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10_1 Palaeolithic Material Culture_Lectrure Script.pdf

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ARCH 131
Dennis Sandgathe

UNIT 10PALAEOLITHIC MATERIAL CULTURE Slide 1 Title slide Slide 2 Material Culture refers to all the objects or materials that people make and use Today this includes all the furniture televisions computers cars clothes and thousands of other types of things we make and use Among very ancient prehistoric cultures this included things like stone tools wooden spears and hide clothing Among later prehistoric cultures peoples material culture began to include ceramics and items made of metal and glass as well The material culture of past societies is what archaeologists studythis means that the archaeological record by definition begins with the earliest evidence of material cultureuntil recently this was the oldest stone tools which currently are 26 million years old However very recently animal bones were discovered in Ethiopia that have cutmarks clearly produced with stone tools These animal bones date to 34 myathis means that this one discovery pushes the archaeological record for Africa and the world back to 34 mya Before we examine the material culture associated with our early hominin ancestors we need to familiarize ourselves with the chronologies archaeologists biological anthropologists and paleoanthropologists use its important to understand how we organize the past so that you have a good context for understanding what different researchers mean when they talk about different time periods in the past Slide 3 You have already been introduced to the Geologic Time scalethis is the chronologic system developed by geologists to organize the vast period of time represented by Earths entire history and it is based on the major geologic changes and steps in the evolution of life on Earth that have occurred during that period Archaeologists physical anthropologists and paleoanthropologists sometimes use this system when they are talking about very distant periods in time or if they are talking in very coarse terms about hominid evolution Slide 4 It is more common however for these researchers to use the chronology developed specifically by archaeologiststhis chronology is based partly on the appearance of new hominin species but mostly its a chronology based on changes in material cultural We recognize however that these two things the evolution of humans and changes in their material culture cannot be realistically separatedthe one has always heavily influenced the other Therefore starting with when the first of our hominin ancestors began using material culture we have been undergoing both biological and cultural evolutionBiocultural Evolution Since stone tools are the only artifacts that survive well at all and up until perhaps 5000 years ago all cultures used stone tools on a daily basis most chronologies of prehistoric culture are based on changes in stone tools through timeSlide 5 Here are the culture chronologies for Africa Asia and EuropeDifferent archaeologists tend to use slightly different terminology depending on whether they work in Africa or Eurasiathis is just a result of having slightly different histories of the development of archaeological research in these different regions In Africa researchers use the term Stone Age while in Europe and Asia they use the term PalaeolithicPaleo is Greek for old and lithic is Greek for stonePalaeolithic just means Old Stone Age Since stone tools or lithics as archaeologists generally refer to them are typically the oldest surviving components of prehistoric cultures the cultural chronology of any region usually begins with the earliest lithics recognized there However Africas cultural chronology begins with the earliest evidencefor lithics which are cutmarks on animal bones dated to 34 million years ago from the site of Dikika in Ethiopias Afar Depression very close to the site of Kada Gona where the oldest stone tools come from
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