What archaeology isn’t Archaeologists don’t do dinosaurs! That’s paleontology.
It’s not just about digging! It’s complicated, meticulous work that demands training, patience and big budgets. It’s extremely interdisciplinary. In other words, it’s not what most people think it is.
Some Types of Archaeology Paleoanthropology Classical
Some Types of Archaeology Anthropological Historical
Some Types of Archaeology Underwater Industrial
The Goals of Archaeology • Discovering the past • Excavation & Description • Reconstructing culture history • Who was where, when, with what? • Explaining cultural processes • How and why do cultures change or stay the same? • Interpreting Past Cultures • What did peoples’ lives mean?
SitesWhat are they? Places where past human activity occurred • Some common site types: • Habitation―places where people lived • Procurement―places where people got resources • Processing―places where people converted resources to products • Sacred―places where people practiced activities related to their ideology • Specialized―places with unique purposes Sites are defined by what’s in them.
What do archaeologists find? • Artifacts—transportable objects made and used by past peoples • Features—formed or built by people, these “objects” can’t be moved • Activity areas—clusters of artifacts and features resulting from particular activities • Ecofacts—environmental elements that exhibit traces of human use or activity • Ideofacts—objects or features that contain information about peoples’ belief systems • Sociofacts—objects or features that contain information about peoples’ social structure Items can fit in more than one category. Information, not the item, is the key.
How Sites Are Formed • Taphonomy—The study of how paleontological and archaeological remains ended up in a particular place. • Primary refuse—When the items used together and deposited together are leftexactly where they fell by ancient people. • Secondary refuse—Deposits where people took their trash to a pile or pit, removing it from the immediate vicinity of their living quarters.
How Sites Are Found • Scientists ask around or read reports. • Sophisticated remote-sensing devices—ground-penetrating radar, proton magnetometers, or electrical resistivity meters, can help search for sites. • Pedestrian Survey • Scientists search for sites through a process of subsurface sampling, placing test pits at regular intervals.
How Information Is Recovered • Literature searches, maps, site forms • Surface Survey/subsurface testing • Sampling • Test excavations • Excavations • Analysis • Context is crucial! • A single artifact, devoid of any context, provides only a fraction of the information provided by an object for which context has been preserved and recorded. • All data recovery is slow and tedious, so as not to lose context.
A typical archaeological excavation looks like this: square holes on a grid system, measuring tapes, shovels (sometimes), and lots of sitting around taking notes or photos.
The most important tools in archaeology are a small (5 ½ inch) bricklayer’s trowel, a tape measure, and a notebook. Everything after that is gravy.
None of this happens without a research design! Formulationinvolves defining the research problem, performing background investigations, and conducting feasibiliity studies. Implementation involves completing all the necessary arrangements for planning the workOne of the most difficult parts including everything from finance to permissions.Who pays for archaeological research? Data Acquisition: reconnaissance, survey, and excavation (steps are not mutually exclusive!)Reconnaissance is locating sites without excavationSurvey records as much as possible about sites without excavationExcavation exposes the buried cultural remains and other characteristics of sites, recording or retrieving data Data Processingis the manipulation of materials (raw data) including the treatment of artifacts, measurements, development of records such as maps. Analysisprovides information about each type of data, such as artifacts, ecofacts, ideofacts, features. Some can be done in the field, but much more is done in the lab. Estimates of lab:field in terms of time range from 5-10 times more in the lab.
Analyzing Archaeological Data • Artifacts • The Sources of Raw Materials • Determined through trace element analysis in which impurities in tiny or “trace” amounts are scanned for. • Uses procedures such as neutron activation analysis and x-rayfluorescence. • Tool Manufacture and Use • Experimental replication is the process of attempting to authentically re-create ancient artifacts. • Morphology is the form of the object, what it looked like, and by the evidence of wear patterns. • Social Patterns, based on distribution (a sociofact)
Understanding Past Behavior Archaeologists use ethnoarchaeology (the study of living populations as analogy). Archaeologists also experiment in order to reconstruct.
Publication and Public Archaeology • It does little good to dig and analyze unless you publish your findings. • In fact, it’s unethical! • Public accountability • They usually pay the bills, and it’s often their heritage