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Chapter 5

ANTH 100 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Homo Erectus, Homo Heidelbergensis, Spear-Thrower

Course Code
ANTH 100
Mc Guire Erin- Lee

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The Archaeological Record:
archaeology: a cultural anthropology of human past focusing on any
material evidence that humans have made a mark on
-try to understand past human biology & culture
-very destructive & intrusive
1. find a site & survey it
2. excavation
3. analyse & interprete
archaeological record: all physical remains of human activities
archeological sites: any precise location with physical evidence of past
human activity, including:
-human biological remains
-base camps: sites where processing occurs & people carried out
certain activities; recognized by the presence of artifacts & ecofacts,
often in a specific pattern, that can be identified as a feature
-habitation sites: based on the inference that people where living
there, at least at a temporary basis
-pictographs: paintings on immovable rock surfaces
-petroglyphs: engravings made on rock surfaces
-resource processing sites: where physical remains indicate that
people were harvesting resources, obtaining raw material, &/or
processing them
artifacts: a portable object made, modified or used by humans
assemblages: grouped together artifacts & structures from a particular
time & place in a site
archaeological cultures: similar assemblages from many sites grouped
features: a non-portable object that has been created by humans, such as:
-hearths: indicates a discrete, contained fire
-lithic scatters: accumulation of waste flakes created & left behind
from making lithic (stone) tools
-middens: discrete accumulations of trash
-shelters & house structures
relative dating: provides a time frame in relation to other material
-stratigraphy: examining the accumulation of sediment layers
Law of Superposition: the top layers in a layered sequence is
younger than the layer beneath it
-seriation: putting items in order from newest to oldest
-typology: clumping objects into groups on the basis of what makes
them similar/different
absolute dating: puts an “exact” date on an object
-very hard - requires organic materials
-not precise - usually presented in a window time frame
-radiocarbon dating: based on measuring how much carbon 14 is
in preserved organic remains
ecofacts: plant & animal remains, used to make inferences about:
-palaeoenvironmemt: plants & animals provide indications of the
weather & climate people were adapting to
-diet: remains in a good cultural context or showing modification by
humans in order to determine what people were eating
-plant remains are commonly referred to as botanical remains
botanical remains: include seeds, nuts, pollen, phytoliths
(plants turned to stone) & wood that are organic & therefore
don’t usually preserve well
-animals remains are known as faunal remains
faunal remains: any part of an animal
cultural landscapes: a distinctive area with cultural significance
systemic context: where artifacts & features are made & used
-where living people operate
archaeological context: where archaeological items are found
-only the items remain, you cannot observe or talk to the people who
made/used them
recycle: use materials over again rather than throwing them away
reuse: continuing to use an object as originally intended
lateral cycling: using an object for a new purpose
ethnoarchaeology: using living populations to try to understand people
who lived in the past
taphonomy: the study of what happens to organic remains after death
applied/behavioural archaeology: studying ways in which artifacts are
used, reused, disposed of, moved around, etc.
experimental archaeology: experiments to duplicate ancient artifacts
problems with archeology include:
-it is still vastly incomplete
-many aspects of culture have low archaeological visibility
-archeologists tend to focus of tangible/material aspects of culture
-intangible aspects require inferences from tangible aspects
-the further back in time, the less amounts of visible evidence of culture
more likely that it is covered it
less likely that organic remains will be preserved
fewer human existed to leave physical evidence
fewer kinds of physical evidence of culture existed
most human groups use to be very mobile
-most sites have already been destroyed by natural & cultural processes
-human activities alter landscapes
-strong bias towards inorganic material because they preserve better
-dominated by male archaeologists focusing on primarily male activities
-bias towards archaeological research in East Africa & Europe
Principle Cultural Periods:
palaeolithic: the “Old Stone Age”
2) Lower Palaeolithic: 2.5 MYA-500,000 YA (Africa, Asia & Europe)
-describes the peoples & cultures associated with Homo habilis &
Homo erectus
-first undisputed evidence of culture
-biggest period of time
-majority of human/biological development
-cultural developments
first stone tool - Oldowan
acheulean hand axe (Homo erectus)
controlled fire (Homo erectus)
hunting & meat eating (Homo erectus)
3) Middle Palaeolithic: 500,000-40,000 YA (Africa, W. Asia & Europe)
-describes the peoples & cultures associated with Homo sapiens,
Homo heidelbergensis & Neanderthals
-advances in lithic technology
-extended territories into northern latitudes
-suggestion of deliberate human burials, art & jewelry
-evidence of finely crafted spears
4) Upper Palaeolithic: 40,000-12,000 YA (mostly Europe)
-mostly Homo sapiens sapiens
-extinction of Neanderthals
-continued advances in technology
-undisputed evidence of deliberate human burial & art
-spear thrower
-hunting large animals
Subsistence & Diet:
reconstruct prehistoric diets by finding plants & animal remains in good
cultural contexts, showing evidence of cooking, butchery, etc.
chemical analysis of food residue left on artifacts
examining isotopes of elements in human skeletons
coprolites: preserved human feces
early members of Homo likely depended on plant foods
~2.5 MYA bones & tools indicate that meat eating became important
Homo habilis is associated with early bones & tools
scavenging hypothesis: our ancestors transitioned to hunting via a
period of scavenging
significance of meat & hunting increased with Homo erectus
persistence hunting: chasing animals until they died from exhaust
popular hypothesis that cooking was the driving force of human evolutions
Social Systems:
inferences about the # & organization of people living during the
Palaeolithic is based on analogy with nonhuman primates & human
foragers of recent times, & archaeological evidence
suggests that groups of 25-30 people was common
membership was fluid (people would come & go)
groups were exogamous (would find mating partners from other groups)
no groups lived in isolation
little evidence of social stratification
groups were mostly egalitarian
division of labour based on sex
Controlling Fire:
one of the most important achievements in human culture development
provides warmth, light, protection, enhances diet & provides a focus for
social interaction
enabled more food to be eaten & increased nutritional value of some
increased practices that required or were enabled by light
enabled the expansion into territories other wise to cold
enabled advancements in technology
used in subsistence activities
Anthropology Chapter 5 - Human Cultural Evolution - 2.5 Million to 20,000 Years Ago
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