis Binford's seminal article on research design and sampling
was published in American Antiquity (1964). Many other articles and substantive examples have
been added to the literature during this time period. Problem-oriented fieldwork, probability sampling, intensive surface collecting, and multistage research designs have become commonplace in
American archaeology (Ammerman and Feldman 1978; Binford et al. 1970; Brown and Struever
1973; Carr 1984; Flannery 1976; Hill 1970; Judge 1981; Lewarch and O'Brien 1981; Longacre et
al. 1982; McManamon 1984; Mueller 1975; Nance 1983; Parsons 1974; Plog 1976; Plog et al. 1978;
Ragir 1975; Redman 1973, 1974, 1982; Redman and Watson 1970; Schiffer et al. 1978; South 1978;
Struever 1971; Thomas 1975; Whallon and Kantmann 1969).
The rapid growth of cultural resource management archaeology during that same period hastened
the adoption of these approaches. CRM research, because of its emphasis on survey approaches
and accountability of results, has led to an increasing reliance on formalized research designs and
sampling in fieldwork (Goodyear et al. 1978; King 1978; King et al. 1977; McGimsey and Davis
1977; Schiffer and Gumerman 1977).
The adoption of these approaches is heartening, but it has not been without problems. All too
often, techniques proposed in the literature have been blindly applied by fieldworkers who do not
fully appreciate the implications of the approach. On numerous occasions I have been confronted
by a colleague with a story of how he or she had tried sampling or intensive surface collecting and
"it had not worked!" I am sure that many of the authors cited above have had similar experiences
and find themselves put on the defensive for something that they did not intend. It is time to set
the record straight on some of these issues. The major objective of this article is to demonstrate
through four case studies that the successful application of currently accepted scientific approaches
to field archaeology requires the constant intervention of thinking human beings.
At this point in the development of archaeological method and theory, I believe increased effort
should be devoted to clarifying approaches already in practice, rather than continuing a preoccupation with the introduction of new methods. We are far from reaping the full benefits of past
innovations.

Another objective of this article is to promote an explicit concern with intrasite field strategies.
CharlesL. Redman, Departmentof Anthropology,ArizonaState University,Tempe,AZ 85282
AmericanAntiquity, 52(2), 1987, 249-265.
Copyright? 1987 by the Society for AmericanArchaeology

249

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A careful review of the methodological literature will reveal that almost all articles on sampling and
various other data-collecting strategies focus on these approaches as they are applied to regional
archaeological survey and surface work. This was not the case 20 years ago when systematic approaches to survey were in their infancy. Since then, however, the application and evaluation of
modem methods to survey and other surface work have become increasingly popular. This is partly
due to the abundance of research sponsored by contracts, and partly because the data produced by
these approaches are appropriate for the newer "systemic" interpretive approaches that many have
adopted (Binford 1965; Struever 1971). Among the interpretive models that utilize survey-type
information are those related to demography, economics, environmental resources, and hierarchical
spatial distributions. Amplifying this trend is the fact that a survey technique can be assessed
unambiguously because its success is measured by how close the survey comes to reporting the true
number of sites on a landscape or by some other absolute measure.
In many ways the growing concern with survey work is laudable, but because of it, inadequate
attention has been given to what I consider the primary source of information about past societies:
careful archaeological excavation and other site-oriented investigative methods. Despite 100 years
of systematic archaeological excavation, there still is not a straightforward approach to assessing
the success of an excavation. The real measure of the success of an excavation is how much has
been learned about a particular past society or about societies in general. This cannot be easily
evaluated. We have developed surprisingly few analytical models and even fewer interpretive models
directed toward excavated evidence. Without these, evaluation is empty. The major exceptions to
this situation are models used with artifact distributions considered as point scatters, a situation
more similar to the results of a survey than to those of an excavation with stratification and features
(Binford 1978, 1980; Carr 1984, 1985; Clark 1979; Cowgill 1974; Freeman 1978; Hietala and
Stevens 1977; Kintigh and Ammerman 1982; Speth and Johnson 1976; Whallon 1985; Yellen
1977). This lacuna is most disturbing if one shares my view that the majority of archaeological
insight comes from excavation. The surface is informative to the extent that it reflects what is
underground or to the extent that it is preserved for us as if it were a subsurface deposit. Some
discussion of intrasite issues exists in the literature, especially as it concerns site definition and
delineation (Adams 1981; Plog and Hill 1972; Schiffer et al. 1978). These are informative, but once
again they tackle the relatively straightforward question of extent and density of surface artifacts,
without attempting to decipher their meaning more fully.
To address these problems, I present a critique of developments related to research design and
sampling, and discuss some of the main areas where these approaches have been misunderstood or
misapplied. To illustrate some of the points raised and the potential variability in approaches to
field investigations, I present four examples from fieldwork with which I have been associated. A
discussion of six central issues in the formulation of an effective research design follows.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE MISUNDERSTOOD
As for the good, three fundamental positions held by only a minority of archaeologists 15 years
ago are today readily accepted by a majority of fieldworkers:
1. The need for a specific problem orientation in a research project, often taking the form of an
explicit research design (data recovery plan);
2. The utility of carefully collecting surface material;
3. The need for representative, if not complete, coverage, which as a rule has led to the use of
probability sampling to select a portion of the total available material.
Although these positions are not universally accepted, they are standard working procedures for
a large segment of the archaeological community.
As for the bad, much of it emanates from acceptance of the above points, but inadequate effort
to apply them properly:
1. Problem orientations are cited in reports, but do not affect the way research is conducted, hence,

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they do not provide the advantage of defining specific data categories to be recovered that might
otherwise be overlooked;
2. Research designs are presented in the proposal, sometimes even followed in the field, but are
not tailored to the specific project, being a standard format used in many circumstances and,
hence, not yielding the full potential of a project-specific research design;
3. Surface collections are made at substantial cost, but they are not used either to guide subsequent
work or as an interpretive resource. Often this happens because the surface collection "didn't
work" or the researcher does not know what to do with the information recovered.
4. Probability sampling is utilized, but for the wrong objective and, hence, it is perceived that the
sampling "failed."
Much of what I consider bad in currently practiced research methods derives from the investigator
having misunderstood the rationale behind the approaches advocated in the literature. It is hoped
that a clarification, or at least a discussion of the commonly misunderstood issues, will have a
favorable impact on the conduct of future field research.
1. Commitment to a problem orientation or specific research design does not put the researcher
into a "methodological straight-jacket."
a. Research designs do not predetermine what one will find in the field and thereby introduce
circularity into one's investigations; rather, they are structures for inquiry.
b. Research designs do not require that one ignore all evidence not specifically cited by the
design, but do mean that there is a focus to the work and at least minimal data-collecting
standards.
c. Research designs are not impervious to change; rather, they should be designed to be sensitive
to the nature of discoveries, facilitating modifications in the work in order to take the best
advantage of what is there.
2. Surface collecting varies in its applicability and will not answer all questions.
a. There are situations where the nature of ground cover or systematic disturbance make surface
collecting less effective than other approaches for collecting site-wide information.
b. High densities of surface artifacts do not necessarily imply features directly below, and may
not even ensure the presence of large quantities of artifacts below. It has been stressed repeatedly that surface artifact density is often caused by post-depositional processes and that
varying proportions or ratios of artifact categories may be more meaningful and stable measures than absolute counts (Lewarch and O'Brien 1981; Redman and Watson 1970).
c. There is no single best method of surface collecting. The same site can be subjected to more
than one collecting strategy, such as one for quantitative information (intensive) and another
for rare diagnostics (not intensive, but with locational information recorded). The point is to
collect data in a systematic, comparable fashion.
3. Probability sampling varies in its applicability and will not answer all questions.
a. Probability sampling is good for estimating total population values for common artifacts or
features. It is also good as an exploratory technique, in that it forces one to look "everywhere,"
even where one least expects things.
b. Probability sampling is poor for locating rare features or artifacts, dealing with clustered
distributions, or illuminating contiguous spatial patterns. Special sampling designs, such as
transect sampling, may overcome some of the difficulties, but overall, probability sampling
is a poor approach for those problems.
c. It is possible to dig or surface collect outside the selected sampling units and to use this
information as long as it is not utilized in the total population estimates based on the sample.
d. It follows from the above that in many projects probability sampling should be only a part
of the total data recovery plan (Cowgill 1975). I have come to use a combination of units
selected by probability sampling, usually employing some stratification, with units selected
on the basis of all available evidence indicating high productivity situations or likelihood of
solving specific problems.

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EXAMPLES OF ALTERNATIVE FIELD STRATEGIES


The four case studies that follow demonstrate how, reacting to the issues raised above, one is led
to select diverse field strategies when the conditions of the archaeological material and the objectives
of the project change. Although these examples are all drawn from investigations of architecturally
sophisticated sedentary societies, their geography spans three continents and their periods of occupation range over the past nine millennia. The presentation of these studies is too brief to provide
the detail of the situation and the full logic behind the decisions; citations of more complete
treatments are given for each case.
The specific interpretive problems and objectives for each of these archaeological situations varied,
yet there is a common interpretive objective behind all of these projects: to understand community
organization during periods of increasing societal integration. Because of the vastly different states
of knowledge and cultural contexts among the examples, the specific interpretive objectives and
their implications for field strategies were distinct for each project.
Interestingly, much of this difference can be conceptualized by reference to analytical units of
differing "human scale" (see Adams 1977; Braudel 1972). To gain an understanding of community
organization at the early Neolithic site of ?aydnii, Turkey, we found it best to work at the level of
individual households and only secondarily attempt to perceive overall site organization. When
investigating what appears to be a twelfth-century aggregation site in central Arizona, Shoofly Village,
however, we increased the scale of the analytical units to natural groupings of households, with an
eye for how they articulated within the entire site complex. This scale was increased further when
investigating the dense thirteenth-century occupation of the El Morro Valley, New Mexico. Here,
the decision was made to investigate the variability and structure within each of the eight largest
communities in the valley system as a step toward their comparison and articulation into a valleywide interpretive scheme. The structure of the community itself was once again the major analytical
unit when investigating Medieval Qsar es-Seghir, Morocco. Here, the nature of successive occupations of this and five other settlements were used as input to evaluate a model of changing world
order that spanned hundreds of miles.
(7ay6nu

This project, directed by Robert Braidwood and Halet (iambel, is focused upon understanding
the village context for the introduction of agriculture in the Anatolian region of Southwest Asia
(Braidwood et al. 1981). Chronology, diet, and even the appearance of domestic structures were
poorly understood, yet necessary to formulating meaningful propositions. In one of the first field
seasons, a single, large excavation unit located near the center of the site revealed the sophistication
of the architecture and the fact that there were several superimposed levels, but only segments of
buildings were uncovered ((;ambel and Braidwood 1970). It was decided that further excavations
should attempt to uncover entire buildings and seek examples from all stratigraphic levels. To
facilitate this objective and to put subsequent results into the context of the total settlement, we
needed a technique to investigate the entire two hectare area of the site.
A controlled surface collection was undertaken to provide this site-wide perspective at relatively
low cost (Redman and Watson 1970). Available time allowed a 9% simple random sample of the
entire site area to be collected (Figure 1). Five by five meter squares were chosen as units because
they would yield over 50 artifacts per unit. Once conducted, the random sample appeared less than
optimal for our major objective of delimiting distinct spatial patterns of surface artifacts because it
left substantial areas unsampled while other areas were sampled heavily. To discover spatial patterns,
we needed an even distribution of sample units, and in the subsequent surface collection at the
nearby site of Girikihaciyan a stratified, systematic, unaligned procedure was used to eliminate this
problem (Redman and Watson 1970:281-282). At (;ay6nii, nine additional units were collected to
fill the unsampled areas. The data from these "judgment" units were used in determining distributional patterns, but not for estimating total population values.
A series of density maps for each artifact category and for ratios of key categories was drawn in
the field. This procedure indicated that three areas of the site surface were characterized by distinct

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I
k~~~~~~~~~

UTest Excavations
Rado

Surac

Figure 1. Controlledsurfacecollectionand test excavationsat Cayonu,Turkey(adaptedfromRedmanand


Watson 1970).
ratios of materials. In Figure 1, the area marked "ceramics" was characterized by sample units with
over 50 sherds per unit, whereas three-fourths of the site surface had less than three sherds per unit.
The area marked "obsidian" was characterized by particularly high obsidian-to-flint ratios, while
the area marked "flint" was identified by especially low obsidian-to-flint ratios. Because we knew
the ceramic occupation must have been later than those areas without ceramics, that the obsidian
area was high on the mound, and the flint area was low, it was hypothesized that these partitions
represented successive occupations that were contributing strongly to the surface assemblage. It
follows that their remains should be near the surface, and hence, easy to uncover. Test excavations
were located to examine each of these areas. Their superimposition and hypothesized proximity to
the surface were found to be essentially correct. This allowed subsequent excavations, which were
oriented toward each of the two earlier occupation phases, to be located so as to avoid the later
ceramic period deposition and to expose entire buildings without excessive overburden ((7ambel
1981; Redman 1983b).
Shoofly Village
Archaeological research at the Shoofly Village ruins, a twelfth-century settlement in central Arizona, has been primarily oriented toward understanding the composition and organization of the
entire community (O'Brien and Redman 1985; Redman and Hohmann 1986; Redman and Lindauer
1985a, 1985Sb).Unlike (7ay6nii, where individual structures appeared to be the most reasonable
analytical and interpretive unit, at Shoofly the architecture exposed on the surface indicated that
the most meaningful interpretive units might be "subcommunity" groups of associated structures.
As a first approximation, seven architectural groupings were identified (the core roomblock and
various peripheral groupings, see Figure 2).
Whether to begin field investigations with a controlled surface collection was seriously considered,
but ultimately rejected. The primary factor in that decision was that the nature of the material
inventory and our current understanding of it (e.g., 99.7% poorly differentiated plainware) made it
unlikely that diagnostic patterning would be discerned, although large quantities of artifacts would
have needed to be collected, analyzed, and curated. Admittedly, some differences in depositional
behavior would probably have become evident, but it was decided that the overall costs could not

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SHOOFLY VILLAGE
1985
SCALE
* STAGE 1
O STAGE 2
E
STAGE3

Figure2. Three-stageexcavationprogramat Shoofly Village ruins,Arizona.


be justified. A coring and magnetometer program was also experimented with for information on
site-wide variability. The density of the clay matrix and nearness of substrate bedrock dissuaded
us from use of either approach. It was decided that to sample the architectural groupings adequately,
the spaces between them, and the area immediately around the site, we should use excavationorganized into three stages-as the primary method of investigation.
Monitoring site-wide patterns with a detailed map of surface architecture and evenly dispersed,
small test excavation units constituted the first stage of investigation. Units of one square meter
area were selected because they were large enough for digging tools, for recognizing stratigraphy,

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and for recovering a minimum number of artifacts and ecofacts, yet small enough so that they could
be dug relatively quickly. A stratified, systematic, unaligned sample was used to locate one test unit
in each 20 m by 20 m block inside the settlement's enclosure wall and one test unit in each 40 m
by 40 m block immediately outside of the enclosure wall. The units inside were square, while those
used in the trash areas outside the wall were a half meter by two meters so as to enhance their
potential for revealing stratigraphy and features. An arbitrary, geometric form of stratification was
used for stage 1 in order to allow estimation of site-wide parameters and to provide information
on overall distributions. This stage yielded data for inferences about the use of space, nature of
deposition, degree of preservation, and distributions of artifacts, features, and ecofacts.
Stage 2 excavations were designed to test the variability among the seven groupings of structures
defined during the site mapping activity. Up to four structures from each of the groupings were
randomly selected for test excavations. The initial sample units were trenches within the selected
structures and were expanded to reveal the entire structure where the features were well preserved.
This stage has provided additional information on elements of the built environment of the site
and their association with artifacts, ecofacts, and features found within them.
Stage 3 excavations were placed in judgmentally selected areas, which were chosen to help solve
specific problems. To date, this has involved extending trenches in dense, stratified trash areas,
excavating additional rooms in select locations, and extending test units where traces of burials were
encountered. As our familiarity with the site increases and the inquiries being pursued by the research
staff advance, this type of excavation will dominate the work.
El Morro Valley
The third field project involved the investigation of the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century occupations of the El Morro Valley in west-central New Mexico. The project was co-directed by Patty
Jo Watson, Steven LeBlanc, and me (1980). It focused on the large ruin of Pueblo de los Muertos
(PM) and other large settlements in the El Morro Valley system. Field strategies were designed to
characterize the internal variability of PM so that it could be compared to the others, providing
information on the interactive structure of the valley system. Surface collections were made of the
plaza and trash areas in order to identify areas of high densities or unusual patterns of artifacts.
Surface collecting the roomblock area was not carried out because it was thought that the characteristics of the architecture would be a better indication of variability than surface artifactual debris.
The 400 room columns of PM were too many to sample adequately by excavation, or even wall
clearing, with a completely random procedure, so it was decided to structure each stage of the
sampling design using strata based on variability observed at other similar pueblos. First, 25% of
the roomblock area was "wall cleared" according to a sampling design that ensured an even distribution across each side of the pueblo and in one of the four corners (Figure 3). This allowed for
a detailed architectural map to be made of these areas of the pueblo and for room size, room
proportions, and position in the building sequence to be assessed. Subdividing the population of
exposed rooms according to these variables, we randomly selected seven rooms for excavation.
Because we were interested in communication between rooms and patterns of room contiguity, an
additional seven rooms were randomly selected for excavation from those adjoining the first seven.
Based on the patterns perceived in the surface collections, we located excavation trenches in both
the plaza and trash areas. The guiding principle in the El Morro Valley project was that in order to
characterize the variability in such a large settlement with only a modest amount of work, one must
use prior knowledge to stratify the population so that investigations examine the range of extant
variability, yet retain an element of objectivity by making final selections within these strata according to random numbers.
Qsar es-Seghir
The fourth case study is drawn from inquiry into the operation of a complex urban society in
Medieval northern Morocco. Although some of the general patterns of politics, religion, and society
are well known from historic sources, the nature of the material record and the processes underlying

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ANTIQUITY

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Trash

1~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

NMrnN

Trash

U1

METERS

20

UIExcavation Units
JML

Figure 3. Results of wall clearing (strata outlined by dashed lines) and location of excavations at Pueblo de
los Muertos, New Mexico (adapted from Watson et al. 1980).

the urbanism of the region were poorly understood. The interpretive approach we adopted allowed
us to focus on the site of Qsar es-Seghir for several seasons, but ultimately required that results of
that work be compared with results from other sites that represented elements in a broad regional
model (Boone and Redman 1982; Redman 1983a). The scale of individual units was similar to that
in the El Morro project, except that for the Medieval case, the overall system was much larger and
the archaeological nature of the sites was not as well known as in the American Southwest. Hence,
at Qsar es-Seghir, few assumptions could be made about the structure of the community, so initial
strategies treated the site uniformly. Surface collecting was not selected as the initial investigatory
technique for two reasons: first, the presence of a dense pine forest on the site had created a thick
bed of pine needles obscuring almost all artifacts from view; and second, the artifactual inventory
of that period and region had never been systematically studied, leaving us to guess at the significance
of particular artifacts.
First, a series of 80 small surroundings was excavated along what appeared from the surface to
be the outer fortifications of the settlement, to verify the extent of the site. Next, larger, systematically
recorded units to be excavated were selected by a stratified, systematic, unaligned probability sample
to ensure an even distribution of units across the site (Redman et al. 1979). It was agreed, after
considerable debate, that the excavation unit size would be 9 by 9 m squares set within a 10 m
grid. This relatively large unit size was employed because an interpretive requirement was to identify

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the activities that took place in each structure and open area uncovered. Given the lack of previous
research on similar settlements, we believed that this large an excavation unit was called for, and
in fact it was often necessary to extend the units further to secure functional definitions. The
excavation time required by large unit size, combined with the stratigraphic depth of each unit,
allowed the excavation of only a small number of sample units, 19, or just over 8% of the site area
(Figure 4).
As the sample units were excavated, certain situations presented themselves, such as partially
exposed buildings that housed central institutions, or well-preserved domestic structures that provided a strong rationale to excavate areas outside the probability sample. The frequency of these
situations and additional problem-specific excavation decisions increased from season to season as
familiarity with the site grew (Figure 5). This was the third stage of excavation at Qsar es-Seghir
and by the fifth season constituted 100% of our research effort.
The combination of units selected by a probability sampling procedure with areas selected by
judgment provided diverse types of data. From the probability sample, one could determine the
depth of deposit, diversity of artifactual and architectural remains, and estimates on total land use
and population (Redman and Anzalone 1980). The areas selected by judgment often allowed for
the complete excavation of interpretable structures, particularly those of central institutions. It is
only through a combination of these complementary sorts of information that thorough understandings can be obtained (Redman 1986).
GENERAL ISSUES OF CONCERN IN DESIGNING FIELD INVESTIGATIONS
To help rationalize the design of field investigations, I have abstracted from the case studies and
literature cited above six basic issues involved in developing an effective field program. I do not
claim, however, to be presenting the only correct way to investigate a situation. There is no single
textbook approach to archaeological investigations, and I certainly do not consider my own work
to be a perfect model; rather it is a set of experiences to be learned from. Each investigator must
formulate a set of rational principles, principles that are considered while making the many decisions
inherent in the creation and implementation of an archaeological field strategy. These decisions
must be responsive to interpretive objectives, to the nature of the material being investigated, and
to the experience and abilities of individual researchers (Carr 1985; Redman 1978).
Each of us confronts the situation of designing an approach to the investigation of a site as it
arises, and attempts to do the "best" job under the given circumstances. There is an implicit
understanding among our teachers and colleagues that we all know how to dig a site. Any of us who
actually has developed strategies for digging sites, however, knows that there are few rational
guidelines to follow. This situation has led to competent approaches in most cases, and to inspired
approaches in a few, but it is not a situation that leads to rapid, sustained advances.
I do not believe that decisions about which sampling design to employ or what percentage of the
site or region to sample are among the central issues. They are important, and our results will bear
their imprint, but they can be dealt with in an orderly, rational fashion once the real issues are
understood.
1) Define Interpretive Goals
Clearly, the interpretive insights we produce are the ultimate criterion against which our work is
judged and, hence, are fundamental to our success. It is widely recognized that a project should
have a problem orientation and almost every research proposal written is replete with goals. What
often happens is that goals are indeed put forward, but they are too general, too numerous, and too
unrealistic. Other scholars take a different position and argue that our interpretive goals should
emanate from our work, not be formulated in advance. This is a more complicated issue than was
acknowledged by new archaeologists who years ago downgraded the latter position as "narrow
inductivism" (Fritz and Plog 1970). I agree, but only in part, with the position of new archaeologists
that one needs specific hypotheses in order to define relevant data to collect.
My own observation is that much of the fieldwork we do is designed to collect a common body

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Meters

50

Probability Sample

Judgement Selection

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Figure 4. Location of excavationsselected by a probabilitysample and by judgmentat Qsar es-Seghir,


Morocco(adaptedfromRedmanet al. 1979).
of information that characterizes the site. I will refer to this as baseline information. Baseline
information is the minimal set of information that most archaeologists agree must be retrived from
an excavation or survey. It allows inferences about a variety of behavioral categories. Questions of
chronology, subsistence, trade connections, and site type are almost always sought and, hence, are
baseline information for most projects. Some categories of information are universally sought after,
while others have become associated with projects investigating particular regions or time periods.
For example, if one were surveying in the American Southwest, whenever a site was located, land
form, plant community, and nearby water sources would be recorded and a site map and surface
collection would probably be made (Plog and Hill 1972). If one were excavating a Woodland site
in the Midwest it would be expected that features would be dissected and flotation samples taken
(Struever 1968; Watson 1976; Winters 1969).
I believe that archaeologists can collect baseline information using the more-or-less standard datacollecting formats that exist for a region. A problem orientation often emerges from such projects,
but usually after the data are collected, during the analytical stage. This may work out in some cases,
but is not reliable because key categories of data may be overlooked in the field and when they are
delineated in the laboratory stage, it is too late. For baseline interpretive questions, however, this
will seldom be a problem.
What is missing is the possibility of going further with one's interpretations and answering more
sophisticated questions. This does require that specific problems be defined and their implications
be used in formulating field strategies. This is rarely done, but archaeology would be working in
high gear if it were! How often does one read that project personnel are interested in subsistence,
ecology, trade, and organization only to find there is no perceptible way the data-collecting strategies

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SURFACE COLLECTION,SAMPLING, AND RESEARCH DESIGN

Redman]

SOUNDINGSALONG
FORTIFICAIONS

PROBABILITY
SAMPLE

1981

259

SELECTIONBY
JUD EMENT

100Al
90%

1980

10

1978

10%

75%

1977

10

50%

40%

1975

15%

50%

35%

1974

20%

60%

20%

Figure 5. Relative effort devoted to each type of excavation during six seasons of excavation at Qsar esSeghir, Morocco (from Redman 1986).

have been altered to meet those goals. This usually results from the problems not being specified
to the point where they take the form of alternative interpretive propositions that have detailed
data requirements. This, in turn, often results from a lack of understanding and application of issues
concerned with middle-range theory (Binford 1981; Goodyear et al. 1978; Schiffer 1983; Watson
et al. 1984:chapters 4 and 5). I think we can do better. Nevertheless, I also think that to speak to
the entire discipline, not just to those who adhere to a new archaeology position, we should acknowledge that, in fact, much good work is done without a priori problem definition and without
explicit concern with middle-range theory.
2) Specify Minimal Data Requirements
Realistically, there are two genres of minimal data requirements with which one must be concerned: those that provide adequate baseline information, and those that solve the specific problems
one has chosen to investigate. To address the first category, one must understand what minimal
data requirements satisfy the discipline and their sponsor. This will usually involve using recovery
and recording techniques at least equivalent to those practiced by others working in the region and
time period. In most cases, this is sufficient to produce baseline data, which are often what colleagues
want to know. It also serves to ensure that certain universally desired categories of information are
obtained from all archaeological investigations.
In addition to these baseline objectives, most of us will formulate a series of interpretive goals
that will require additional categories or quantities of data. It is crucial that special attention be
paid to the rigor and specificity of one's behavioral models. One can see from the four cases presented
above that varying the "human scale" of the interpretive units had direct implications for field
strategies. Three areas must be carefully thought out: scope of coverage, categories to be recorded,
and intensity of investigation. There are equally valid alternatives in each of these areas, and the
only rational way to make a decision on strategies is to determine what is necessary in terms of the
interpretive models and specific hypotheses drawn from them.
It is at this point that the researcher realizes that general models, such as Population Pressure,
Central Place, or Cost Minimization, are inadequate for clarifying what strategies should be followed.
One must take these general models and formalize elements of them to be investigated and state
them in such a manner that they can be evaluated with archaeological information (Watson et al.
1984:chapter 4). As was said by Sanders, Parsons, and Santley in reference to their surveys in the
Valley of Mexico, "What we failed to do, and what no one has really ever done adequately, is to

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develop a series of models, by means of which the archaeologist can make reasonable sociological
inferences from settlement pattern data" (1979:15; see also Ammerman 1981:76-77; Redman 1982:
380-382).
The difficulty of identifying behaviorally interesting phenomena with archaeological remains is a
problem that has plagued the discipline since its beginning. Diverse approaches to bridging this
chasm are being formulated today by applications of a better understanding of formation processes
(Schiffer 1983), ethnoarchaeology (Gould 1978; Gould and Watson 1982; Kramer 1979; Wylie
1985), and middle-range theory (Binford 1981). The development of effective means of identifying
and measuring behavioral processes in the past will continue to be a problem, but advances are
being made.
3) Understand the Problems of Data Recognition
I consider understanding problems of data recognition to be one of the most central issues in
designing effective research, yet one that does not receive adequate attention. Too frequently,
archaeologists find themselves recovering large quantities of artifacts, but still being unable to use
them to answer questions of interest. A solution to this problem depends on sufficient efforts being
devoted to aspects of the preceding two points, especially devising effective measuring instruments
and specifying information required to answer interpretive questions. Once these are defined, the
researcher must tailor field investigations and laboratory analysis so that there is a maximum chance
of recovering necessary information.
There are many dimensions to the question of data recognition, but even the easiest are not
always incorporated into research programs. For example, the scope of a field investigation is most
often determined by practical expediencies of available material. Nevertheless, there must be a
concordance between the scope of fieldwork and the scope ofthe interpretive questions being pursued.
If this is not possible, then the scope of the research must be adjusted to include more or less, as
is demanded. A somewhat more subtle set of decisions, but one probably more easily determined,
is what should be the minimum size of survey, collection, or excavation units in field investigations.
Clearly, it should be large enough so that one can recognize the features of interest, the context in
which one is working, and provide the minimal number of artifacts required to identify activities
or use in quantitative analyses. On the other hand, if it is an exploratory stage or a stage oriented
toward estimating total population parameters, one would not want to work with excessively large
units.
The use of one approach out of a series of alternatives, such as dispersed probability sampling
or large contiguous block investigations, is often chosen because of prejudice of the investigator
rather than recognition of the implications of these alternative strategies for the character of the
information recovered. If one's questions are about the total inventory of common objects or ecofacts,
then a large number of very small, widely scattered units is probably the best choice. If, on the other
hand, one is concerned with stratigraphic correlations, spatial analysis, or large-scale architectural
features, then the above is a poor strategy, and one might consider a few, large units.
4) Structure the Flow of Research and Evaluation
The structuring of an effective flow of field and laboratory research is particularly important and
I consider it one of the greatest challenges to the research archaeologist. To work effectively, I believe
that virtually all research should be structured in a multistage framework that promotes feedback
between stages (Binford 1964; Redman 1973; Struever 1971). This is not to deny the importance
of formulating a detailed research design in advance of the project, but to suggest that periodic reevaluation and redirection be built into it. Each day we are at a site or in a region we know more
about it and can devise a more rational approach to its investigation.
Early stages of work should provide a basis for planning subsequent activities, but how often is
this really the case? Characteristically, a series of stages is set up in advance and followed according
to the original plan. It is essential to set up an evaluation during or after each stage, and structure
it so that it will have an impact on the choice of subsequent investigations.

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261

This means ongoing laboratory analysis while in the field, which many archaeologists already try
to do, but more importantly, it means that one has to recognize what these early stages can tell and
how to utilize this information. This is often difficult but it is essential, deriving as it does from a
most fundamental archaeological problem: having a specific idea of what one needs to recover from
the site, and how to measure it. Although this may seem elementary, it is surprising how difficult
it is to determine on the spot and in detail whether what has been found is sufficient or insufficient
in terms of the interpretive questions defined for the project. Perhaps this is the strongest argument
for having specific hypotheses to test during one's field investigations. These hypotheses facilitate
the determination of qualitative and quantitative measures necessary for answering interpretive
questions. An example is provided by sequential sampling, where the observed variance is evaluated
at each sampling stage to determine further work necessary for estimating population parameters
at a given level of confidence. Clearly, one should be able to do this and I believe that more effort
in structuring research designs and experimenting with field strategies will help progress (Ammerman
et al. 1978; Lafferty et al. 1981; Plog 1976).
5) Choose Appropriate Tools for Each Stage of Research
Although it may be a bit of an oversimplification, it is useful to think of most archaeological field
projects as requiring three basic stages, varying with the specific questions being pursued and other
details of the material and resources of the expedition. They are: first, a definition of the region or
site one is investigating in terms of boundaries and whatever structure can be immediately recognized
in it; second, a refinement of knowledge about settlement structure in the region or about individual
site structure by delineation of subgroups and identification of what they represent; and third, an
interpretive distributional analysis that is usually guided by specific problem formulations.
Given these basic stages, each with distinct objectives and scopes of work, one must choose the
most effective tools for each stage of investigation. Before employing any particular technique, one
should have a good sense of what can be expected of it and what would be the effect of shifting one
or more of the technique's parameters. If it is a technique that one has not applied before, or if the
material in the present study is different from that to which one has applied the technique in the
past, then a pilot study is in order.
One can, and should, vary the techniques of investigation and the types of coverage within the
same project in order to achieve the diversity of information required by most baseline and interpretive objectives. Surface collecting, as exemplified at Cay8nii, is very effective for defining site
boundaries and sometimes for partitioning a site area into behaviorally meaningful units. However,
in some circumstances, such as at PM, wall clearing of surface architecture is an even better indicator
and surface collecting should be used only to supplement this information. In other situations,
surface disturbances or ground cover can make surface collecting an ineffective technique and I
recommend not using it at all. At Qsar es-Seghir, shortcomings in our ability to recognize the
meaning of patterns that we might discover and the obscuring nature of the ground cover convinced
me to skip surface collecting and to attempt to partition the site based on a program of relatively
large excavation units. At Shoofly Village, I decided once again that surface collecting would not
be our primary approach to defining site structure. In this case, the architecture was reasonably
clear from the surface so a combination of a detailed map of it and a large number of small test
excavations dispersed across the site was used to delineate site structure.
Increasing use of surface collection, other methods of surface prospecting, and subsurface testing
have indicated to some that horizontal excavations by hand are on their way out and no longer
necessary in archaeology. I do not agree. Subsurface examination is expensive, but it yields otherwise
unobtainable information and serves as a check on surface techniques. What one should attempt
is to tailor the nature and distribution of excavation units to gather efficiently the information that
is required of them and to utilize other, less expensive techniques when appropriate. If stratigraphic
columns of artifacts and ecofacts from across the site are called for, then small soundings are most
effective. If, on the other hand, the nature of features and the activities taking place around them
are being sought, then larger exposures are the only way to approach them. Often a comprehensive

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approach, involving both types of strategies for investigating a site, as at Shoofly, is required. It is
important for the investigator to apply each in its place and not to apply unthinkingly only one or
the other approach out of some misplaced notion of "consistency."
6) Maintain

Cost Effectiveness

All of our work must be done within some finite set of resources. Even if money is not an issue,
I believe that the investigator's time and intellectual energy are valuable and should not be wasted.
One should plan the investigations to fit available resources so that the job can be completed.
Sampling is one systematic way to reduce the cost of investigation. If need be, the job can be planned
in stages, each of which can stand alone if funding dries up or permissions are not renewed. Although
a set amount of time and money is available to conduct any particular project, these are not
completely inelastic. If the quality of the discoveries merits, early findings can be used to request
additional resources.
The application of the above six principles, adapted to the specific research project, should begin
in the early planning stages and be reconsidered as the strategies are defined in detail. This is both
advice for the prospective researcher and for those asked to evaluate the research proposals of others.
These six principles do not offer specific field techniques for the investigator, but rather provide
an intellectual structure within which to work. Carefully considered linkages between interpretive
ideas, the nature of the archaeological record, and the methods we use to investigate them are at
the core of successful research.
THE PERSONAL ELEMENT
The skills and concerns of the individual researcher are as important as the above six principles.
We are not all equally good at everything, nor as interested in every approach. One should design
work to fit one's capabilities and interests. Otherwise, one may find that one never carries through
to completion. On the other hand, if one's interests or capabilities fall short of minimal project
requirements, a staff person can be added to fill the gap. Too often we find ourselves doing something
because it is what we thought the agency wanted, what our graduate-school mentor did, or what
some persuasive article said we should do. This may work in some cases, but too often we do not
fully understand or agree with the basis for action and consequently are at a disadvantage when it
comes to making decisions. It is crucial for the investigator to understand what and why he or she
is doing something and to be able to argue for it. Archaeologists must feel comfortable with the
approach being used so that it will maintain their interest and they will be committed to its
completion. Without accurate assessment of the personal element, archaeology will be reduced to
a set of mechanically applied approaches practiced by a series of competent, but disinterested
researchers, a grim prospect for the discipline.
Acknowledgments. The ideas expressed in this article derive from interaction with countless individuals in
field and academic settings. Robert Braidwood, Geoffrey Clark, and Patty Jo Watson were instrumental in
formulating the Cay6nii strategies, John Hohmann and Owen Lindauer as well as other Arizona State University
students helped plan the Shoofly project, Watson and Steven LeBlanc shared responsibility for the El Morro
Valley approach, and Ronald Anzalone, Joudia Hassar Benslimane, James Boone, Renata Holod, Keith Kintigh,
Emlen Myers, and Patricia Rubertone were instrumental in the Qsar es-Seghir project. Chris Carr, the Editor
of American Antiquity, and two anonymous reviewers for American Antiquity made helpful comments on an
earlier draft of this paper. The National Science Foundation provided major funding for the Cay6nii, El Morro,
and Qsar es-Seghir projects. The Smithsonian Foreign Currency Program, Fulbright Program, and SUNY
Binghamton also contributed financial support to the Qsar es-Seghir project while Arizona State University,
Tonto National Forest, and FLEX, Inc. have helped make the Shoofly project possible.
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