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Procedures of Archaeology - Part 2.docx

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Anthropology 2100
Peter Timmins

Sept, 24, 2012 Procedures of Archaeology - Part 2 Artifact Processing: -Artifact stabilization is done by specialists called museologists to keep broken items in formation because they are taken out of the ground and cleaning is done just with water and letting them dry -Cataloguing puts artifacts into artifact types and this is also done according to the provenience of the artifact and typically this information is entered into a data base and this is a tool used in the analysis of the collection -Date entry into a computer file where a catalogue can be used as a basic research tool and you can sort data in many ways (by provenience, by artifact type, raw material, etc) Artifact Classification: -We don’t want to have to describe every artifact in detail so we group them and classification aids artifact description and artifact type is a class of artifacts defined by a consistent cluttering of attributes -Types show stylistic change over time which is very useful and we use them to get an idea of the age of the site -Types we use are made up by modern people and do not reflect the way the people who made the artifact thought about them -Typology is a list of artifact types for a particular archaeological context and constructing typology involved the systematic arrangement of material culture into types and specific typologies may be created for certain artifact classes and time periods which are used to facilitate comparison among assemblages -For example early Paleoindian projectile points which have been grouped into types that changed quickly over time and we see the move from harshly chipped points to more leaf shaped points with much less chipping (all have consistent basal concavity) Artifact Attributes: -An artifact attribute is a particular characteristic of an artifact and you can examine surface attributes (decoration, colour, etc), shape or form (dimensions, outline, etc), and technological attributes (raw material, manufacturing process, etc) Artifact Spatial Distributions: -Show the spatial organization of artifacts within the site and can map different artifact classes separately or together and they also identify activity areas (ex: flintknapping, animal butchering, etc) -Diagnostic artifacts show characteristic of specific cultures/time periods and this analysis is crucial to site interpretation and we can get this information from a catalogue but much is now on GIS database mapping the site -Looking at the types of artifacts can indicate if the site was a multi-occupation site Alder Creek Site: -A multi component site near Kitchener with multiple occupations but not stratigraphic layers because of the ploughing Archaeological Interpretation: -Archaeologists have to be clear about where their interpretations come from because the sites don’t tell us anything and we have to make inferences about them -Artifacts are static and they don’t tell us anything directly so we use our understanding of site formation processes (both human behavioural processes and natural processes) to make inferences -Archaeologists draw upon anthropology, history, geology, geography, and other disciplines Inference from Analogy: -Most archaeological inferences involve a correlation between the archaeological data and human behaviour or natural processes that contributed to the formation of the data and an analogy is a process of reasoning between parallel cases and we draw analogies form many sources like from experiments Types of Analogy: -The strongest analogies are those in which both sides share causal factors and direct historic analogy is the strongest kind and is between archaeological remains and the historical record -General comparative analogies are between archaeological remains and cultures that are not historically related and they are usually stronger if the groups are practicing a similar way of life in a similar environment Ethnoarchaeology: -Archaeological studies of living societies building analogies to support archaeological inferences Sept, 24, 2012 Dating Methods: Relative Dating Methods: -Determine whether something is relatively older or younger than something else -Stratigraphy/superposition is based on the Law of Superposition where when one layer overlies another the lower layer was deposited first (each layer is younger than the layer beneath it) -Seriation is based on style changes through time where “like goes with like” and artifacts that share the same style usually belong to the same period -With seriation styles usually change over time but this can happen gradually or quickly with styles reaching a popularity peak and then decline but it may not tell you what is at the end of the sequence or the beginning so other dating methods are used along side it -When we look at types of artifacts today we can place them in existing seriation patterns Absolute Dating Methods: -Provide estimates of dates in number of calendar years before present -Also known as chronometric dates (involving radio active decay) and it has a certain amount of error Calendars and Historical Chronologies (Dynasties): -Are established by past peoples and studied by us through reconstruction and a historical combination and we can from this determine dynasties but there is a margin of error as you go back in time but where there are elaborate and very correct calendars we can match them up to our own for greater accuracy Dendrochronology: -For dates between 10,000 BP – present basis being that most tree species lay down a single growth ring each year -We can build up a master sequence of tree ring patterns for each region and compare ancient wood found on a site to the master sequence to determine a date -“Old wood” is a problem and can yield incorrect dates from when peoples that inhabited a site reuse wood and then we find it and it makes the site look much older -There is not much to work with in some areas because of preservation issues and it is used to refine radio carbon dating through calibration to known dates Radiocarbon Dating: -Is based on the decay of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 because the ratio of C-12 to C-14 is constant in living things and after death the amount of C-14 decreases as it decays -The decay occurs at constant rate, known as the half-life of the radioactive C-14 isotope (5730 years) -Age is determined by measuring remaining C-14 and comparing that to the ratio of C-12 to C-14 in living things -Works for ages between 40,000 - 500 BP but you have to avoid contamination with modern carbon -A major advance is AMS dating which uses accelerator mass spectrometry to count C-14 atoms directly and can date samples as small as 1 mg -An example of a calibrated date is “cal 980 +-“and rcybp means “radio carbon date before present” -The “dated event” must be associated with the “occupation event” you want to date -Dating artifacts directly with AMS ensures that the dated event and occupation event are associated -An error range is associated with each date (66% chance it falls within the indicated range) -Dates are calibrated to account for fluctuations in atmospheric C-14 over time and calibration is based on dendrochronology -C-14 dates on dendro-dated wood samples show the discrepancy between radiocarbon ages and calendar ages -Calibration curves and data sets allow calibration of C-14 dates back to ca. 12,000 BP Potassium-Argon Dating: -Used on volcanic rock only -Potassium 40 (K-40) decays into Argon 40 (Ar-40) and has a half-life of 1.3 billion years -A radiometric
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