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University of Toronto St. George
Christopher Watts

Anthropology100 Section 1: Archaeology With Professor Watts Archaeological Data and Dating Archaeological Record The matrices in which artifacts, ecofacts, sites and other human-manufactured features or results of past human actions are found. Three typical elements of Archaeological Research Observed material culture Unobserved human and non-human activity: Cannot be directly observed, material sources and must be inferred. Interpretation of Human Activity: We dont try to explain, but interpret. Material Evidence 1. Physical: Material dimension. Can be held and observed Artifacts: Any Portable object whose form has been shaped (manufactured, modified) by way of human activity. E.g. Hand Axe, Ceramic Vessel, Funerary Mask Ecofacts: Non-artificial material evidence of human activity. Can be further subdivided into: Macrofossils: Visible to the naked eye, typically plant materials. Can be retrieved through flotation normal excavation processes. E.g. Corn in harvested and processed the carbonized. MicroFossils: Visible only under high-power magnification, 200x or greater. E.g. Pollen, phytoliths; can be retrieved through flotation only, adhered to pots or stone tools etc. Features: Non-Portablematerial evidence of human activity. E.g. Hearths, Storage pits, postholes, pyramids 2. Spatial: No physical quality. Activity Areas Sites Regions Archaeological Site Can be defined in a number of ways Usually consists if a collection of activity areas containing any of the following Artifacts Ecofacts www.notesolution.comFeatures Spatially defined areas where one can find remnants of past human activity. Can be collected into one group or in several groups Provenience (Provenance) Physical location in three dimensional space Site Level: Employ a Grid System for the actual site Regional Level: Map co-ordinates and settlement features (e.g. Roads, Towns) Site formation Processes Affected by: Nature of the Artifacts: What were they used for? What were they made of? Human Agencies: Where were they used? Actions of the humans; actions that led to the creation of the artifacts. Natural Agencies: Natural disturbances that can aid preservation or ruin it. E.g. Soil composition, environments, temperature, disturbance by animals (taphonomic processes) Finding Archaeological Sites Field Methods Surface Techniques Field Walking: used to survey ploughed areas (very efficient, common) Can cover a huge amount of ground in a relatively short time. Testpitting: Used to survey areas that cannot be examined by other methods. Go through the area and dig small test pits every so often and then straining the contents (Not as efficient) Aerial photography, satellite imaging: A great tool for finding sites, or identifying areas of high potential. Works well when there are large-scale landscape features. Remote Sensing: Measures the resistance of the ground to an electrical current. Current passes more quickly through wet ground than dry ground. Based on how quickly the current passes you can find out if there are pits or pieces of foundation under the soil (fairly easy) Remote sensing (Magnetometry): Measures magnetic fields below the earths surface. Some archaeological features (e.g. building materials with iron, hearth events) have their own magnetic fields. Remote sensing (Ground Penetrating Radar)(GPR): Uses low-energy radio waves to detect subsurface features. The stronger the bounce, the bigger the object or feature. The longer it takes for the radar to return, the deeper the object or feature. Only method to provide data along vertical axis of soil matrix (possibly most common). Benefits of remote sensing Cost effective, efficient and accurate Non-destructive and non-invasive Devices are relatively portable www.notesolution.com On-site real time data display Subsurface Techniques Excavation: Recovering archaeological data. Normally begins with a surface collection (if a site of ploughed or disturbed). Followed by the placement of a datum and grid. Then everything found is recorded in conjunction to the distance from the datum on the grid. When excavating, we record subsurface features and the location of artifacts in a similar fashion. With reference to a grid system (based on Cartesian coordinates x and y axis) Surface Collection: The spatial distribution of artifacts on the surface of a site is recorded with reference to a fixed point (datum). This provides accurate maps, which can then be used to guide the excavation. Types of Excavations Open-area, areal or horizontal excavations: Uncover and remove layers (strata) from youngest to oldest, simultaneously, across a wide area. Grid-and-Baulk or Vertical excavations: (aka grid and baulk method) are focused on a single small portion on the site. Units separated by Baulks Note: A number of sites are found by accident! Processing Soil at Site Screen Considerations: aperture size of mesh Excavation (contd) Stratigraphy: The analytical process by which we order layers and features chronologically. Based on the Law of Superposition: That Sediments are deposited on top of pre-existing sediments. Strata: Layers of cultures and times, from Youngest (top) to Oldest (bottom) Dating Techniques Stratigraphy is a relative dating method Levels (and by extension, the artifacts, ecofacts, and features contained in them) can be ordered through time based on their Stratigraphic Position. There are other methods known as Absolute dating methods Dendrochronology: Tree-ring dating of preserved wood. Chronologies based on overlapping ring sequences. *Limitations: Cannot be used in Tropical Regions, Confined to certain tree species. Radiocarbon Dating (C ): Radioactive isotope or variety of carbon which forms in the atmosphere. Absorbed by plants during photosynthesis. Absorbed by animals when they eat plants. After death C decays at a known rate its Half-Life 5730 +_ 40 years Two Forms: www.notesolution.com
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