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Introduction to Archaeology and Pre-History.docx

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Western University
Anthropology 2100
Peter Timmins

Sept, 10, 2012 Introduction to Archaeology and Pre-History -Anthropology is the study of all humanity ancient and modern -Anthropology’s sub-fields are cultural, physical (biological), linguistic, and archaeology -Archaeology is the study of the human past through the traces of the past that exist in the present -Text-aided archaeology or historic archaeology is the study of ancient societies with the aid of written records and pre-historic or pre-contact archaeology focuses on societies that lack written records -Paleoanthropology is the anthropological study of the evolution of our species Culture: -Culture is the invented, taught, and learned patterns of behaviour of humans that is passed on from generation to generation primarily through the use of language and it is our primary way of adapting to our environment -Is sometimes seen as a system of interacting subsystems (technology, economy, etc) -Material Culture is the physical objects that humans manufacture -Cultural Ecology is the study of culture as a means of adapting to the environment and early 20 century “unilinear evolution” held that all cultures developed from simple to complex but this is too simplistic because each society follows a unique evolutionary course “multi-linear evolution” Primary Cultural Processes: th -Early 20 century ideas about the mechanisms of culture and change focused on: 1. Invention – development of a new idea or technology, innovation 2. Diffusion – transfer of an idea or technology from one group to another through interaction 3. Migration – movement of an idea or technology from one area to another through population movement Other Aspects of Culture: -Recent approaches to the study of culture emphasize knowledge, beliefs, values, and customs and culture is much more than environmental adaptation Bruce Trigger: -Said external constraints are the natural environment and internal constraints are the beliefs, values and customs of a cultural tradition A Brief History of Archaeology: -Archaeology is always a product of its social and political environment Antiquity to AD 500: -Origin myths and oral histories do not provide scientific explanations of the past -Some societies incorporated ancient artifacts or ruins into their religious practices but this was not archaeology (ex: Aztec uses of Olmec figurines) -Egyptians had an interest in the past but no archaeological tradition and they believed the gods created civilization in a perfect form and it was in decline -Neo-Babylonian king Nabonidus (ca 538 BC) was possibly the first archaeologist because he rebuilt ancient temples and looked for inscriptions of earlier kings as well as using physical remains to investigate the past -The Greeks and Romans relied on written records and oral history and they had a heroic past of powerful kings and warriors and they collected artifacts and valued works of art but they did not establish a tradition of archaeological research The Middle Ages (AD 500-1300): -The only certain knowledge of the past was that recorded in the bible and Greek and Roman histories and in their view the world had been created around 4000-5000 BC and was in a state of decay -They had no appreciation that the past was much different than the present The Renaissance (1300’s-1600): -Was the development of classical Archaeology in Italy and scholars recognized that the past was different than the present but they continued the belief that civilization had declined and artifact collecting became popular among the elite and interest in Classical antiquities resulted in much uncontrolled digging (no interest in prehistory) -Dr. John Lightfoot in 1642 calculated the date of creation to the year 3928 BC based on the Old Testament -Archbishop James Ussher refined the date of creation to 4004 BC in 1650 and this was widely accepted Sept, 10, 2012 Exploration and Colonization: th th -Western European exploration in the 16 and 17 centuries brought about culture contact with non-Westerners -Explorers brought back clothing, tools, even people and Michael Mercati recognized that stone tools were not “thunderstones” or “fossilized serpent’s tongues” The Enlightenment (1700’s): -Scientific discoveries of Newton and Galileo created increasing confidence and the world was no longer seen as being in a state of decline and that progress could be made and scientific antiquarianism was where gentlemen would study ancient sites or monuments and collect antiquities and they did detailed studies of artifacts and sites and published results also the “Grand Tour” of ancient sites was part of a classical education -Antiquarians attributed Stonehenge to the Danes, the Saxons, the Romans and the Druids and assumed prehistoric sites could best be explained by written records but they failed to develop an accurate chronology James Hutton and John Frere: -Hutton in 1795 subscribed to Uniformitarianism which says changes in the form of the earth’s surface are caused by natural forces still operating today (erosion, uplifting, and deposition) and they also believed they could determine the age of geological features by determining the rate of change -Frere in 1797 found deeply buried flint tools (hand-axes) in England below bones of extinct animals indicating great antiquity but his conclusions were largely ignored George Cuvier – Catastrophism: -Thought the earth had gone through several sudden catastrophes leading to the extinction of animals and laying down geological strata (ex” the biblical flood) and this was accepted and set evolutionary studies back many years The Nineteenth Century: -Development of evolutionary perspective, advances in archaeological techniques, and in Paleolithic archaeology -Charles Lyell wrote the “Principles of Geology” in 1830-1833 and this supported Hutton’s concept of Uniformitarianism and the idea that the earth was very old and this book laid the groundwork to accept biological evolution by proving time for evolution to occur -Charles Darwin lived from 1809-1882 and developed the idea of natural selection in the 1830’s but he did not publish his ideas and Alfred Russell Wallace independently arrived at the same idea in the 1850’s and Darwin had published “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” in 1859 -Natural selection was a mechanism for evolutionary change favouring the survival and reproduction of some organisms over others because of their biological characteristics -Father Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) conducted experiments in crossbreeding peas to understand heredity in the 1850’s and 60’s and he found that traits were passed on as individual units of heredity information or genes but his th worthwas initially ignored but was re-discovered early in the 20 century 19 Century Paleolithic Archaeology in Europe: -In the 1850’s Jacques Boucher de Perthes collected stone axes and bones from the Somme valley and antiquity was verified by Evans and Prestwich -Edward Lartet put Paleolithic sites in chronological order based on artifact types and associated extinct animals -Gathiel de Mortillet defined archaeological cultures (Mousterian, Aurignacian, etc) 19 Century Scandinavian Archaeology: -Christian Thomsen developed the method of Seriation (relative dating based on styles) and proposed the three age system (Stone, Bronze, Iron) and J.J. Worsae confirmed the Three Age system in the field Imperial Archaeology: th -Giovanni Belzoni was a circus strong man and an early 19 century grave robber on the Nile -Austen Henry Layard was a self trained archaeologist who excavated the Assyrian cities of Nimrud and Ninevah in Iraq (he popularized Assyrian archaeology in 1840-50 and helped fill the British Museum) -Heinrich Schlieman
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