ANT100Y1 Chapter Notes -Thermoluminescence, Calibration Curve, Silicon Dioxide

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Published on 7 Apr 2012
School
UTSG
Department
Anthropology
Course
ANT100Y1
Physical Anthropology and Archaeology
Pg. 7-8
Chapter 2: Uncovering the Past: Tools and Techniques
Step 1: Archaeological sites are found by specialized scientific and geological methods
Step 2: Archaeological techniques are used for the excavation of the remains
Provenience (or provenance): the location of an artifact or feature within a site; physical
location in 3 dimensional space
*Site level: grid system
*Regional level: map coordinates/settlement features
*Archaeology is DESTRUCTIVE: once material has been removed, all information
regarding its burial has been lost. Therefore, Archaeologists want to prevent illegal/amateur
excavation and apply rigorous methods to retrieve any remains
Material culture: objects that people have and make; it is a direct reflection of human
culture and behaviour (objects have agency on us)
CONTEXT IS KEY
Observed material culture:
“Stuff that gets left behind” that an archaeologists finds
Unobserved (past) human/non-human activity:
with its limits, take objects and say
something about the past (meaning)
Interpretation of (past) human activity:
goal=to publish something telling a story about the
past
Site Formation Processes
Site formation processes: environmental and cultural factors that affect how and where
materials are deposited at an archaeological site or fossil locale.
Midden: a pile of refuse (trash), often shells, in an archaeological site.
*Garbage can very handy in determining the elements of a human population.
*How a community constructed its dwellings (places of residence) may have an impact on
the formation of an archaeological site (nomadic or sedentary, for example)
*Locations tend to have layers of accumulated materials superimposed by the groups of
people that once lived there (more difficult to determine nomadic settings because they
were constantly on the move, taking their material culture with them)
*Composition and position of materials can affect the preservation of those remains
*Materials are reused and traded over distances
Material culture can have functional, social, and aesthetic purposes
*Some objects lose their usefulness/utility over time (with the coming of age of new
technologies); i.e., pottery (was useful for everyday tasks in the past, now mostly used for
decoration)
*Some objects have hierarchal or sentimental value, passed on from generation to
generation (social/cultural purpose)
Natural physical processes can affect the survival of artifacts
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*Climate, temperature, and natural disasters over time all influence the state of an
archaeological site or artifact (erosion, exposure, destruction, especially for organic
material) Non-organic material (such as stone, metals, baked clay…) are favoured within
the archaeological record
Locating Sites
Archaeological sites: areas of past human habitation or where fossil remains are found.
Fossil Locales:
Fossil locales: places where fossilized remains of once living organisms (animals) are found.
*Candidate locations are based on the environment that would have existed tens of
thousands or MYA
*Combination of SKILL and LUCK
What Are Fossils?
*An impression of an insect/leaf on a muddy surface that is now in stone OR actual
hardened remains of an animal’s skeletal structure (bone turned to stone)
Fossilization: the process of becoming a fossil by the replacement of organic materials with
inorganic mineral matrix
Process: *right place at the right time
1) When an animal dies, the organic matter in its body deteriorates. All that remains
in the end are the teeth and skeletal structures (which are composed of inorganic
mineral salts) also deteriorate on most conditions
2) Some conditions are favourable for preservation of animal remains: materials that
found a high mineral environment
What Can We Learn From Fossils?
*Palaeontonlogists rely on comparative anatomy to help reconstruct and dissect missing
pieces of a fossil, as well as technologies
*Geology helps Archaeologists understand the changes in environment over the years that
gave us these fossils
Taphonomy: the study of changes that occur to organisms or objects after being buried or
deposited (the science of the burial)
*The key is learning about the original morphology by examining all its fragments
Finding Archaeological Sites
*Can range from small campsite to large city …
*Many archaeological sites are discovered accidentally!
*Precautions: to make sure that cultural heritage is not being destroyed by modern
development (documenting the boundaries of a site)
Site Prospection
Intuition, experience, and subsurface inspections will aid in the initial discovery of
archaeological sites
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Document Summary

Chapter 2: uncovering the past: tools and techniques. Step 1: archaeological sites are found by specialized scientific and geological methods. Step 2: archaeological techniques are used for the excavation of the remains. Provenience (or provenance): the location of an artifact or feature within a site; physical location in 3 dimensional space. *archaeology is destructive: once material has been removed, all information regarding its burial has been lost. Therefore, archaeologists want to prevent illegal/amateur excavation and apply rigorous methods to retrieve any remains. Material culture: objects that people have and make; it is a direct reflection of human culture and behaviour (objects have agency on us) Observed material culture: stuff that gets left behind that an archaeologists finds. Unobserved (past) human/non-human activity: with its limits, take objects and say something about the past (meaning) Interpretation of (past) human activity: goal=to publish something telling a story about the past.

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