Anthropology 1020E Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Radiocarbon Dating, Ethnoarchaeology, Trace Element

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Ethical Issues in Archaeology
1. Access to human remains and sacred objects in colonial contexts
2. Looting and the antiquities trade: turning them into commodities; illegal in most parts
of the world
3. Heritage tourism and conservation: people like to visit archaeological sites; this is
slowly destroying these sites
4. Destruction of antiquities during military conflict or by political regimes
1. Kennewick Man: the remains of an adult man accidental found the Columbia River in
Washington State; first thought to be a murder victim but turns out to be a 9 000 year
old skeleton; one of the earliest and most complete human skeletons in North America;
long court battle between Native American tribes and scientists; the Natives were
understandable upset due to past relations between Natives and scientists; they made
the case that he was important to the study of mankind; in the end, the scientists won
the court battle due to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
which governs who has the right to skeletal remains that belong to Native peoples;
,they require a direct link between human remains and the present day Native
American group; does this reflect native or American values?
2. Maya Sites in Mesoamerica: looters’ pits all around the site; Sites looted by
organized gangs, artifacts sold for profit; illegal, destroys important information but also
provides income for local people in impoverished region; there are all kinds of
examples all over the world; there are multiple laws against this in Canada
3. Newgrange: a 5 000 year old burial tomb in Boyne valley Ireland; on the winter
solstice, morning sun illuminates entrance passage at dawn; it is a UNESCO World
Heritage Site (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) due to
its importance; the most visited archaeological site in Ireland; visitors are slowly
wearing away carving in the passage; entrance fees generate important income to
preserve other sites; people want authentic experience, not replica; are they sacrificing
one site to help preserve others?; if they stopped allowing visitors, they would lose the
income helping to preserve the other site; it is a question of who should control access
4. ISIS: destroying heritage sites in Iraq and Syria; funding their cause by selling artifacts
that have been found; heritage sites are often targeted by political regimes due to their
being symbols of identity and beliefs; UNESCO World heritage sites have been
damaged, artifacts are destroyed or sold on the black market; United Nations consider
this a war crime; archaeologists lobby internationally to raise awareness, document
sites and mitigate damage after event; recently destroyed the Bel Temple at Palmyra
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Archaeologys contributions:
Long-term perspective – why does it matter?
Social justice – how does archaeology contribute?
Applied archaeology – what is it and why is it useful?
Ethical issues in archaeology:
What are the competing interests in each of the following cases? ***find examples on
readings; don’t have to by specific – just get the point across
Access to human remains
Looting and the antiquities trade
Heritage tourism and conservation
Context is Everything
Where an artifact is found
Lies behind everything that archaeologists do in the field; a lot of time is spent detailing
where things are found and what is around them
Safety pin: normally used in sewing, was a powerful symbol in the British punk rock
phase; used for cloth diapers mostly by women; function has stayed the same but
implies different things
The temporal and spatial setting of an archaeological find, comprised of its:
1. matrix
a. material that surrounds an object e.g. sand, clay
2. provenience
a. horizontal & vertical position within matrix (measured relative to datum)
3. association(s)
a. other archaeological remains with which it occurs
Archaeological Textile Fragment
can be identified based on fibres, weaving
can tell a story based on location found, people who made it
Archaeological Site
DEFINITION: A location that contains physical evidence of past human activity in the form
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Artifacts: portable objects made, modified or used by people; stone arrowhead, Greek
Features: artifacts that cannot be picked up or moved around; non portable artifacts;
rocks used to hold down tent, Stonehenge (comprised of nested (multiple features)
Ecofacts: non-artifactual environmental remains with relevance to our understand if
past human activities; animal bones, plant remains
Cultural Landscapes
Defined by UNESCO as: Combined works of nature and humankind that express a long and
intimate relationship between peoples and their natural environment; become woven into who
the people are as a community
The archaeological record is largely comprised of things people threw away; pottery
However this is not always the case
Herculaneum is an example of a city frozen in time
Material bias: organic remains decay; some metals corrode; stone tools can withstand
the test of time and are found today
Environmental conditions: based on environment, some organic material does survive
if the weather has the ability to preserve it; desert or frozen environments
Site Disturbance
Natural processes: erosion from water, animals
Cultural processes: occupation, farming, looting, building
The layers of strata, soil and other material, that compose an archaeological site
oNatural strata: different types of soil
oCultural strata: disposing of things in the ground
Straight walls allow every layer to be visible
THE LAW OF SUPERPOSITION: where one stratum overlies another, the lower one was
deposited first
Proceed stratigraphically: start at the top and work your way down
Choice of tools depend on the nature of the site: machines, hand tools
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