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lecture 02

Course Code
Sherry Fukuzawa

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Methods of Studying the Past
July ,09,2011
Finding Archaeological Sites
Survey, to look for:
• Isolated artifacts on the ground surface
• Changes in soil/vegetation
• Geological formations (caves, lakes, rivers)
• Documents, maps, folklore
• Natural agents, e.g. soil erosion
• By accident during another human
activity, e.g. widening of TransCanada Highway
• A systematic non-intrusive investigation of a specified area for archaeological remains.
Walking Survey
- Ploughed field and River bank
Areal Survey
- Nazca Lines, Peru: spider line (long white straight lines)
-Roman town beneath Venentian (orntield ex. Outline of walls)
- really important for finding arch sites
Archaeological Site
An area which contains the remains of human activity.
Ex. • Head-smashed-in Buffalo Jump, Alberta (kill and hunt site) also cemetery, dump sites, rel. Sites
Fossil Locality
An area which contains fossils.Examples: Zhoukoudian, China, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania
Finding fossil localities
• Good knowledge of geology
• Find conditions favourable for preservation, such as volcanic ash, limestone
The location of an artifact or feature within a site
Provenience is determined according to….
The Law of Association: objects found in the same archaeological layer under conditions where its is
that they were deposited at the same time, must all date from the same time
The Law of Superposition: (see below) These are essential for reconstructing the past
Data Recording
Archaeological Provenience
• Grid system, datum point
• Scale map
• Stratigraphy of each grid square
• Description of artifacts and bones
• Photographs
• Scale drawings
Grid System
A system for recording data from an archaeological excavation, where the site surface is divided into
Site Datum: the starting, or reference, point for constructing a grid
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The systematic recording and removal of archaeological materials. 1 by 1 or 2 by 2 m grid according to
Screening: also used to find small artefacts and materials
Material Culture: The material “things” through which culture is articulated, communicated, and
experienced ex. Coke can
Artifact: Any object which has been fashioned or altered by humans. All material culture is, by definition,
artifactual in nature
- Artifacts
- Artifacts in situ
- Ecofact: Material of archaeological significance (culturally relevant) which was not created or
purposively altered by human activity.
- Feature: A discrete area or place within an archaeological site. Examples: Hearths, tent-rings, post-
Ex, 17th cen. Well or hearth
The remains of a onceliving organism
• May be an impression
• Or the hardened remains of an animal’s skeletal structure
Typically involves the hard parts of an organism:
Woody tissues of plants
Taung Child (Australopithecus africuanus
•Found in a quarry in S.A.
• 2.8 mya
•Found in association withsmall mammal bones andfossilized eggshells
•Likely killed by eagle (puncture marks below eye sockets)
Dating the Past Relative Dating
Relative Dating : Designating an event, object, or fossil as being older or younger than another
Absolute (Chronometric) Dating: Dates based estimate the age of a deposit or specimen in years
Relative Dating
*1. Stratigraphy-The study of strata, Stratification refers to the physical deposits, and other
stratigraphical events such as
posts and pits, that compose an archaeological site through time
-“reading” stratigraphyis essential to understanding change through time
• The only means of understand the history of peoples without written history
The Law of Superposition:
• All things being equal, the further from the surface a material is, the greater its age. So the deeper we
dig the farther back in time we see
Law of Cross-Cutting Relationships:
• The thing that is cut into by something else is older than the thing cutting in.
*2. Seriation
A relative dating technique that relies on stylistic or typological change through time. The method of
arranging similar items in a
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