Questioning Continuity

When confronted with settlements consisting of multiple consecutive phases of house-sites, archaeologists are often inclined to see this as evidence of settlement continuity. But despite frequent usage of the term, it seems we have as of yet not been able to strictly define when can we speak of settlement continuity, and how can we recognise continuity from discontinuity. Although this is not immediately apparent when dealing with settlements with a long period of consecutive use, the under-theorised nature of the concept becomes problematic when dealing with the fringes of what we might consider cases of settlement continuity.

Consequentially, this paper argues that without explicitly investigating how continuity at a settlement site is maintained, the observation that we are dealing with continuity loses its value. Moreover, it is argued that by inquiring if and how continuity was spatially maintained through elements within the landscape, new lines of questioning are opened up regarding how the life histories of settlements reflect how the past was perceived and how different temporalities shaped the lives of people. The aim of this paper is thus to open up discussion regarding the workings of continuity. This argument will be illustrated with a case-study dealing with Westfrisian Bronze Age settlements, and includes practical approaches to how to deal with this subject.