Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 697–723 | Cite as

When Survey Goes East: Field Survey Methodologies and Analytical Frameworks in a Central Asian Context

  • Steven Markofsky


This paper investigates the applicability and transferability of conventional frameworks of archaeological survey in the context of marginal alluvial environments, particularly the unique inland deltas of Central Asia. These dynamic and visually obstructed landscapes pose unique challenges not only to survey methodologies but also to theory and interpretation. Here, an exploratory approach to data analysis is used that applies three distinct yet integrated methodologies: visibility analysis, multi-scalar spatial analysis and directional (anisotropic) statistics. This approach thereby moves beyond many of the existing conceptual constraints about how we understand surface distributions in arid alluvial landscapes and ultimately identifies both transferable analytical methods and new fieldwork agendas that are relevant to a wide range of survey projects.


Survey Central Asia Spatial analysis Murghab 



I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Tim Williams and Andrew Bevan for their encouragement and support of this research. Thanks also go to Gaigysyz Joraev and to Maurizio Tosi, Barbara Cerasetti and the University of Bologna researchers associated with the Archaeological Map of the Murghab Delta, without whose collaboration, this work would not have been possible. Further thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.


  1. Adams, R. M. (1981). Heartland of cities: surveys of ancient settlement and land use on the central floodplain of the Euphrates. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  2. Alcock, S., Cherry, J., & Davis, J. (1994). Intensive survey, agricultural practice and the classical landscape of Greece. In I. Morris (Ed.), Classical Greece: ancient histories and modern archaeologies (pp. 137–170). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Allison, P. (1999). Formation processes of house floor assemblages. In P. Allison (Ed.), The archaeology of household activities. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Ammerman, A. J. (1995). The dynamics of modern land use and the Acconia survey. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 8(1), 77–92.Google Scholar
  5. Banning, E. B. (2002). Archaeological survey. New York: Kluwer Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Banning, A. E. B., Hawkins, A. L., Stewart, S. T., & Banning, E. B. (2006). Society for American archaeology detection functions for archaeological survey. American Antiquity, 71, 723–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Banning, E. B., Hawkins, A., & Stewart, S. (2011). Sweep widths and the detection of artifacts in archaeological survey. Journal of Archaeological Science, 38(12), 3447–3458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barker, G., & Gilbertson, D. (2000). Archaeology of drylands: living at the margins. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Bevan, A., & Conolly, J. (2004). GIS, archaeological survey, and landscape archaeology on the island of Kythera, Greece. Journal of Field Archaeology, 29(1/2), 123–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bevan, A., & Conolly, J. (2006). Multi-scalar approaches to settlement pattern analysis. In G. Lock & B. Molyneaux (Eds.), Confronting scale in archaeology: issues of theory and practice (pp. 217–234). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  11. Bevan, A., & Conolly, J. (2009). Modelling spatial heterogeneity and nonstationarity in artifact-rich landscapes. Journal of Archaeological Science, 956–964.Google Scholar
  12. Bintliff, J. (2011). Problems of chronology and function in survey assemblages: the 1999 hidden landscape debate reviewed. Paper presented at the hidden landscapes of Mediterranean Europe: cultural and methodological biases in pre- and protohistoric landscape studies, Siena, Italy.Google Scholar
  13. Bintliff, J., & Howard, P. (1999). The hidden landscape of prehistoric Greece. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 12(2), 139–168.Google Scholar
  14. Bintliff, J. L., & Snodgrass, A. M. (1988). Off-site pottery distributions: a regional and interregional perspective. Current Anthropology, 29, 506–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bintliff, J., Howard, P., & Snodgrass, A. M. (Eds.). (2007). Testing the Hinterland. The work of the Boeotia Survey (1989–11991) in the southern approaches of the city of Thespiai. Cambridge: MacDonald Institute Monographs.Google Scholar
  16. Blanton, R. (2001). Mediterranean myopia. Antiquity, 75, 267–269.Google Scholar
  17. Brown, A. G. (1997). Alluvial geoarchaeology: floodplain archaeology and environmental change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Burger, O., & Todd, L. (2006). Grain, extent, and intensity: the components of scale in archaeological survey. In G. Lock & B. Molyneaux (Eds.), Confronting scale in archaeology: issues of theory and practice (pp. 235–255). Oxford: Archaeopress.Google Scholar
  19. Campana, S. (2011). From space to place or from site to landscape? Mind the gap. In: van Leusen, M., Pizziolo, G., Sarti, L. (Eds.), Hidden landscapes of Mediterranean Europe: cultural and methodological biases in pre- and protohistoric landscape studies (pp. 35–46), BAR International Series 2320, Siena, Italy.Google Scholar
  20. Campana, S., & Francovitch, R. (2007). Understanding archaeological landscapes: steps towards an improved integration of survey methods in the reconstruction of subsurface sites in South Tuscany. In J. Wiseman & F. El-Baz (Eds.), Remote sensing in archaeology: interdisciplinary contributions to archaeology (pp. 239–261). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Caraher, W. R., Nakassis, D., & Pettigrew, D. (2006). Siteless survey and intensive data collection in an artifact-rich environment: case studies from the Eastern Corinthia, Greece. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 19(1), 7–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cattani, M., & Salvatori, S. (2008). Transects and other techniques for systematic sampling. In M. Cattani & S. Salvatori (Eds.), The Bronze Age and early iron age in the Margiana lowlands: facts and methodological proposals for a redefinition of the research strategies (pp. 1–29). Oxford: Archaeopress.Google Scholar
  23. Cattani, M., Salvatori, S., & Tosi, M. (2008). The final phase of the Bronze Age and the “Andronovo Question” in Margiana. In S. Salvatori & M. Tosi (Eds.), The Bronze Age and early iron age in the Margiana lowlands: facts and methodological proposals for a redefinition of the research strategies (pp. 133–148). Oxford: Archaeopress.Google Scholar
  24. Cerasetti, B. (2006). A 5000-years history of settlement and irrigation in the Murghab Delta (Turkmenistan): an attempt of reconstruction of ancient deltaic system. BAR International Series, 1016, 21–28.Google Scholar
  25. Cerasetti, B., Salvatori, S., & Tosi, M. (2008). A GIS for the archaeology of the Murghab Delta. In S. Salvatori & M. Tosi (Eds.), The Bronze Age and early iron age in the Margiana lowlands: facts and methodological proposals for a redefinition of the research strategies (pp. 29–34). Oxford: Archaeopress.Google Scholar
  26. Cleuziou, S. (1998). Copper arrowheads: typology and chronology. In A. Gubaev, G. Koshelenko, & M. Tosi (Eds.), The archaeological map of the Murghab Delta: preliminary reports 1990–1995 (pp. 119–124). Rome: IsIAO.Google Scholar
  27. Cremaschi, M. (1998). Palaeohydrography and Middle Holocene desertification in the northern fringe of the Murghab Delta. In A. Gubaev, G. Koshelenko, & M. Tosi (Eds.), The archaeological map of the Murghab Delta: preliminary reports 1990–1995 (pp. 15–25). Rome: IsIAO.Google Scholar
  28. Cremaschi, M., & Zerboni, A. (2010). Human communities in a drying landscape. In I. P. Martini (Ed.), Landscapes and societies: selected cases. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  29. Dunnell, R. C., & Dancey, W. S. (1983). The siteless survey: a regional scale data collection strategy. Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, 6, 267–287.Google Scholar
  30. Düring, B., & Glatz, C. (2010). The CIDE archaeological project: first results. Anatolia Antiqua, XVIII, pp. 203–213Google Scholar
  31. Ebert, J. I. (1992). Distributional archaeology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.Google Scholar
  32. Fentress, E., Francovich, R., & Patterson, H. (2000). What are we counting for? Extracting meaning from ploughsoil assemblages (pp. 44–52). Oxford: Oxbow Books.Google Scholar
  33. Fortin, M. J., & Dale, M. R. T. (2005). Spatial analysis: a guide for ecologists. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Foxhall, L. (2000). The running sands of time: archaeology and the short-term. World Archaeology, 31(3), 484–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Galiatsatos, N., Wilkinson, T. J., Donoghue, D., & Philip, G. (2009). The Fragile Crescent Project (FCP): analysis of settlement landscapes using satellite imagery. Paper presented at the CAA 2009: making history interactive, Williamsburg, Virginia.Google Scholar
  36. Gallant, T. W. (1986). “Background noise” and site definition: a contribution to survey methodology. Journal of Field Archaeology, 13(4), 403–418.Google Scholar
  37. Getis, A. (1984). Interaction modeling using second-order analysis. Environment and Planning, 16, 173–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Given, M., & Knapp, A. (2003). The Sydney Cyprus Survey Project: social approaches to regional archaeological survey. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.Google Scholar
  39. Glatz, C. (2012). Paradigm and prejudice or the archaeological investigation of challenging landscapes. Unpublished conference paper. 8ICAANE, April 30–May 4, 2012, Warsaw, Poland.Google Scholar
  40. Harris, D. (2010). Origins of agriculture in western Central Asia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hiebert, F. T. (1994). Origins of the Bronze Age oasis civilization in Central Asia. Cambridge: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.Google Scholar
  42. Honeychurch, W., Wright, J., & Amartuvshin, C. (2007). A nested approach to survey in the Egiin Gol valley, Mongolia. Journal of Field Archaeology, 33(32), 339–352.Google Scholar
  43. Imumorin, P., & Azam, S. (2011). Effect of precipitation on the geological development of badlands in arid regions. Bulletin of Engineering Geology and the Environment, 70(2), 223–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Journel, A. G. (1974). Geostatistics for conditional simulation of ore bodies. Economic Geology, 69(5), 673–687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kantner, C. J. (2008). The archaeology of regions: from discrete analytical toolkit to ubiquitous spatial perspective. Journal of Archaeological Research, 16(1), 37–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kaptijn, E. (2009). Life on the watershed. Reconstructing subsistence in a steppe region using archaeological survey: a diachronic perspective on habitation in the Jordan Valley. Leiden: Sidestone.Google Scholar
  47. Kohl, P. (1984). Central Asia palaeolithic beginnings to the Iron Age: L'Asie Centrale Des Origines l'Age Du Fer.Google Scholar
  48. Kowalewski, S. (2008). Regional settlement pattern studies. Journal of Archaeological Research, 16, 225–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Laurenza, S., Putzolu, C., Farinetti, E., & Forte, M. (2005). Re-thinking landscape archaeology and GIS analyses: a different way of dealing with archaeological landscapes within GIS. The reconstruction of archaeological landscapes through digital technologies. Proceedings of the 2nd Italy–United States Workshop, Rome, Italy, November 3–5, 2003, Berkeley, USA, May 2005. Oxford: Archaeopress.Google Scholar
  50. Lloyd, C. D., & Atkinson, P. M. (2004). Archaeology and geostatistics. Journal of Archaeological Science, 31(2), 151–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Marcolongo, B., & Mozzi, P. (1998). Outline of recent geological history of the Kopet-Dagh mountains and the Southern Kara-Kum. In A. Gubaev, G. Koshelenko, & M. Tosi (Eds.), The archaeological map of the Murghab Delta: preliminary reports 1990–1995 (pp. 1–14). Rome: IsIAO.Google Scholar
  52. Marinangeli, L., Ori, G., Rossi, A., & Di Achille, G. (2004). Reconstruction of the paleohydrology in desert areas using SAR and digital topography data. Paper presented at the Envisat and ERS Symposium, Salzburg, Austria.Google Scholar
  53. Markofsky, S., & Bevan, A. (2012). Directional analysis of surface artifact distributions. A case study from the Murghab Delta, Turkmenistan. Journal of Archaeological Science, 39, 428–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Mattingly, D., Francovich, R., & Patterson, H. (2000). Methods of collection, recording and quantification (Extracting meaning from ploughsoil assemblages, pp. 5–15). Oxford: Oxbow Books.Google Scholar
  55. Millett, M., Pasquinucci, M., & Trement, F. (2000). The comparison of surface and stratified artifact assemblages. In G. Barker & D. Mattingly (Eds.), Non-destructive techniques applied to landscape archaeology. Oxford: Oxbow.Google Scholar
  56. Nance, D. (1979). Regional subsampling and statistical inference in forested habitats. American Antiquity, 44(1), 172–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Nance, J. D., & Ball, B. F. (1986). No surprises? The reliability and validity of test pit sampling. American Aantiquity, 51(3), 457–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Openshaw, S., & Taylor, P. J. (1981). The modifiable aerial unit problem. In N. Wrigley & R. J. Bennett (Eds.), Quantitative geography: a British view (pp. 60–70). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  59. Orton, C. (2005). Point pattern analysis revisited. Archeologia e Calcolatori, 299.Google Scholar
  60. Premo, L. S. (2004). Local spatial autocorrelation statistics quantify multi-scale patterns in distributional data: an example from the Maya Lowlands. Journal of Archaeological Science, 31(7), 855–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Ripley, B. D. (1977). Modelling spatial patterns. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 39(2), 172–212.Google Scholar
  62. Rosen, A. M. (2007). Civilizing climate: social responses to climate change in the ancient Near East. Lanham: AltaMira.Google Scholar
  63. Ryzewski, K. (2012). Multiply situated strategies? Multisited ethnography and archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 19(2), 241–268. doi: 10.1007/s10816-011-9106-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Salvatori, S. (1998). Margiana archaeological map: the Bronze Age settlement pattern. In A. Gubaev, G. Koshelenko, & M. Tosi (Eds.), The archaeological map of the Murghab Delta: preliminary reports 1990–1995 (pp. 57–66). Rome: IsIAO.Google Scholar
  65. Salvatori, S. (2007). About excavations at a Bronze Age site in Margiana (Turkmenistan). Rivista di Archaeologia, 31, 10–28.Google Scholar
  66. Salvatori, S. (2008). The Margiana settlement pattern from the Middle Bronze Age to the Parthian-Sasanian: a contribution to the study of complexity. In S. Salvatori & M. Tosi (Eds.), The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age in the Margiana Lowlands: facts and methodological proposals for a redefinition of the research strategies (pp. 57–74). Oxford: Archaeopress.Google Scholar
  67. Sarianidi, V. (1990). Drevnosti Strani Margush. Ashkhabad: Ylym.Google Scholar
  68. Sayer, D., & Wienhold, M. (2012). A GIS-investigation of four early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries: Ripley's k-function analysis of spatial groupings amongst graves. Social Science Computer Review. doi:10.1177/0894439312453276Google Scholar
  69. Schon, R. (2002). Seeding the landscape: experimental contributions to regional survey methodology. Ph.D. dissertation, Bryn Mawr College.Google Scholar
  70. Shennan, S. (1985). Experiments in the collection and analysis of archaeological survey data: the East Hampshire survey. Sheffield: Department of Archaeology and Prehistory, University of Sheffield.Google Scholar
  71. Stark, B., & Garraty, C. (2008). Parallel archaeological and visibility survey in the Western Lower Papaloapan Basin, Veracruz, Mexico. Journal of Field Archaeology, 33, 177–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Staubwasser, M., Sirocko, F., Grootes, P. M., & Segl, M. (2003). Geophysical Research Letters, 30(8), 7.1–7.4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Sullivan, A. P., Mink, P. B., & Uphus, P. M. (2007). Archaeological survey design, units of observation, and the characterization of regional variability. American Antiquity, 72(2), 322–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Tartaron, T. F., Gregory, T., Pullen, D. J., Noller, J., Rothaus, R., Rife, J., et al. (2006). The Eastern Korinthia archaeological survey. Hesperia, 75, 453–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Taylor, J., Francovich, R., & Patterson, H. (2000). Cultural depositional processes and post-depositional problems (Extracting meaning from ploughsoil assemblages, pp. 16–28). Oxford: Oxbow Books.Google Scholar
  76. Tukey, J. (1977). Exploratory data analysis. New York: Addison Wesley.Google Scholar
  77. Ur, J., Karsgaard, P., & Oates, J. (2011). The spatial dimensions of early Mesopotamian urbanism: the Tell Brak suburban survey, 2003–2006. Iraq, 73, 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Van Leusen, P. M. (2002). Pattern to process: methodological investigations into the formation and interpretation of spatial patterns in archaeological landscapes. Ph.D. thesis, Groningen: University of Groningen.Google Scholar
  79. Walker, R. S., Novaro, A. J., & Branch, L. C. (2007). Functional connectivity defined through cost-distance and genetic analyses: a case study for the rock-dwelling mountain vizcacha (Lagidium viscacia) in Patagonia, Argentina. Landscape Ecology, 22(9), 1303–1314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Wandsnider, L., & Camilli, E. L. (1992). The character of surface archaeological deposits and its influence on survey accuracy. Journal of Field Archaeology, 19, 169–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Weiss, H. (1993). The genesis and collapse of third millennium north Mesopotamian civilization. Science, 261(20), 995–1004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wilkinson, T. J. (1982). The definition of ancient manured zones by means of extensive sherd-sampling techniques. Journal of Field Archaeology, 9(3), 323–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Wilkinson, T. J. (2003a). Archaeological landscapes of the Near East. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
  84. Wilkinson, T. J. (2003b). Archaeological survey and long-term population trends in Upper Mesopotamia and Iran. In N. Miller & K. Abdi (Eds.), Yeki Bud, Yeki Nabud: essays on the archaeology of Iran in honor of William M. Sumner (pp. 39–52). Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology in association with the American Institute of Iranian Studies and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.Google Scholar
  85. Wilkinson, T. J., & Tucker, D. J. (1995). Settlement development in the North Jazira, Iraq. A study of the archaeological landscape. Warminster: Aris Phillips.Google Scholar
  86. Wilkinson, T. J., Miller, N., Reichel, C., & Whitcomb, D. (2004). On the margin of the Euphrates: settlement and land use at Tell Es-Sweyhat and in the Upper Lake Assad Area, Syria. Chicago: Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations