ANTH 1003, Week 3
ANTH 1003, Week 3 ANTH 1003
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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Hayley Seal on Friday January 29, 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 53 views. For similar materials see Archaeology in anthropology, evolution, sphr at George Washington University.
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Date Created: 01/29/16
ANTH 1003 Dr. Susan Johnston Class Notes for January 27-29 Excavation (January 27) Excavation is the thing that archaeology does that no other discipline does It opened up the reality of an older past beyond the historical record It is a destructive process as evidence is removed from context and can only be done once o Tendency to avoid excavation today to preserve evidence and because of lack of funds o However, it is still the main tool of archaeology today Based on stratigraphy: dirt forms in layers o As environmental conditions change, quality, color, and density of soil change as well o People deposit things in the dirt which mixes the human and geological record o Layers have stuff in them that are produced by or tell something interesting about people Excavation definition: the process of removing layers of dirt in reverse order of their deposition and recovering the data they contain o Data includes artifacts, context, organic material, and anything else that might be potentially important o Things are found in reverse order of how they were deposited Natural versus artificial layers o Sometimes layers are very visible and easy to distinguish, so archaeologists can work with the layers that are naturally there o If they are hard to distinguish, artificial layers are determined by depth (ex. 10 cm per layer) Sampling: sites are very rarely completely excavated whether because of money, preservation for the future, etc. o Systematic (simple) sampling, such as excavating every other square in a grid, can lead to missing data that was systematically deposited in a similar pattern o Random sampling is much better but might miss something you already know is interesting from surveying Grids for sampling are established using a transit (device that measures vertical and horizontal distance) which is attached to a fixed point o Everything measured is relative to the transit o Horizontal control: use of coordinates on the grid to maintain control over everything in horizontal space o Vertical control: knowing where everything is in terms of depth Best maintained by some fixed point, which allows three-dimensional control Half-excavating an area allows archaeologists to look back at the vertical record and see a profile of what has already been done in terms of layers and depth Record keeping of anything that might be relevant is important because excavation destroys the context of the site o Can be notes, pictures, drawings o Must record color of soil, what’s in the soil, where it is, etc. o Munsel reading is the determination of the exact color of the soil for comparison using a book that has colors coded with letters and numbers o Forms are used to keep track of what is dug, what it looks like, and what’s in it using identification numbers, drawings, lists of artifacts, etc. Screening of dirt (sifting) is used to get smaller artifacts that aren’t easily visible o Can be done dry or wet o Flotation = dumping dirt into water so that artifacts/small things sink to the bottom while the dirt floats and can be taken off the top to reveal them Processing artifacts is a much bigger percentage of archaeological work than excavation o Artifacts must be processed before information can be extracted from them o First they are cleaned; extent of cleaning depends on the artifact and what information you expect to get from it o Next they are labelled and/or tagged, bagged and catalogued, and finally stored Storage is becoming an issue as there is limited space available for new finds Archaeological Dating (January 29) As dating techniques improve, generally things are getting older (being dated earlier) and events and time periods are growing farther apart Traditional designations for dates: o Originally used BC/AD (“year 0” is when Christ was born) o Most archaeologists, especially in the U.S., had transitioned away from Christian connotations to more neutral language of BCE/CE (before common era/common era) o BP = before present; generally used for dates older than 10,000 years ago Present is 2000 (12,000 BP = 10,000 BCE) Specifically for radiocarbon dating, present is 1950 CE Relative dating can determine if something is older or younger than something else, but not by how much; comparative method o Based on stratigraphy: dirt forms in layers o Law of superposition: things lower down are generally earlier than things higher up o Association = things in the same layer are from the same time period Objects found in the same layer as something that can be absolutely dated can also be approximately associated with that date o Requires interpretation to identify layers; “untangling” Use of color, texture, and moisture of soil to distinguish layers o Layers can shift which impacts relationships between them Result of natural formation processes, construction, animals burrowing, etc. o Why use relative dating? Absolute dating requires particular materials that are not always available at the site or in the context desired to be dated Absolute techniques are often destructive; less so today as technology improves Absolute dating is expensive Given issues involved in absolute techniques, the ability to cross-check whether dates make sense is good Absolute dating involves techniques that allow the attachment of an exact, absolute calendar date to an object o Can be obtained by historical records (something written and attached to a calendrical system) o All techniques work on the same basic principles: We know how much there was We know how much there is now We know the rate of change o Carbon-14 dating (radiocarbon dating) dates organic material at the moment when the living material died Requires an organic sample such as charcoal, wood, bone (if organic material is left and it is not all mineral) Constructing chronologies usually requires the use of both relative and absolute dating
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