The ring and sector method: Intrasite spatial analysis of Stone Age sites, with special reference to Pincevent


  • D. Stapert


This paper aims at an intrasite spatial analysis of Pincevent (eight habitation units in Niveau IV-2, and three in Habitation I) and several other Late Palaeolithic sites in Europe, by means of a new method, which is based on the use of rings and sectors around the centre of 'domestic hearths'. One conclusion is that the domestic hearths of Pincevent were located in the open air - not inside tents or in tent entrances. At several other sites, e.g. Gönnersdorf and Étiolles, the method allows the demonstration of tents, mostly with diameters of 5-6 m.

Furthermore, criteria are given for establishing drop and toss zones as defined by Binford (1983). All analysed units of Pincevent show an asymmetry in tool density in the sense that many more tools are present on one side of the hearth than on the opposite side. The drop zones are located in the richest site-halves. Given these results, it seems possibie to reconstruct the prevailing wind directions during the various habitations; as nowadays, westerly winds prevailed.

With the ring method the 'centrifugal effect' can be investigated: the tendency for larger objects to end up farther from the hearth than small objects. All the units of Niveau IV-2 show a marked centrifugal effect. This is illustrated by comparing the ring distributions of the tools with those of the cores. The three units of Habitation I, however, do not show a clear centrifugal effect, and this applies also to several other sites.

Differences between various tool types with respect to their ring distributions are investigated, and it is shown that backed bladelets are systematically located closer to the hearth than scrapers, while borers and burins are intermediate in this respect. Explanations for this phenomenon are offered on the basis of functional analyses. Only one habitation unit of Pincevent, R143, deviates from this general pattern; it probably was a 'special-purpose site'. The same applies to Marsangy N19.

On the basis of four attributes, which are shown to be statistically related, two different types of sites can be established, independent of the sites' dimensions. This dichotomy is shown most clearly by one of these four attributes, the centrifugal effect: sites of Group Y show a clear centrifugal effect, those of Group X do not. Theunits of Habitation I can be placed in Group X (perhaps hunting camps, or 'special-purpose sites'; occupied by men only?), together with sites such as Marsangy N19 and Bro1. Most of the units of Niveau IV-2 are placed in Group Y (presumably family camps), together with sites such as Oldeholtwolde and Niederbieber.

The richest site-halves are tentatively analysed in greater detail, and it is found that at least at some sites of Group Y the two quarters within this half differ in their tool inventories : one quarter shows a higher proportion of backed bladelets, and the other a higher proportion of scrapers. This suggests the presence of at least one man and one woman.