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Methods of studying the past: Archaeology & Biological

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Genevieve Dewar

Methods of studying the past: Archaeology & Biological Where did people live? Archaeological sites; where people lived or carried out activities Artifacts; objects made by people Ecofacts; ecological debris such as animal bone Features; nonportable remains graves or walls.(Foundation or buildings) Survey Morphological features: -sources of water, clay, iron ore, firewood etc Local and oral histories: - troy/Heinrich Schleimann Field survey: -Surface walking -Subsurface investigation -Electrical Resistivity Survey -Proton Magnetometry -Ground Penetrating Radar -Random Testing; Test Pitting Sampling Lab analysis: -Inform us on where to look and where not to look What materials did they leave behind? Careful excavation: -Spatial contexts/ associations; keep each item seperate -provenience; relation in 3d space that each artifact has -assemblage; relation between all artifacts in that same area Sieved; remove dirt/sediment Sorted -> sent to lab for analysis When did human activities occur? Relative dating methods: -Stratigraphy, Seriation, Self dating, and Cross-dating Absolute dating methods: -Radiocarbondating Dates in the Distant PAst: BP - 1950 AD YA - Years ago KYA - Thousands of years ago MYA - millions of years ago Dates are usually averaged over spans of many years. i.e “1,000,000 years ago” really means something between about 900,000 and 1,100,000 ya Stratigraphy & Law of Superposition Sediment on top of already existing material, recent on top, older on bottom. Exceptions: Animals burrowing or Earthquakes can disturb the age in the deposits. Seriation Measuring change through time due to changes in technology, raw materials or styles of artifacts. Styles appear, gradually achieve some measure of acceptance, and then becomes outdated and gradually disappear. At the same time that old Style A is disappearing, Style B is reaching its maximum extent and new Style C is just appearing. Self-dated Objects Objects which have actual dates on them: -Coins, tombstones, letters Objects which reflect events of known date: -A basketball, for example, dates after the invention of the game in December 1891 Remember that people save souvenirs: -Cannot date from a period earlier than that date -May date from a late rperiod -Restricted to the last 2000 years or less. Cross-dating Sites or strata with similar fossils, artifact styles, or technologies are similar in age. Dates are obtained from multiple sites and if they contain similar artifacts one can infer that certain layers are similar in age. Dendochronology Every year, every tree and bush grows outward by adding a layer of wood around its trunk, These annual layers are light in colour. -In good years, the tree grows a lot and its light coloured layer is wide; -In bad years the tree doesn’t grow as much and the light coloured layer is narrow. When a tree is cut down, one can tell how old it is by counting the number of rings (annual growth layers) from its edge to its centre. By matching old tree trunks and matching it with recent ones, we can match the pattern of the rings in order to indicate the age of the trees. Radiocarbon (14C) Dating All forms of life contain carbon -So does food that organism eat every day -Living organisms constantly replenish 14C atoms through the food chain. Carbon exists in three forms or isotopes. -Carbon 12 is common and stable (99%) -Carbon 13 is rare and stable (<1%) -Carbon 14 is very rare and radioactive 14C 12C = 1 6 100 14C atoms have a half life of 5,730 years -Pick a leaf today: estimate the number of carbon atoms present in the leaf by weight -Calculate the number of 14C atoms -If you re-measure that same leaf 5730 years from today there will be exactly half as many 14 C atoms, Half will have reverted to stable 14N -By measuring the amount of carbon in a sample and comparing
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