ANT100Y1 Lecture Notes - Dendrochronology, Thermoluminescence

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Anthropology October 28th, 2010.
Archaeological Record
The matrices in which artifacts, ecofacts, sites and other human-manufactured features or
results of past human action are found
Three Typical Elements of Archaeological Research
Observed material culture
Unobserved human/non-human activity
Interpretation/explanation of human activity
Material Evidence
-Activity areas
Any portable object where form has been shaped (i.e. manufactured or modified)
by way of human activity
Nonportable material evidence of human activity (e.g. hearths, storage pits,
Non-artifactual material evidence of human activity
Can be further subdivided into Macrofossils and Microfossils
Visible to the naked eye, e.g. kernel of corn
Can be retrieved through flotation or normal excavation procedures
Flotation Device
Water separation of soil matrices
Used primarily to recover macrofossils
Lighter materials float to the surface, caught in sieves
Anthropology October 28th, 2010.
E.g. pollen, phytoliths found in soils or residues adhering to artifacts
Retrieved through mechanical and chemical disaggregation
Visible only under high-power magnification, 200X or greater
Archaeological Site
Can be defined in a number of ways
Usually consists of a collection of activity areas containing any of the following:
Provenience (Provenance)
Physical location in three dimensional space
Site level:
-Grid system
Regional level:
-Map co-ordinates
-Settlement features
-(e.g. roads, towns)
Site Formation Processes
Affected by:
Human agencies
-E.g. curating/discard of objects
Natural Agencies
-e.g. soil composition, environment, temperature, disturbance by animals
(taphonomic processes)
Finding Archaeological Sites
Note: a number of sites are found by accident!
Field Methods:
Surface Techniques
-Field walking: used to survey ploughed areas; very efficient
-Testpitting: used to survey areas that cannot be examined by other methods
-Aerial photography, satellite imaging: great tool for finding sites, or identifying
area of high potential. Works well when here are large-scale landscape features
-Remote sensing
Subsurface Techniques
Anthropology October 28th, 2010.
Remote sensing
Measures the resistance of the ground to an electrical current
Current passes more quickly through wet ground than dry ground
Measures magnetic fields below the earths surface
Some archaeological features (e.g. building materials with iron, hearth events)
have their own magnetic fields
Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR)
Uses radio waves to detect subsurface features
The stronger the bounce, the bigger the object or feature
The longer it takes for the bounce to return, the deeper the object or figure
Only method to provide data along vertical axis of soil matrix
Benefits of Remote Sensing
Cost-effective, efficient and accurate
Non-destructive and non-invasive
Devices are relatively portable
On-site real time data display
Subsurface Techniques
Excavation – recovering archaeological data:
Normally begins with a surface collection (if site is ploughed or disturbed)
Datum and grid
Excavation: Surface Collection
The spatial distribution of artifacts on the surface of a site is recorded with
reference to a fixed point (datum)
Excavation produces accurate maps, which can then be used to guide the
When excavating, we record subsurface features and the location of artifacts in a
similar fashion
With reference to a grid system (based on Cartesian coordinates –x and y axes)
Types of Excavation
Horizontal excavations uncover and remove layers (strata) from youngest to
oldest, simultaneously, across a wide area
Vertical excavations are focused on a single, small portion of the site. Units
separated by baulks