FAQ: What are assemblages and components?
Assemblages are groups of artifacts made and left behind at one place
on the landscape (a site), ideally by a single group of people or by closely
related groups. Ideally, archeologists prefer to study assemblages representing
only a single culture dating to a short period of time; these are known
as single-component assemblages. A site component is a group
of artifacts and cultural features left during one occupational episode
or relatively brief period. Often, however, site assemblages contain
a mix of artifacts from different times, making it difficult or impossible
to know which artifacts belong to the same occupational episode. In other
words, we often can't separate the materials that date to different components.
This was the case at Pavo Real. While we were able to do a pretty good
job of separating the Archaic and Paleoindian assemblages, we could not
separate individual site components except in cases of distinctive artifact
types considered diagnostic of a particular culture or time period.