Advanced Archaeology - Open Access Journal
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Pascual Izquierdo-Egea
Scientific Researcher, Laboratory of Theoretical Archaeology, Graus, Spain

This article is based on the second chapter of my book Economic Archaeology of Grave Goods (Izquierdo-Egea 2012a). Its purpose is to make the latest revision of an advanced methodology through which mortuary record can be analyzed with scientific objectivity. Thanks to this, economic fluctuations, social changes, and more social phenomena can be inferred.

Sobre el método de valoración contextual y la arqueología económica de los ajuares funerarios.

Este artículo se basa en un capítulo de título similar publicado en mi libro Economic Archaeology of Grave Goods (Izquierdo-Egea 2012a). Incorpora modificaciones y algunas innovaciones. Su propósito es hacer accesible a cualquiera la última actualización de una avanzada metodología, a través de la cual el registro funerario puede analizarse con objetividad científica. Gracias a ello, es posible inferir fluctuaciones económicas, cambios sociales y otros fenómenos sociales.

Contextual valuation method, economic archaeology, grave goods.

Palabras Clave
Método de valoración contextual, arqueología económica, ajuares funerarios.

Received: 1 March 2013. Accepted: 11 March 2013. Published: 21 March 2013.

How to Cite
Izquierdo-Egea, P. 2013. On the Contextual Valuation Method and the Economic Archaeology of Grave Goods. Advanced Archaeology 1: 3-12.


It is possible to decipher the economic and social keys registered in the mortuary record through an objective procedure. In fact, a new methodology—the contextual valuation method—has been proposed, from wich we can statistically analyze funerary expenditure and measure its direct relation with economic fluctuations in complex societies—ranked and stratified peoples and civilizations of antiquity. This was shown elsewhere—see the book of Izquierdo-Egea (2012a). For instance, its application to Iberian cemeteries has illuminated outstanding aspects of Spanish protohistory.

Thanks to this scientific approach, economic fluctuations and cycles have been discovered and isolated—with stages and phases, social changes, social contradictions pointing out conflicting processes, currency devaluations, and inflationary situations. In short, they are parts of a whole universe called economic archaeology of grave goods that make it possible to reconstruct economic and social dynamics of past societies through a solid framework.

The observation and measurement of mortuary variability make this possible, by proving that these phenomena were recorded in coded form in grave goods. This helps build the archaeological theory of economic fluctuations, which will enable an archaeology of economic fluctuations where mortuary and economic archaeology are connected. The chronological analysis of funerary expenditure through time, both locally and regionally, is the backbone of the economic archaeology of grave goods. Together with a correlation of these samples, a statistical comparison between the behavior of one social formation with others is possible. The basis of this building rests on a core concept: the contextual value of a mortuary good, an approximate measure of its economic value in the spatial and temporal context where it was deposited—the tomb, its cemetery, and date of burial. The contextual index of a grave, derived from the previous notion, measures the expenditure invested in the deceased.

In any case, this study has only glimpsed the top of a huge mountain that awaits to be investigated to offer a rich vein of knowledge of incalculable value. It promises to be exciting and will contribute decisively to the development of economic archaeology, working closely with the economic history of antiquity whose complexity is recognized by I. Morris (2005). Because the mortuary record is a source on the economy of ancient Rome as valid as Mount Testaccio (Remesal 2005, 2008a, 2008b). This will allow us to know too, with a global perspective, social changes linked to economic activity throughout the vast Roman Empire. Also, among the many tasks to be undertaken, a review and extension of the statistical corpus should be conducted with additional data obtained from broader and reliable samplings. In this way, a more precise reading of results is made possible, consistent with a more precise chronological approach. To advance this knowledge, fluctuations and cycles of short and long duration would have to be observed. In fact, economic fluctuations seem to evolve through cycles longer or shorter depending on whether the normal development of the economy is or is not interrupted by traumatic events. This evidence comes from the numerous cemeteries of the Iberian civilization so far analyzed. Moreover, social or human sciences will awaken from their long slumber by remaining firmly on the path of logical quantification, followed by S. Shennan (1990) and others recently (Bowman & Wilson 2009). The economic archaeology of grave goods strongly relies on a methodology founded on this perspective. It has a promising future not only for the results achieved, but for the flexibility that allows improve it by refining its techniques. For instance, through the review of its mathematical aspects and the development of new versions of the software used to analyze data.

Recently, there has been progress in the development of a new statistical technique to measure the level of internal conflict in a past society through its mortuary record (2012). This achievement represents a major technical advance of the contextual valuation method. In addition, another technique to estimate the distribution of wealth, similar to the Lorenz curve, has been developed (2011–2). Both results are surprising and they will be published as soon as possible. Currently, my research is focused in testing the efectiveness of these techniques and, on other hand, more evidence on currency devaluations in Roman burials has been achieved.

I would like to express my gratitude to Prof. Juan A. Barceló for reviewing my manuscript, and to Dr. Daryn Reyman-Lock for proofreading.

About the Author
Pascual Izquierdo-Egea, editor and publisher of Advanced Archaeology, has a doctorate in Philosophy and Letters (1993). He is a specialist in Economic Archaeology of Grave Goods and has studied the Economic Fluctuations and Social Changes in Antiquity, making great discoveries like pre-Roman economic cycles in Spain and France or currency devaluations in Roman times. He has also edited and published several international journals such as Arqueología Iberoamericana (2009–13).

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© 2013 ADVANCED ARCHAEOLOGY - ISSN 2255-5455 - Theoretical, Quantitative & Computational Archaeology.
An Independent Supplement of the Journal Arqueología Iberoamericana. All Rights Reserved.
Edited & Published by Dr. Pascual Izquierdo-Egea in Graus, Spain.