Anthropology: The holistic study of the human species, past and present.
Archaeology: The Study of humans and their history, studied by focusing on their human remains, such as
dwellings, tools, garbage, field systems.
- Franz Boas‟ work laid the groundwork of archaeology.
- The material things that we have say a lot about us.
Archaeologists are interested in tracking material culture differences from point a to b (change across space).
How material cultures differentiated and interacted. This explains how we organize ourselves. As well, they
are interested in change over time. They explore how and why things change over time, and what drives the
What do they really do?
- They can „connect‟ with people from the past
- Research driven archaeology: everything is driven by a series of questions, funded by research grant
- University based archaeology: look at everything that comes back and try to figure out what it means
- Cultural Resource Management (CRM) takes place ahead of development, paid by the developer.
They check to see if there is any archaeology in the ground before they build anything on top. Not a
lot of time and resources, seems to be a little emphasis.
Why does archaeology matter?
Gives us a long-term perspective
o You can‟t know where you are going until you know where you have been” – J. F. Kennedy
o Learn from the past
o Understand different areas/cultures
o Need lots of different perspectives on the past to better understand
o The myth of the mound builders
Thought that no way could native Americans do such a thing
People‟s preconceptions shape how we view things
o Nazi archaeology
Demonstrated that there had once been a great Germanic empire
o Document experiences of how things are/were
The slave experience
o Community/Indigenous Archaeology
Meeting with and working with community groups help to empower them
Involve them in all stages of the research project
Dissemination of the results (bring the results to the public)
o Taking things that we have learned and applying them to help us in present day
Sea otter reintroduction
Used to be abundant, but massively overhunted and became extirpated
Bringing in populations from other places to help their population, but not
working. Could be because they were reintroducing the wrong subspecies.
Sustainable agricultural practices
Trying to reintroduce ancient agri practices Reviving raised field agriculture
o Archaeological excavation reveals construction techniques, none of which
are like present day ways
o Tried to reproduce in Bolivia
Who owns the past?
Ethics and guidelines are important
o Commercialization of the past
o Need to share the findings
o Proper training
o Access to human remains and sacred objects in colonial contexts
Kennewick Man was a nearly intact and complete skeleton found on a coast in 1996. It
was 9300 years old, the oldest in North America and best-persevered skeleton in the
world. Had a narrow face, long nose, and high round eye sockets. 5‟7, 40 years old,
strong right arm, fractures in his skull, broken ribs that never healed, and had been shot
by an arrowhead, with the bone healing around it. His diet was seafood, and so he lived
on the coast. Not Caucasian.
Native American Tribes demanded for him to be returned to be reburied.
NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) came into
This act was challenged since it was such a perfect skeleton, it would really help with
Act was altered to be only in effect if there was a clear relation.
o Looting and the antiquities trade
Maya sites in Mesoamerica, Belize
They people doing the looting are very impoverished, so hard to punish them
Laws aren‟t really enforced, low on the list of concerns
Hard for museums since they shouldn‟t support looters, yet they want to protect the items
o Heritage tourism and conservation
Run by a heritage site
Light shines in on winter solstice
Tourism is starting to rub away the carvings
People won‟t come if they can‟t go in…
What can things tell us about people?
Context is everything
o Without knowing what was found along with the individual object, getting a sense of the
situation is hard
Depending on the context, an item can have a completely different meaning
o We don‟t get to see the thing in use, so it is difficult to deceiver, so we need to use everything
found amongst it to help
Context: The temporal and spatial setting of an archaeological find, comprised of its:
- Matrix – The material in which it was buried (sand, gravel, clay…)
- Provenience – The object‟s horizontal and vertical position within the matrix (where exactly it was found) – the datum
- Association(s) – All of the other finds found in the same matrix
All of these elements give us clues leading to the meaning.
What are the main categories of archaeological evidence?
Archaeological Site: A location that contains physical evidence of past human activity in the form of:
- Artifacts – Evidence that people were there, portable objects that were used or made by people
- Features – Non-portable things that have been made or used by people (ditches, fireplaces, walls…)
- Eco facts – Non-artifactual environmental remains that have meaning to human past (plant remains,
twigs, animal bones…)
Cultural Landscapes: Combined works of nature and humankind that express a long and intimate relationship
between peoples and their natural environment.
Why do archaeologists dig square holes?
Helps to record information to gain context.
Stratigraphy: The layers (strata) or soil and other material that compose an archaeological site
Natural strata (layers of soil)
Cultural strata (bits of deposits from human activities – midden (trash), floorings…)
Law of superposition: Where one stratum overlies another, the lower one was deposited first
- Proceeds stratigraphically
- The choice of tools depends on that nature of the site
o During excavation archaeologists record 3-dimentional provenience using a datum and grid
How do archaeologists link old things with past people?
Hawkes‟ ladder of inference
- Antiques of production (methods of manufacture)
- Subsistence-economics (acquisition of necessities of life)
- Communal organization (social and political institutions)
- Spiritual life (ideology)
Middle Range Theory
- Analogical reasoning (see a pattern and relate it to something similar in present day)
- Lewis Binford
- Similarities between living groups and patterns observed in the archaeological record
- remains follow matrilineal vs patrilineal descent
- Study the use of material culture in living cultures
- Recreate artifacts and features that were found in order to understand meaning and how they were used What can things tell us about people?
- What are they?
o Pots, knives, spears…
- What could these things tell us about the people who made and used them?
o Social organization, mobility, function, use
- How could archaeologists organize these things in order to study them?
Raw material (ceramic, stone…)
Surface treatment/style (decorated?)
Refitting pieces together
From things to people
How old is it when did they live
- Relative dating techniques
o Place objects in chronological order
- Absolute dating techniques
o Provide the exact age of an object
Dendrochronology (tree rings)
How was it made? How did they manufacture things? How was this knowledge transmitted?
- Ceramic manufacturing techniques
How was it used? What did they use it for?
- Typology and analogy
o Divide the artifacts into functional types
- Microwear Analysis
o When magnified, you can see very tiny details, marks, or items left on the artifacts
- Residue Analysis
o What is left over? Animal fat, acids, blood, etc
Where did the raw materials come from? Where was it made? How did they move across the landscape,
where did they live?
Why do archaeologists keep a bunch of old bones and seeds?
They are Eco-facts
- Environmental reconstructions – living areas
- Diet and subsidence strategy – how they acquired their food
- Domestication – How people relied on domesticated vs. wild plants and animals
- Social Organization – Different people have access to different things (class)
- Ritual – Scarification and use in ceremonies
- Palaeobotany studies plant remains
o Microfossils: pollen (preserves a long time in ground, moves around lots, easily identified o Microfossils: phytoliths (stays put, harder to identify)
o Macrofossils: seeds, charcoal (preserve well after being burnt
- Zooarchaeology studies animal remains
o Bones, teeth, antler, shell, insects
- Reference collection
How do archaeologists use eco-facts to reconstruct past environments?
- Metal tube pushed into the ground, collecting strata. Pollen is then extracts to construct a time
- Plotted the proportion of pollen on a time series diagram
- Shows climatic shifts by noting which plants dominated at which times
Animals- indicator species
- Certain animals have specific tolerances, so finding them tells us what it was like at that time.
How do archaeologists use eco-facts to reconstruct diet and subsistence strategies?
Mobile, move around a lot
Live in small communities
Sharing is really important
Lack formal leadership
Division of labour
o Evidence of housing will be difficult since they lived in tents
o Rare to find ceramics since they travel lots
Herd animals in pastures
Rely on secondary products (milk, cheese, wool, fur)
Share a lot in common with hunters and gatherers
Dependent on their herd (severe consequences if disease strikes the herd)
Basic kind of agriculture
Rely on domesticated plants
Use slash and burn agriculture
Can only use land for a certain amount of time before they must move due to soil
Higher food yields
Higher population densities Beginnings of social differentiation – find ways to resolve conflicts with someone in
Rely on domesticated plants and animals
Uses irrigation, terracing, fertilizing, crop rotation
Are able to use the same spot of land for a long time
Surplus food production
Even higher population densities
Complex political organization – social hierarchies with multiple levels
Differences in wealth and power
o Complete skeletons of butchered animals close to living area
o Actual houses and organized settlements (villages with streets, urban planning)
How do we distinguish between wild and domesticated species?
Artificial Selection: Humans control the breeding of plants and animals and select for certain traits
- See very rapid change
- Increased seed size
- Thinner seed coat
- Reduced seed dispersal
- More seeds, tightly clustered (more plats, and easier to get at)
- Geographic distribution
- Change in size (almost all get smaller when domesticated)
- Population structure (only need a few males with several females)
- Changes in bone structure (illness shows in bones since they live longer)
- Geographic distribution
How do archaeologists use eco facts to reconstruct social organization? *
*Arbeia Roman Fort, South Shields, England (ca. 230-300AD) (teacher‟s favorite)
- Wall built all around it
- Typical of a Roman Military Fort
- Layout very well still there
- Discovered what the commander vs the barracks ate
- Beef cuts (city jail, Hannan Saloon, Klebitz & Green and the Golden Eagle Hotel: worst-best)
How do archaeologists use eco facts to understand ideology and ritual?
- Tell when a bunch of animals when all killed at the same time
- Different types of tools (sea vs land: harpoon heads vs antler projectile points)