-CHAPTER 8: ARCHAEALOGICAL & PALEONATHROPOLOGICAL METHODS
Hominin- a member of the tribe Hominini, the evolutionary group that includes modern humans
and now extinct bi-pedal relatives.
Biocultural Evolution: The Human Capacity for Culture
• One of the most distinctive behavioural features of humans is our elaboration and
dependence on culture.
• It’s often hard to draw a line between early hominin tool-making behaviour and that
exhibited by other animals (chimpanzees for example).
• Human culture involves much more than tool-making capacity.
• Culture is an adaptation strategy involving cognitive, political, social, and economic
components, as well as technology.
• The fundamental basis for human cultural success relates directly to cognitive abilities.
• Contemporary Homo sapiens would not survive without symbolic communication and its
Protohominins- the earliest members of the hominin lineage (approx. 7-5mya), as yet only
poorly represented in the fossil record; thus the reconstruction of their structure and behaviour is
• As cognitive abilities developed, more efficient means of communication and learning
resulted. Largely because of consequent neurological reorganization, more elaborate
tools and social relationships emerged too. These in turn selected for greater
intelligence, which in turn selected for more neurological elaboration.
Paleoanthropology- is the overall study of fossil hominins.
• It is a diverse multidisciplinary- research that involves cooperation of experts from
several scientific fields.
• It’s concerned with the dating, structure, behaviour, and ecology of our hominin
• Geologists often locate potential early hominin sites.
• Paleontologists help find fossil beds containing fauna remains, and can give approx. age
estimates of fossil sites. Artifacts- objects of materials made or modified by hominins. The earliest identified are made
of stone, but hominin tool use is probably older than these artifacts.
Taphonomy- the study of how bones and other materials came to be buried in the earth and
preserved as fossils. A taphonomist studies the process of sedimentation, the action of streams,
preservation properties of bone, and carnivore disturbance factors.
Archaeology- a body of methods designed to understand the human past through the study of
its material remains.
• To reconstruct the chronological past of human events. (answer when and where
• Reconstruct past human lifeways. (understand how they created and used cultural
• To explain how and why the past happened as it did.
• To interpret the cognitive and symbolic aspects of past societies.
Site survey- the process of discovering the location of archeological sites.
• An appropriate location is chosen for research and archaeological resources of that
region are identified and inventoried.
• Sites selected from the regions known sites are examined using methods that cause the
Piecing Together the Past
4 essential products:
Artifacts- are tangible objects.
Features- products of human activity that cannot be removed from the archaeological record as
a single discrete entity. (Hearths, human burials, or remains of a Paleolithic hut)
Ecofacts- natural materials that give environmental information about the site. (Plant and
animal remains discarded as food waste, preserved pollen grains) Contexts- The spatial and temporal association of artifacts and features in an archaeological
site. Archaeologists distinguish between primary context (has not been disturbed since original
deposit) and secondary context (has been disturbed and redeposited).
Ethnoarchaeology- the approach used by archeologists to gain insight into the past by
studying contemporary people.
• They typically conduct in-depth research among living groups to gain detailed
information about things like hunting or gathering, tool-making, discard of debris,
residence data, and the like.
Experimental archaeology- research that attempts to replicate ancient technologies and
construct procedures to test hypotheses about past activities.
Haft- to equip a tool or implement with a handle or hilt.
• Relative dating establishes the relative order of events but doesn’t scale the amount of
time separating them.
• Chronological dating (absolute dating) establishes age (and relative order) according to
some fixed time scale.
Oldest method: stratigraphy- the study of the sequential layering of deposits.
Principle of superpositioning- In a stratigraphic sequence, the lower layers were deposited
before the upper layers. (Top layer= newest)
Stratum- a single layer of soil or rock.
• Geological strata are created by natural processes
• Archaeological strata are created by both natural and cultural processes.
Biostratigraphy- a relative da