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Settlement pattern research levels of analysis

Bruce Trigger at his best

Few writers could turn difficult concepts into easily-read prose better than could Bruce Trigger have made the difficult read easily better than did Bruce Trigger, and rarely did he do it better than in his 1968 programmatic essay “The determinants of settlement patterns” (in Settlement archaeology, ed. Kwang-chih Chang (Palo Alto, Calif.: National Press Books, 1968), 53–78).

One of my personal favorites, the chapter expands upon ideas initially presented in a previous journal article that focuses upon Northern Iroquoian settlement archaeology (“Settlement archaeology. Its goals and promise,” American Antiquity 32, no. 2 (April 1967): 149–60, doi:10.2307/277900). Hat tip to John Byrd and Charles Heath for introducing me to not only the 1968 piece, but also to the concept of settlement pattern research itself in their excellent write-up of early 18th century Tuscarora settlement pattern via their “‘The country here is very thick of Indian Towns and Plantations …’: Tuscarora settlement patterns as revealed by the Contentnea Creek survey” (in Indian and European contact in context: the Mid-Atlantic region, ed. Dennis B. Blanton and Julia A. King (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004), 98–125 [unified volume References, 289–339]).

With this post I want to do no more than present the three nested units of settlement pattern analysis defined by Trigger in his 1968 article. Among other things, that will provide a nice jumping off point for potential future posts. For example, it is certainly possible to pick around the edges of each category to demonstrate the difficulty of finding a 1:1 fit for the categories in the empirical world. That one is able to do so is to the credit of model’s creator. Indeed, one of the reasons I particularly value Bruce Trigger’s writing style is because its author welcomes critique by being explicit and clear in his claims.

Level 1: The individual structure

Longhouse footprint at the Caughnawaga Indian Village Site in Fonda, N.Y.

Level 2: The organization of structures as a settlement

Koro, Burkina Faso, from the Banfora Escarpment.

Level 3: The disposition of settlements within a region

Iroquoia on Father Pierre Raffeix’s 1688 map.


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