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Interior divisions of space
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Structure patterning
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Midden patterning
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Burial patterning
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Entryway patterning
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Boundary patterning

Pathway Patterning

Roads, tracks and informal paths are identified in phosphate patterns as a series of isolated increases in phosphate content that can be joined together to indicate the trajectory of human movement (Parnell et al. 2002: 336).  Identification of the ways in which people accessed sites, structures and other features can lead to greater insights into uses-of-space and site dynamics. Roads, tracks and paths are identifiable by this patterning as a result of the casual discard of organic debris by the individuals using the pathways to access other sites and areas within sites.  The pathways would have been kept clear in most cases, and are visible as areas of decreased phosphate content along which isolated elevations in phosphate content are present.  Where a formalized or recurring pathway is not present isolated increases in phosphate content can indicate the haphazard traversal of spaces between activity areas.  Contrary to this, animal droveways are identifiable as solid bands of relatively high phosphate levels (Craddock et al. 1985: 363).  

The specific form of pathway patterning was authenticated by Parnell et al. (2002) at Cerén, El Salvador. Phosphate patterning and excavation results were analyzed from floor surfaces, pathways between buildings, agricultural fields and religious centers.  The study explored correlations between soil chemistry, artifact-based analysis, architectural analysis and human activities (Parnell et al. 2002: 331).  Pathways between the different structures displayed the lowest exterior phosphate levels  (Parnell et al. 2002: 336).  The constant use of pathways, as well as any efforts to keep them clear with sweeping, created a pattern of relatively low phosphate concentrations surrounded by higher phosphate concentrations.


Pattern Maps and Interpretations

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Pathway patterning on the Gubadoon headland

Phosphate results on the promontory fort of Gubadoon, Achill Island, showed indicators of pathway patterning.  Several isolated mid-level phosphate concentrations (Level 3) are located along the central axis of the fort (Figure 9). The increased presence of phosphate increases along the central axis likely resulted from the discard of organic debris on either side of a pathway.  The concentrations follow the trajectory of easiest movement based on topography, between the high phosphate concentration along the southwestern tip of the headland (now a sea stack) and the northern secondary defendable complex. These smaller isolated areas of phosphate increase mark the ways in which the most important areas on the headland were frequently accessed.  These phosphate increases are most present in the portion of the fort that would have been traversed most often to access the identified activity areas on Gubadoon.  This most clearly suggests the patterning is the result of pathways.  

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Pathway patterning at French Azilum

This pattern is comprised of a line of isolated phosphate increases.  This is indicative of the presence of a path.  The pattern stretches between the exposed slave quarters and the eastern boundary of the pattern, which is one of the identified activity areas.  The path may continue beyond the study area. 

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Pathway patterning at French Azilum, corroborated by excavation

Isolated increases in phosphate content along the northern edge of the study area may be associated with use of the roadway identified through excavation.  Small isolated increases in phosphate concentration that form a liner pattern are generally associated with the presence of a path or roadway due to the collection of organic debris along frequently traveled areas.  The organic debris is a result of the causal deposition of garbage along cleared paths and roadways as they are used.  This roadway may enclose the identified on-site activity areas.  The patterning is incomplete because it is located on the western edge of the study area. 

Johanna Ullrich, Ph.D.