What is Archaeology?
Four goals of archaeology:
1. To generate information about the past
- How? Through discovery, description, and classification of sites and artifacts
2. To synthesize (put together) information
- Why? To reconstruct culture histories and cultural chronologies
3. To develop explanations for what was observed
4. To develop an understanding of human behaviour
- To understand both diversity and the common human experience
How do Archaeologists Study the Past?
- Similar to what cultural anthropologists are interested in:
o Social, political, and economic organization
- But also similar to what historians are interested in:
o What happened? When? Why?
- But we are limited to material remains
- Material remains of past human activities and behaviours
- Artifacts, ecofacts, features, architecture
o Physical remains of people and their tools, houses, foods
o Any material lost, discarded, abandoned, and stashed by people
o The geographic locations where these materials are found
Sampling and Preservation
- Archaeologists can only study what is found and what is preserved
- Not every site ever formed will be discovered and studied
- Not every artifact deposited will preserve to be discovered
- Because of this, our view of the past is inherently biased
Objects are important, but their real importance is what they can tell us about the past.
- Cannot tell us about objects unless we know how the object relates to other things (context)
o Other objects
o Other sites
o Time period
Distribution of Sites and Artifacts
o E.g. village on prime farmland, town on fj