ANT 101H5S January 10 2011
Archaeology: How do we learn from the past?
Methods for Studying Material Culture-The study of material remains in order to describe and explain
3 types of material remains
• Environmental (ecofacts)
stuff we use, our body
ecofacts-not intentionally modified by human behaviour. Found through natural processes=pollen
• Remains of human activity
Human remains themselves (interntional/unintentional, use/resuse through behaviour.
Widening Archaeological Applications (has changed a lot since WW 2)
• New Dating Techniques
o More accurate dating (has revolutionized)
o nuclear isotopes
o radio carbon dation, volcanic ash
• “New Archaeology”
o Redefining archaeological aims
o what behaviour is associated with artifacts indepth examination of culture.
• Cultural Resource Management
o Protection of sites, rescue archaelogy, preserve archeological remains,artifacts
• you must recognize things as items used by humans; items that functioned within a cultural system
• you must interpret how the items were used or how they functioned in a cultural system
• you must integrate each symbol in its proper system and environment-relate symbols to each other
Any object modified by human beings-not intentional all the time, can be unintentional.
• Express a facet of human culture
• Context is important-context is everything !,function within culture.
• Look at simple object ex:pot, context in which it was found, purpose, behaviour related to it, symbols
of behaviour, function withing cultural framework.
a categorization of artifacts to answer specific questions about a culture
sort artifacts by type=questions being asked ? Size.shape etc
Items that become associated with a site through natural processes , associated with site.
Things that cannot be taken back to a lab for analysis
• they are part of the earth (not transportable,permanent component of archaeological site.)
• Moving will alter or destroy them
• posts !
A spatially distinct place that exhibits evidence of human activity
• Fundamental unit of analysis for an archeologist • Primary unit of association for artifacts
• Must be spatially distinct
• May be occupied over a period of time
• A site or ensemble of related sites represents the material remains of a single cultural system called a
COMMUNITY-number of related sites
huge ? Small ?
Assemblage-all artifacts found in 1 site.
Component-each distinct occupation of 1 site, digging down earth, find stuff. Layers of stuff.
How Do Archaeologists find a Site?
• Disturbance by human activity - artifacts, ploughed field.
• Disturbance by natural causes – natural erosion, exposing old soils and occupations.
• Vegetation-grow in disturbed areas, poison ivy grow in disturbed areas-used in forensic cases !
• Ethnohistorical datamuseum data, coordinates
• Amateur archaeologists or farmers-from local populations(farmers)
• Walk over an area in regular intervals – record a