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ANTH 360 Lecture Notes - Pleistocene, Silt, Social Anthropology

Course Code
ANTH 360

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Prof’s blurb:
Archaeology borrows approach and theories from many related disciplines:
Considered a cluster of methods, rather than a single method
ANTH360 Lecture 2
What is it?
A discipline?
A method?
1. An approach to understanding information about the past
2. A method to recover information about past
*Contributes to better understanding of the time
Archaeology as 4 fields
Biological/physical anthropology: study of human biological or physical characteristics and how
they evolved
Cultural/social anthropology: analyzes human culture and society
Archaeology: “past tense of cultural anthropology”
Analyzes past human culture and societies through material remains (material culture)
*how to interpret something without any informants?
(Ethnoarchaeology: analyzes how past societies used material culture by studying how
present cultures use similar objects)
Linguistics: study of languages, their acquisition, structure and meaning
Archaeology as history
99% of human existence happened before historical documentation
Prehistory: no written records of events
Protohistory: line between having some written records or visual information;
civilization with a language, but cannot read it; history recorded through other
civilization’s language or by other civilizations
History: events are already known, and asks more specific questions about the events
Study of specifics
Archaeology as science
Unlike texts, archaeological data must be interpreted
Scientific method
Collect evidence
Conduct experiments
Make hypothesis: a testable proposition to account for the data

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Test hypo against data
Make model (a description) that best summarizes pattern observed in data
*Individual items cannot tell you much – need to know its context to infer its
use or meaning
Study of the general
*in comparison to the historical approach
Hypothesis testing vs. Hermeneutical circle
*hermeneutical: constantly reforming questions referring to the data
Hypothesis testing is more common in processual arch
Hermeneutical is more common in post-processual
Interpretation: functionality
Context is crucial for interpretation of objects
* e.g. pictures of an Aztec ceremonial knife and a kitchen knife: both objects are knives
when out of context, information is lost because where the knife was used is important to its
Different explanations come out of contexts
Arch goals and Questions
Reconstructions of past (traditional approach)
Seek to reconstruct past but also to understand why change took place (processual approach
* e.g. Why did some bands or tribes move? Why did they become sedentary?
Seek to reconstruct symbolic and cognitive systems of past (post-processual or post-structural
approach (1970-80s))
* questions about ideational aspects
Possible to answer these questions in some situations, but not easy
Ex) picture of ancient clay beds
*People needed to get the clay from somewhere; why choose this place? etc
Arch, anthropology and culture
Anthropology: study of humanity
Biological characteristics
Non-biological char: culture
Culture: knowledge beliefs art, morals, law, custom and other capabilities and habits acquired

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