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ARCH 1003, Week 1 and 2

by: Hayley Seal

ARCH 1003, Week 1 and 2 ANTH 1003

Hayley Seal
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About this Document

Class notes from January 15 through January 22.
Dr. Susan Johnston
Class Notes
Archaeology, Anthropology




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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Hayley Seal on Saturday January 23, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to ANTH 1003 at George Washington University taught by Dr. Susan Johnston in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 102 views. For similar materials see Archaeology in anthropology, evolution, sphr at George Washington University.

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Date Created: 01/23/16
ANTH 1003 Dr. Susan Johnston Class Notes for January 15-22 What is Archaeology? (January 15)  Disciplines/lenses through which to study archaeology: o Classical archaeology (Greek and Roman studies) o Anthropological archaeology o Historical archaeology o Biblical archaeology o Egyptology  What archaeology is not: o History or written documents o Paleontology (study of ancient animal remains; same methods but different body of knowledge) o Physical/biological anthropology (study of human remains, not created objects)  Anthropological archaeology’s central concept is culture o Culture = a system of interaction that is learned, shared, and symbolic  Product of interaction; something we do, not something we have  It’s about how/what things mean in the world o Culture is both ideological and physical (produces both behavior and material objects)  There are differences between groups of people and what they produce/what those objects mean o Culture is patterned both within and between groups  All humans have shared traits (must eat, dispose of dead, define self apart from others)  Certain groups of people tend to produce certain types of things over an extended period of time; allows archaeologists to identify differences in context of both time and space o Archaeologists can use the pattern of material remains to reconstruct the cultural meaning of those remains  Can extrapolate from modern culture (archaeologists do this whether it is conscious or not)  Thinking about the past o Specific collection of artifacts began as early as the 16 century th o Archaeology as a field emerged in the 19 century o Transition from inductive method (getting artifacts and figuring out what they mean) to deductive method (asking a question and collecting information to answer it)  Push to make archaeology more scientific around the 1950s  Process of linking scientific questions with scientific evidence (ex. what were pyramids used for? No evidence for storage of grain)  The Scientific Process o Define the problem/question o Establish a hypothesis (must be testable, repeatable, and falsifiable)  Prediction of answer to problem/question  Preservation causes problems with falsifiability; absence of evidence is not evidence of absence o Determine implications of hypothesis o Collect data o Test hypothesis (compare data to implications) o Accept, reject, revise, and retest the hypothesis  Occam’s Razor: the best explanation is one that… o Accounts for the most evidence o Does violence to the least evidence o Requires the fewest assumptions The Nature of Archaeological Evidence (January 20-22)  Artifacts = theoretically portable objects that humans produce (ex. coins)  Features = any time people have dug into the ground or built on top of the ground; traces people leave in the ground can be recovered o Artifacts can be taken off of the site into the lab while features cannot  “Ecofacts” = biological archaeological evidence (plant remains, animal remains, etc.)  Context = need to know where an artifact came from for it to tell significant information o You might find pots in 3 different sites, but one is in a grave site, one in a domestic dwelling, and the third in a temple; they were used for different things based on context o Ability (sort of) to tell how and where an object was used o Problem with looters is not as much theft and sale of artifacts as it is destruction of context  Original deposition: things get into the ground and nothing else happens to them until archaeologists arrive o Discard – people throw things away because they no longer want them (ex. waste from stone flint making) o Loss o Storage (people sometimes bury things to store them) o Ritual deposits (deliberate burials, grave goods, etc.)  Natural transforms: sites transform naturally to cause things to move or be otherwise modified o Freezing and thawing o Gravity (esp. erosion on or around an elevated location) o Plants grow on/into things and can cause destruction o Water (extinct riverbeds or new riverbed formations that didn’t exist at the time of deposit) o Animals gnaw on things, pick them up, and carry them around (esp. small bones)  Cultural Transforms: people do continue to dig into the ground o Agriculture o Construction o Re-use o Re-construction (sites getting built/re-built over and over again) o Example: Neanderthal remains found in Shanidar, Iraq  Pollen found in with the remains  interpretation that Neanderthals put flowers on a grave of those who died  However, the site was full of burrows/tunnels of Persian jirds (rodents) who ate flower heads in their burrows  flowers may have been the result of rodents, not Neanderthals  Preservation depends on the condition of the object and how it ends up in archaeological record o Material is the biggest factor: organic material is least likely to survive because they get eaten (wood, plants, fabric, etc.)  Exception is bone because it is part mineral  Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; people in the past likely had much more stuff than they are credited with just because it was organic and didn’t survive o Original condition – pieces of pottery survive better than whole pots o Matrix – acidic soil can increase decomposition; waterlogged soil preserves evidence well because it prevents organic-material-eating organisms from thriving in that area o Climate – extreme climates are good (cold, dry, wet) but also stable climates are better because changeability leads to freezing and thawing, some areas being wetter than others, etc. o Ex. Otzi’s tattoos: man preserved in Alps under snow and ice meant his skin and tattoos survived o Ex. Pompei: natural disaster c. 79 CE gave insight into daily life because of extra preservation  Organic material did decompose inside hardened volcanic ash but left behind empty spaces  archaeologists filled the empty spaces with plaster to make casts and ended up recreating the victims  Site = concentration of evidence for human behavior in the past o Basic unit of excavation; can be a simple artifact or a whole city o How are sites found?  Written accounts, such as Troy  Accidentally, such as during construction  Aerial photography and satellites (vegetation can be different if there is stuff buried underneath it)  Looking at land forms, ecology, resources in the area  Discovery of artifacts on the surface that have been brought up from underground  Technology designed for remote sensing  Local people often know about stuff o Digging is almost never used; you only dig if you know something’s there  Exception: shovel testing before construction o Survey = systematically walking over the ground to look for evidence on the surface that there might be a site underneath  A way to determine if people lived in the area at some point in the past  Methods: transects (line search) and grids (each person is responsible for a system)  Goals are to find evidence, plot where it is, to find concentrations, then possibly come back to excavate  Sampling of a large area is used to preserve time and money; can be random sampling or structured in some way o Aerial photography is used to identify differences in plant or crop growth (plants grow differently based on if something is buried underneath them or not)  LiDAR = light detection and ranging; specialized form of aerial photography using the speed of light to calculate distance/plot of rises and falls in landscape that are not visible from the surface o Remote sensing can be used to locate sites or for identifying features within a site (from aboveground without excavation)  Ground penetrating radar (GPR) works especially well in sandy, dry, desert conditions; can be less useful in other conditions  Electrical sensitivity = shooting electricity into the ground and seeing how long it takes to come back to determine how dense the ground is (walls are more dense and have high sensitivity, ditches are less dense and have low sensitivity)  Magnetometry: Earth has a magnetic field and alteration of the landscape causes a change in the magnetic signature of that place (esp. soil or things put into the ground); relatively quick method


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