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Association in archaeology – the close relationship between objects or contexts

Archaeological association

Associated finds or objects refers to a close relationship between two or more objects. Associated objects that can be proved to have been deposited at the same time, through being in the same context, form a genuine or close association.

Objects that can only be theorised as being deposited together, either because they were not excavated properly, their excavation records are lost or because they come from different contexts that are in stratigraphically definable phases or groups in association with the original context, are said to be in open association.

Finds in association are known as an assemblage and are much more useful than individual ones as greater precision can be assigned to their function, date and provenance.

Associated contexts are contexts that are shown by virtue of stratigraphic relationships to be near contemporaneous. An example would be a wall context and its associated floor context. This association would bring about the construction in interpretation of phase where associated contexts are shown to be part of the same period of occupation. In the case of the wall and the floor we can say that the floor was in use at the same time the wall was standing.

Associations of contexts can be far more complex and tricky to establish. Interpretive tools such as the Harris matrix and stratification are instrumental in deducing the associations of contexts on site and by deduction the function of archaeological remains.

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