Amongst archaeologists there is a paradigm
known as Culture-History
. In this paradigm the archaeologists believe that any given aspect of culture was developed in one place and was spread out and taught to others. This was the only way they could explain how projectile points
and tool kits
that appeared to be identical could appear in excavation sites located far from one another. It also explains how they could believe the Egyptians somehow came into contact with the indigenous
peoples of Mesoamerica
and taught them about pyramid
Their method of examining artifacts
of a culture is to collect the artifacts, arrange them in some sort of order and then make inferences
about that artifact and the culture
behind it based on your observations. Seriation was developed by these Culture-Historians as part of the arrangement
process of their paradigm. The basic principle behind seriation is that things change with time. There are two primary forms of seriation used in archaeological examinations.
is the process of putting artifacts of the same type in order from oldest to newest. This would be like lining up telephones from the first telephone to the newest hand-held cellular
. It shows the progression
and form, and suggests things about the people that used them.
is a quantitative
arrangement of artifacts. This form shows a record of which artifacts were popular
at a certain time and which were fading out of popularity. This is generally used when archaeologists are digging through strata
, they will record the frequency of artifacts in each layer and the end result will be a chart that can both show popularity and series within similar artifacts but can also be used as a relative dating
All knowledge of seriation came from lecture at the Univeristy of Maryland College Park in the course Introduction to Archaeology taught by Matthew Palus.