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Archaeological Research

Archaeological Research

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Archaeological Research

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  1. Archaeological Research What do we want to know?

  2. False Impressions • Archaeology as “treasure hunt” • Archaeologist as collector • Focus on things • Archaeologist as anthropologist • Focus on what things tell us about people • Wide range of potential questions about what people did in the past based on the physical remains they left behind

  3. Archaeology is Research Driven • Must have a question in mind before you start digging up stuff • Research Design • RD determines where one looks, how one excavates, what types of analysis etc. • “plan of attack” • “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” • Planning with flexibility • Questions; Data; Methodology; Analysis; Interpretation; Publication

  4. Example: Tomb of Tutankhamen • 1917, Howard Carter sets out to find unlooted tomb • Knew name (king lists); date (New Kingdom, 14th cent. B.C.); probable region (Valley of Kings) • Ruled out areas of VoK already investigated, conducted systematic excavation of remainder • Five year project; finds tomb in 1921; aided by clearly defined research design

  5. Tomb Interior

  6. Basic, “Low-Order” Questions • Where are archaeological sites located? • Most basic; landscape studies; survey • What kinds of archaeological sites are present? • What ranges of behavior are represented? • What lifestyles were practiced? • What are the ages of sites present? • Can be very difficult question to answer • “Baseline” Data

  7. Example: Willey and the Virú Valley • 1946: Gordon Willey undertakes extensive survey of Virú Valley, N. Peru • First major regional survey in Americas • Previous focus on individual urban sites • First to look at all types of sites over entire landscape • Research questions for survey • How did different kinds of sites relate to landscape features and available resources? • What were relationships between sites? • Significance: first to look not at collections of things at single places, but at the activities and relationships between people over large areas in relation to their environment • Pioneered “Settlement Pattern Analysis”

  8. Middle-Order Questions • Food & Diet • What people ate related to how they lived • Technology • Tools tell us about the activities they were used for • Trade and Exchange • How did people acquire resources? • Health and Mortality • How people died tells you what their lives were like • “Materialist Data”-relatively easy to study based on material remains

  9. Highest Order Questions • Social Organization • How did people relate to one another? • Gender, rank • Ritual and Religion? • How did beliefs relate to activities? • Art • What were ancient aesthetics? What did ancient art mean? • “Idealist Data”-hardest to study objectively