A Grammar of the Archaeological Record

November 2005 - G. Buccellati

Introduction
Fundamentals of grammatical analysis
Historical development of the Grammar
Linear vs. polyhedral arguments
Grammatical power and the Operations Manual
Table of contents of the printed volume

Introduction

     The Grammar of the Archaeological Record offers a full presentation of the system. It will be available in a printed version from Undena Publications, as well as online in PDF format at the Urkesh site.
     Some of the chapters are given in abbreviated form here: they provide definitions of terms used in the Global Record, and links are provided to these definitions as appropriate. The chapters that are made available in this form are also linked in the Table of Contents that follows:
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Fundamentals of grammatical analysis

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Historical development of the Grammar

     The beginnings of my interest in this subject goes back to the beginning of field work undertaken under my direction at Terqa. Excavations began there in 1976, and by 1978 we already had in palce some of the earliest versions of micro-computers, as they were called in contrast with mainframe and mini-computers (the latetr being mid-size machines). In fact, they were not micro at all in size, though they were so in digital power. But the concomitant beneficial effect of these limitations was that my attention was constantly directed at the importance of the theoretical framework above and beyond the niceties of the machines.
     While the intellectual goals were clear in my mind since the early stages of my effort, published references have been minimal. The main reason for this has been the need to accompany the theory with a substantial and fully coherent body of data that would exemplify the application of the theory. (During my fieldwork, the recurrent physical proximity to ancient city walls often emerged for me as a metaphor – just like the system presented here, a city wall makes sense only if it is complete, without a breach however minimal: a partially completed building can be used, but not a partially completed city-wall.)
     Development of the grammar went hand in hand with the training of the staff to implement its objectives. If the long gestation of the project could unfold in spite of the darkness which seemed to loom on the horizon, much of the credit is due to the patience and loyalty of the staff. To them goes my heartfelt gratitude. This is particularly true because, in retrospect, one can say that the system was aimed since it was first conceived towards a digital implementation such as has become possible only with the introduction of such environmental conditions as browsers, large data storage, digital photography, graphic capabilities – none of which was available during the first several years of my work.
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Linear vs. polyhedral arguments

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Grammatical power and the Operations Manual

     The quality of a grammar is judged in part by its "power," i.e., the effectiveness with which the rules generate an output.
     The actual process whereby the output presented here is generated from the data is omitted here. It represents an altogether different exercise from the utilization of the record, requiring as it does the application of specific input protocols and the running of a set of programs. The development of these protocols and the writing of the programs has occupied much of my effort, alongside the development of the theoretical framework embodied in the Grammar and the field work embodied in the current volume with the publication of a subset of the data. Protocols and programs are described in detail in a separate volume, entitled Operations Manual for the Urkesh Global Record, which is however available only for in house use within the Moan/Urkesh Archaeological Project.
     While actual use of protocols and programs obvoiusly requires a certain amount of training, two main points may be stressed here. (1) The protocols are quite intuitive, and the programs have been written in function of their use. As a result, the actual recording process, and the coterminous process of data entry, are typically learned very quickly and have typically become second nature for the staff. (2) The programs operate with great speed on any normal computer, so that the buildup of the entire record for any given excavation "book" takes place in contant concomitance with the data entry itself. Typically, it takes a few seconds to process the few files that are produced on any given day, and less than 5 minutes to process an entire "book" such as this one, which would typically include up to some 40,000 input entries and some 3,000 output files.
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Table of contents of the printed volume

Chapter 1 Introduction


PART I PRINCIPLES AND PRESUPPOSITIONS
Chapter 2 Archaeology and Grammar
Chapter 3 Categorization
Chapter 4 The search for objectivity
Chapter 5 Stratigraphic analysis
Chapter 6 TYPOLOGICAL ANALYSIS
Chapter 7 INTEGRATIVE ANALYSIS
Chapter 8 STRUCTURE OF THE RECORD
Chapter 9 Access, display and presentation
Chapter 10 The question of meaning


PART II THE SYSTEM
Chapter 11 System Configuration


Section A. Constituents
Chapter 12 Nature and structure of constituents
Chapter 13 Constituent inventory
Chapter 14 Constituent label
Chapter 15 Properties
Chapter 16 The Main Roster
Chapter 17 Lexicon for main roster
Chapter 18 Special rosters
Chapter 19 Lexica for secondary rosters
Chapter 20 Standards


Section B. ORGANIZATION/ THE RECORD/Data Structure /
Chapter 21 INTRODUCTORY
Chapter 22 Archive structure - TO SECTION C?
Chapter 23 File Structure - TO SECTION C?
Chapter 24 ANALYTICAL RECORD
Chapter 25 VOLUMETRIC RECORD
Chapter 26 VISUAL RECORD
Chapter 27 ANALOGICAL RECORD
Chapter 28 NUMERIC COMPUTATIONS
Chapter 29 TEXT FILES


Section C. Synthesis
Chapter 30 EMPLACEMENT correlations
Chapter 31 DEPOSITIOnAL INFERENCES
Chapter 32 TYPOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS
Chapter 33 STRATIGRAPHIC ANALYSIS
Chapter 34 BEYOND THE RECORD


PART III OPERATIONS
Chapter 35 Modes of operation
Chapter 36 THE PRIMARY INPUT
Chapter 37 JOURNAL TO ARCHIVE
Chapter 38 UTILIZATION OF ARCHIVE
Chapter 39 GRAPHIC FILES
Chapter 40 UTILITIES

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