Chasing the Classical Farmstead: Assessing the Formation and Signature of Rural Settlement in Greek Landscape Archaeology

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Over the past 20 years, the classical farmstead has become an essential categorical term in the literature of Greek survey archaeology. This paper traces the development of the category 'farmstead' out of the conceptual paradigm of settlement archaeology. It is argued that the tendency to categorize classical-period artifact clusters as 'farmsteads', without understanding the role of cultural processes in forming the archaeological record, creates a false dichotomy between 'site' and 'off-site' scatter. This paper applies a model of cultural formation processes developed in household archaeology in the Americas to the formation of domestic artifact assemblages in classical Greece. It presents a variety of literary, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence from 5th- and 4th-century Athens to delineate the cultural formation processes operative in both town and country in that society. This paper argues that classical farmsteads and landscapes represent accumulated debris generated by repeated behaviors of habitation, discard, recycling, and abandonment. the typical 'farmsteads' recognized in intensive survey represent only a narrow range of the signatures of habitation for the classical period; low density scatters of pottery and tiles, in particular, represent a signature of habitation that archaeologists have rarely interpreted as evidence for habitation. © the Continuum Publishing Group Ltd 2002.