Intro to Environmental Archaeology

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Jonathan Haxell

STUDY NOTES:AR246 Dr. Haxell Examination Date: Wed 16/3:30PM/University Stadium SECTION # 1: EnvironmentalArch – The study of ecology of past human populations -aka. Interactions btwn human populations and environment •Physical environment – landforms/features/climate •Biological populations –Animal & Plant -Also thought as study of human paleoecology -Paleo (ancient) ecology of human populations SubDisciplines: Geo- Archaeology – Earth Sciences -geomorphology – Study of shape/origin of landscape features -sedimentology – Construction of history of sediments -ie. Process of production/transport/deposition -Sedimentary modification over time GOAL: Reconstruct interactions between humans and past physical environment -resources: flint/salt/obsidian -explain settlement patterns/political/economic relationships Archaeobotony – Paleoethnobotany -preserved remains of plants – Seeds/wood/charcoal/plytoliths -Impressions of plant materials GOAL: Reconstruct human interactions with plant communities. -Identifies plant based food remains -subsistence strategies – Appearance of plant domestication Palynology – Study of plant & human ecologies\ -Microscopic plant remains (pollen) -pollen related materials – recovered from sedimentary cores – recontructs regional plant communities -morphology of pollen grains PollenAnalysis provides: Proxy for past climate – temperature and rainfall -Succession of plant population overtime -Impact of human activity on plant populations Zooarchaeology – non-human remains (animals) -Bones, teeth, antlers -shell, fish scales -new layer/ring on during each growing period -insect exoskeletons (archaeoentomology) -Parasite remains GOAL: Reconstruct ecological relationships with animal populations -identifies animals present in past environment -Subsistence strategy of past people – huntergather, domestication Bioarchaeology – human remains -Diet – Trace elements and stable isotope analysis of bone -Past infectious diseases – Paleopathology EnvironmentalArchaeologicalApproach: GOAL: traditional archaeology – reconstruct the culture of past populations what is culture: -rules governing behaviour -patterns of thought -shared language How do they achieve goal: 1) Begin identifying as many behaviours as possible 2) Search for pattern in recorded behaviours 3) Use patterns to infer cultural rules Difference: Nature of subject of study st -1 must reconstruct past behaviours based on preserved remains of those behaviours Classes of Evidence: Artefacts – objects made/modified by human activity (can be removed from matrix Features – (installations) objects made by humans but cannot be removed from matrix Ecofacts – Natural objects that are unmodified by humans Sites –Assemblages of artefacts/features/ecofacts Regions –Assemblages of sites TraditionalApproach also implies philosophical foundation •Culture is seen as distinct from natural world -cosmologies distinguish – natural/human world -god creates oceans & trees then humans. -Western view: -wild vs. Domestication -savage vs. Civilization Archaeology as human ecology: Different philosophical foundation -no population can be understood independent of its environment -humans remain organisms -species adapt to environment through change in morphology -adaption occurs through change of behaviour -Human behaviour/culture has impact on environment -global pollution: ancient phenomenon -ice cores (greenland) record particulate deposits from classical metallurgy -Argriculturalists – land clearance GOAL of environmental archaeology: -reconstruct past cultures -highly complex interacting system that consists of both culture behaviour & environment -provides access to unique questions about human experiences -provides historical illustration of ecological interactions -provides lessons for present -human relationship to environment. Brief History: Archaeological Method Theory Antiquarianism: -treasure hunting - classical world -systematic description of objects -Johann Winkleman: 1 catalogue of classical artefacts Speculative/Romantic Period -still treasure hunting but became interested in local pasts -systematic description of context/stratigraphic observation Unilinear Evolutionism (mid 19 ) th -1 model driven paradigm -presumes all human societies develop through the same set of stages -Appearance of simple technological systems (stone/bronze/iron) -realization that earth was older than 1 thought -idea of evolution -Dawin & Wallace: Biology -Thompson:Archaeological (3Age System) LECTURE 2: 3 Foci of Investigation: 1) Human Paleoecology: culture behaviour of past populations -nature of past environments/human impact on them -can tell us: Nutrition, health, sanitation etc. 2) Paleo-Environmental Reconstruction: Reconstructs components of past ecosystems -physical environment: evolution of landscape -ocean levels (all waters) -climate -Biota -species present (morphological traits) -Distribution of population structure SIDENOTE: Prerequisite for reconstructing human paleoecology: must understand past environment 1 st 3)Site Ecolgoy: interactions between archaeology deposits & environment -eg. Expierences throughout time of archaeology deposits -includes both formations & transformation processes -Formation: mechanisms by which deposit was generated -Transformation: (taphonomy) Events that alter deposit from formation to recovery •Data Integrity: -must understand nature of data set -ex. Formation processes -problem is one of equal finality (equal final) -deposits with given characteristics -could be generated by many different sequences of processes -ex. Transformation processes -many filters selectively delete components of a deposit SIDENOTE: Sit
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