Archaeological Dialogues


A house built on rock? A reply to nevett, sharples and vellinga

Fokke Gerritsen

Nevett, Sharples and Vellinga have commented on my paper in a heartening and inspiring way, and I would like to thank them for their comments of agreement as well as for the points of criticism that they raise. In my reply I will attempt to engage in discussion by addressing a few of their issues. Two points of my paper that appear to have created some confusion, notably in Vellinga's comment, may be dealt with first of all. With regard to the timing of the construction of a house, I did not intend to suggest – as hopefully the diagram of figure 2 makes clear – that new houses were always built subsequent to the abandonment of an old one. In fact, in the case of wandering farmsteads I would envisage this as the exception rather than the rule. This may seem a minor point, but it has some relevance to the topic of variability that I will address below. The other point of confusion concerns the ulterior aims of the paper and the biographical approach, which Vellinga takes as explaining the long-term transformation of the settlement patterns. I would not want to claim that the notion of a cultural biography in itself has enough explanatory force in this respect, and in the introduction I described it as a way of taking a first step along the road towards a more balanced understanding. The aims of the paper were precisely that, but Vellinga certainly makes a valid point in raising the issue of explaining long-term changes, and it deserves further consideration.