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Lecture 14

Lecture 14 - Reconstructing early hominid behaviour and ecology - January 22.docx

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Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANT203Y1
Professor
Keriann Mc Googan

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January 22, 2013. Lecture 14 - Reconstructing early hominid behaviour and ecology This Class  What is a hominin?  Paleoanthropology o What is it? o Olduvai Gorge o Dating Methods  Experimental Archaeology  Early Hominin Environments and Behaviour What is a hominin?  Members of the evolutionary group that includes modern humans and now extinct bipedal relatives  Features: o Tooth and jaw dimensions o Bipedal locomotion o Large brain size o Tool-making  Mosaic evolution: different patterns of evolution evolving at different rates (e.g. locomotion, brain, dentition, tool-making behaviour) Biocultural Evolution  Culture: “non-body” adaptations to the environment, including systematic learned behaviours that can be communicated to others  Human culture (no other primate is as reliant as cultural context as humans) o Material culture e.g. tool-making Paleoanthropology  The study of ancient humans  Multi-disciplinary o Physical sciences o Biological sciences o Social sciences  1. Surveys to locate potential sites o Aerial or satellite imagery o Surface techniques  Walking through a particular area to see what is there, to find artifacts, signs/signals, irregularities, anything indicating a presence of ancient community etc.  Artifacts: objects or materials made or modified for use by hominins (e.g. stone tools) o How are sites located?  Natural processes  By accident  E.g. construction  Known geological contexts  Fossils are only found within regions with the right circumstances for fossilization  2. Concentrated Research of Site o Fossil locale: area where fossilized remains of plants or animals are found o Field crews continue to survey the site and gain information on geology and ecology of the region  Carefully scour and analyze the area, figure out where things are found and why, find out information about the geological context, study layout and plant life  3. Fossil Excavation o Fossil: hardened remains of animal’s skeletal structure o Steps to fossil excavation:  1. Uncover fossils using picks and shovels  2. Brushes and small toothpick sized picks to remove easily removed debris  3. Coat actual fossil parts in protectant film/liquid  4. Acid bath o Paleoecology: what was the surrounding habitat like?  Trying to reconstruct past environment using known and observed data  Determine what the ecosystem was like using fossil pollen and inferring the circumstances of the area based on what plant life was growing there Olduvai Gorge  Louis and Mary Leakey  Serengeti Plain of Northern Tanzania  Used to be a lake  One of the most rich sources of paleolithic remains, huge source of information for hominin evolutionary history o Wealth of hominin remains and fossilized animal bones  Geological processes: have made it easy (ish) to date discovered artifacts/fossils o 1. Faulting  Exposes geological beds close to the surface  Therefore exposes fossils and made it possible for us to discover them o 2. Active volcanic processes  Rapid sedimentation  Preserved/created fossils  Radiometrically datable material Relative Dating Methods  Stratigraphy o Stratums: within geology, layers of rock/ground o Differentiating between different sedimentary layers o Oldest layers are deeper/lower in the sediment deposit o Fossils found within a specific layer can be placed on a basic timeline using inferences about geological processes that created these layers  F-U-N Trio o Fluorine, Uranium, Nitrogen o Only applies to bone o Bones and teeth undergo a change/transformation in their chemical composition when they have been buried for long periods of time o Mineral content of the groundwater in the area that they are buried impacts the chemical composition of these bones and teeth o Exposed to slow seepage of groundwater, most of which contains Fluorine o Measure amount of fluorine found in bones/teeth; more fluorine, probably been buried longer o Same with Uranium o Relationship is reversed with Nitrogen; older the fossil, the SMALLER the amount of Nitrogen found in it o As time passes components of the bone are lost, components that contain Nitrogen o Useful when can’t use Stratigraphy method o Problem is that mineral content is only applicable to the AREA, cannot compare fossils across different sites  Palynology o Fossil pollen analysis o Found in various layers/stratums o Inferences made using surrounding pollen fossils to determine time of animal/hominin fossil  Seriation o Method where assemblages or artifacts from numerous sites in the same culture, are placed in chronological order  Based on style, size, type, etc. o Bell-curve of popularity  E.g. Cell phones: evolution of which could probably be placed on a bell-curve based on something like size if a pile of them was available to observe o Problem: you can’t tell where to start and where to end  E.g. style in pots/vases, could go from large and round to small and narrow or the other way around  Biostratigraphy (Faunal Correlation) o Compare same species from different sites o Similar faunal assemblages are from approximately the same time period o Index fossils  Chronometric/Radiometric Dating o Based on the principle that “parent” atoms of a radioactive element decay at a known and constant rate into “daughter” atoms of another element.  E.g. K to A o Half-life: the time required for half of the atoms of a radioactive element to decay. o The ratio of “parent” to “daughter” atoms is directly related to the amount of time elapsed = age (a natural clock!) o Ratio of unstable/stable (isotopes) = the age of the sample o Potassium-Argon Dating  K/Ar dating  Measure ratio of K40/Ar40, determine age of rock o Dating ROCK, NOT surrounding FOSSILS therefore not 100% accurate  Half-life: 1.3 billion years; works on specimens at least 200,000 years old  BUT cannot measure from same sampl
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