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.

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