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TYPOLOGY IN TEXAS ARCHEOLOGY

TYPOLOGY IN TEXAS ARCHEOLOGY. The type is the basic unit of classification in archeology. In order to establish order and to facilitate analysis, the archeologist divides his data into typological categories. In order to interpret the meaning of the activities represented at the site the archeologist must examine the material culture in terms of some coherent set of ideas or model, and most of the procedures involve taxonomy-the classification into types of the objects and features that are recovered. This usually begins with the definition of consistently recurring forms and the analysis of patterns of association and distribution. All examples of a given class of object, be it projectile points, pottery vessels, or point fragments or sherds (not just complete specimens) can be grouped according to their attributes. Such a grouping is called a type; once it is prepared, further examples can be described simply by reference to types already recognized. Consequently, lithic and ceramic typologies are of central importance in archeological analysis and communication. Stone and ceramic artifacts are the basic research materials from most prehistoric sites in Texas. Archeologists do not fully understand why ancient Indian groups changed the style of projectile points or pottery through time; with projectile points such changes may have reflected different forms of hafting, shifts in the kinds of animals hunted, or even the movement of certain populations. Changes in style provide invaluable indicators of the chronology of culture history in different regions of Texas.

Once it has been demonstrated that a particular type such as a projectile point has meaning in terms of its geographic and temporal distribution, it becomes valuable as a "time marker" that allows the archeologist to date excavated archeological deposits or surface sites found during surveys. The illustration and description of a representative selection of pieces from a type, picked from hundreds or thousands of excavated tools, is central to communication with critical readers of an archeological report, who not only must form a visual impression of the lithic assemblage but must also be able to decide for themselves whether the terminology used matches, or can be translated, into their own. Intensive archeological research is needed to demonstrate whether the distinctive shapes that have been sorted into a variety of groups, categories, or types fit into one of two categories: morphological types or temporal types. The former are simply convenient groupings of morphological types, that is, types grouped by the overall appearance of a set of artifacts; morphological types permit the archeologist to describe a collection. The latter have greater meaning in terms of defining a certain style with specific boundaries in time and space; temporal types serve a specificfunction and are best defined through stratigraphic analysis.

There has been, and continues to be, much controversy in North American archeology as to the use of projectile point "types." Archeologists must make explicit how they conceive of these types and how they intend that they be used by other archeologists. Alfred Vincent Kidder established the main outlines of Southwestern prehistory when he defined ceramic types at Pecos Pueblo (1915–29). Combining stratigraphy with typology, he produced the first synthesis of Southwestern prehistory-the basis of nearly all later studies in the area. In the early 1940s and early 1950s archeologists working in Texas relied on the pioneering efforts of J. Charles Kelley and Alex D. Krieger, the first to systematize the material collections from archeological sites across Texas. Kelley and Krieger's efforts guided the development of Texas archeology towards a scientific discipline. Today, Texas typology uses the theories described by Alex Krieger, Dee Ann Suhm Story, and Edward B. Jelks in their 1954 and 1962 studies of Texas typology.

Typology is additionally enhanced by computer-assisted methods available for classifying artifacts. Multivariate procedures are now employed in analyzing projectile points to discover quantifiable trends in ancient behavior. Identification or projectile points and ceramics is not a cut-and-dried procedure of superimposing a specimen on an illustration and finding the two congruent or not congruent. The variability of skills and raw materials used resulted in a wide range of shapes within some of the types currently recognized. All attributes must be studied with, most importantly, the contextual data. Again and again Indians evolved projectile point shapes similar to those already made by other tribes thousands of miles away, because there are only so many ways that the points can be made. That is why the study and analysis of stone tools should include not only context but technology-whether the points were made by direct or indirect percussion, pressure flaking, or combinations of the three-as well as size, range, probable use or combination of uses, type of stone used, and the origin of that stone. Writing about typology for American Antiquity in 1944, Krieger set forth the objective that "a type in archeology must...provide an organizational tool which will enable the investigator to group specimens into bodies which have demonstrable historical meaning in terms of behavior patterns." It is impossible to force every point or potsherd into a specific typological niche, however. The archeologist looks for patterns in the whole chipped stone or ceramic assemblage of a site, not just those specimens which, because they show workmanship, indicate intentional manufacture. The emphasis upon pattern is basic to anthropological thinking-it is the patterned and not the unique that is the substance of culture and culture comparisons. See also PREHISTORY.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Alex Krieger, "The Typological Concept," American Antiquity 9 (January 1944). Dee Ann Suhm et al., "An Introductory Handbook of Texas Archeology," Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 25 (1954). Ellen Sue Turner and Thomas R. Hester, A Field Guide to Stone Artifacts of Texas Indians (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1985).

Ellen Sue Turner and Thomas R. Hester

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Ellen Sue Turner and Thomas R. Hester, "TYPOLOGY IN TEXAS ARCHEOLOGY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bctvw), accessed July 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.