What is a Site Catchment Analysis?; Mochico Pottery, Peru; The tomb of Agamemnon

What is a Site Catchment Analysis?

A site catchment analysis is the study of an area where there are known sites and it looks at, and interprets, the surrounding landscape, environment and the association of the sites within their setting.

The methods and strategy were developed in the 1960’s by Eric Higgs and Claudio Vita-Finzi, and has since become a major aspect of archaeological research and analysis.

A site catchment analysis looks at the size, shape and location of sites, their spacing, layouts and settlement patterns. Places were not just haphazardly set up in a location, they were chosen specifically in relation to the environment and resources, and it has been found that many had seasonal functions.

By studying this we can also better understand site function, its economics, settlement patterns, technology and resources. This is undertaken through the material remains including artefacts, floral (plant) and fauna (animal) remains.

Farming catchments at Békés-Várdomb Cluster (Tarhos 1 and surrounding sites) ©paulrduffy.com
Farming catchments at Békés-Várdomb Cluster (Tarhos 1 and surrounding sites)

Evaluation and investigation makes use of surveys, graphs, maps, histograms, and excavation techniques. It gives an overall snapshot of a specific area at a specific point in time. Although originally used to study hunter-gatherer communities, site catchment analysis is now also used for other types of sites.


  • Grant. J., Gorin. S., & Fleming. N. 2005. The Archaeology Coursebook: An Introduction to Study Skills, Topics and Methods. Oxon: Taylor & Francis.
  • iffany. J. A., & Abott. L. R. 1982. Site-Catchment Analysis: Applications to Iowa Archaeology, Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Autumn, 1982), pp. 313-322.
  • Wheatley. D., & Gillings. M. 2003. Spatial Technology and Archaeology: The Archaeological Applications of GIS. Oxon: CRC Press.



Archaeology Wow!! –  Mochico Pottery, Peru

Mochico pottery is associated with the Moche Culture which was located in Peru, along its coastal regions. The pottery dates back to between c.150 BC – A 800, and is understood to be a pictorial representation of the culture.

A Moche stirrup spouted vessel, between 100 BC and 700 CE © Luis García
A Moche stirrup spouted vessel, between 100 BC and 700 CE
© Luis García

The pottery was made with the use of molds (mold technology) and one production site has been located at Cerro Mayal where kilns, tools and clay mixing areas have been uncovered. So much of the pottery has been uncovered that it allows archaeologists to understand the culture. This is because the designs and painting on some of the pottery is beleived to be that of the everyday life of the the Moche Culture.The term given to the type of painted decoration on some of the pottery is Slipware. Where slip is placed on the clay just before firing.

One of the main features of the Machica pottery is the stirrup design, as in the above image. How unique!

The themes of the artwork include war, sacrifice, hunting, dancing, metalwork, weaving, animals – both domesticated and wild –  and more! It is also beleived that some of the scenes depicted represent stories and actual events that had happened. The one thing it does not tell us, though, is the social organization of the culture, and this is still being researched. One point is clear though, and that is the residential pottery was more finely painted than other types.

Later in the development of the styles, facial features and portraits were added to the designs, but mostly in the southern regions. It is not known whether these represented actual people or were a generalization of the culture. The pottery is dated mainly through relative chronology.

Moche portrait vessel, Musée du quai Branly in Paris ©Patrick.charpiat
Moche portrait vessel, Musée du quai Branly in Paris

With so much of the pottery being uncovered, it is found worldwide in museums as well as in private collections.

I love this type of pottery and it is amazing how they made such fine designs!!


  • Donnan. C. B. 2004. Moche Portraits from Ancient Peru. Texas: University of Texas Press.
  • Jackson. M. A. 2008. Moche Art and Visual Culture in Ancient Peru. New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press.
  • Shimada. I. 2010. Pampa Grande and the Mochica Culture. Texas: University of Texas Press.
  • Moche portrait vessel, Musée du quai Branly in Paris – ©Patrick.charpiat, Own work, 2009-03. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons-http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Moche_portrait_ceramic_Quai_Branly_71.1930.19.162_n2.jpg#/media/File:Moche_portrait_ceramic_Quai_Branly_71.1930.19.162_n2.jpg.
  • A Moche stirrup spouted vessel, between 100 BC and 700 CE – © Luis García. Licensed under <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0″ title=”Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0″>CC BY-SA 3.0</a> via <a href=”//commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/”>Wikimedia Commons</a>.


Archaeological Site Guide –The Tomb of Agamemnon, Greece

Also known as the Treasury of Atreus, this is an amazing site and one that demonstrates the unique and amazing way the Bronze Age people used awesome building techniques that still leave us scratching our heads today as to how they managed it!!

Location of Tomb of Agamemnon
Location of Tomb of Agamemnon

The tomb was constructed around 1250 BC and was for an elite person from the Mycenaean Bronze Age period. The entrance way measures 5.4 m high and there are large stone lentils on either side. On the inside of these lentils are holes which once supported decorative bronze ornaments. There is a semi-subterranean chamber which measures 1.5 m high and 14.5 m in diameter, made of dressed stone blocks and was once richly decorated with green limestone columns and half columns, zigzag motifs, rosettes, and decorations which included the addition of red porphyry and green alabaster. There is a small room off to one side but its use is still unknown.

Section of the Tomb Public Domain
Section of the Tomb
Public Domain

Finds from the site include potsherds, stone bowl fragments, terracotta figures, small objects and gold leaf. Due to the richness of the finds it as once beleived to have been an old treasury building.

The following information is eye-opening in respect to what happened to the contents of the tomb when it was first opened

  • 1729 – The tomb is first mentioned by Michael Fourmont, and then visited by others.
  • 1804 – Initially excavated by Giovanni Lusien, an agent of Lord Elgin, who uncovered only part of the entrance and sent back some small finds and columns to Lord Elgin – now in the British Museum
  • 1808 – Excavated by Veli Pasha who cleared away most of the soil exposing the height on the doorway. It is recorded that he found tombs with bones in them that were covered in gold; silver and gold ornaments, precious stones, 25 large statues and a marble table. He took the finds and sold them off to travelers in Tripoli then he took the bones to a goldsmith who scrapped the gold off and then threw the bones away!
  • 1857 – Johnannas P. Pyrlas wrote notes about what had happened at the previous excavation.
  • 1878 – The remainder of the earth around the entrance way was removed.
Inside the Tomb © Carlos M Prieto
Inside the Tomb
© Carlos M Prieto

It is such a shame that the bones of the person buried in the tomb were discarded as mere rubbish, and the amazing finds sold off for profit. Lost to history now are the rich and amazing finds that were once in this wonderful example of a Mycenaean Bronze Age tomb.

Not only were the goods robbed abut also the invaluable information and facts we could have learnt about this past culture by assessing, analyzing and interpreting the grave goods, richly decorated garments that were once on the body, which covered the bones in gold when the fabric broke down over time, and the association of all the objects together and in relation to the bones. Very sad indeed.

Robing sites not only takes away the cultural material that is present, it also robs us of history, knowledge and information regarding how people lived in the past 🙁


  • Moore. D., Rowlands. E., & Karadimas. N. 2014. In Search of Agamemnon: Early Travellers to Mycenae. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Schliemann. H., & Gladstone. W. E. 1878. Mycenae: A Narrative of Researches and Discoveries at Mycenae and Tiryns. New York: Scribner, Armstrong and Co.
  • Wace. A. J. B. 1926. The Date of the Treasury of Atreus. The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 46, Part 1 (1926), pp. 110-120.
  • Inside the Treasury Atreus – “Treasury Atreus” by Carlos M Prieto – http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmprieto/123340555/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Treasury_Atreus.jpg#/media/File:Treasury_Atreus.jpg


Great Books to Read…….


Activity – word-search-22 May-2015-docx

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: