ANTH 1003: Week 7
ANTH 1003: Week 7 ANTH 1003
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Hayley Seal on Sunday February 28, 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 43 views. For similar materials see Archaeology in anthropology, evolution, sphr at George Washington University.
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Date Created: 02/28/16
ANTH 1003 Dr. Susan Johnston Class Notes for February 24-26 Symbolic Analysis (February 24) Symbols and symbolic meaning are in our minds harder to understand Hawkes’ “Ladder of Interference” o Religious institutions and spiritual life are the hardest to understand o The other parts of the archaeological record have mental aspects too, and spiritual life also produces material objects that become part of the archaeological record But the nature of spiritual life is meaning Is symbolic interest purely human? o No real way to know if animals have symbolic interest because they cannot communicate symbolically So as far as we know, yes Attempts to understand human ancestors via evidence in the archaeological record that may have symbolic meaning o Hand-axes: aesthetic appeal of the symmetrical shape may be symbolic? A couple examples of hand-axes were formed around fossils (shell and maybe a sand-dollar) Presence of fossil makes the stone tool problematic to use The fossils are centrally placed o The earliest possibilities: modern humans emerged 200,000 BP H. erectus drew a pattern on a shell 430,000-540,000 BP Grooves embedded in rock Possibly manufactured shaped rocks (possibly humanoid) Examples all come from 300,000-500,000 BP o Issue of intentionality: was this intentionally made? o Issue of functionality: do these things have obvious functional use? Neither of these questions rule out symbolic meaning but if an object was intentionally made without obvious function, we can reasonably say all that’s left is symbolic meaning o Today we are hardwired to see patterns, especially if they pertain to humans We may see patterns that don’t actually exist Early examples of definite symbolism from anatomically modern humans o Hand patterns and depictions of animals, fragments of engraved eggshells, patterns on stone in caves o Cave art from 50,000-30,000 BP Chavet cave in France discovered in 1990s, pigment used in art was directly dated to 32,000-30,000 BP o Clear intent to represent something Symbolic time lag? o Symbolism that was clearly identify doesn’t emerge until 100,000-150,000 years after modern anatomical humans do o Maybe they made things that just weren’t preserved archaeologically (wood carvings, dance, etc.) o Maybe tied into language development and advancement Symbolism is social: can it exist without the social context? (Without language) o Did symbolic intent develop gradually over time or all at once? Was there a “practice period” and if so, where’s the crappy art? o Could be… Biological capabilities/limitations Cultural (lack of a reason for symbolic representation; social context) Preservation issues Types of symbolic depictions o Portable art (carved, stone, etc.), cave art, open air sites (engravings may be preserved while pigment is not), parietal art (done on a wall, includes “paintings”) o Includes line drawings and engravings, 3-D depictions (large, different from portable art) carved into stone, cave ceilings, etc. o “Tectiforms” = shapes that we don’t know what the hell they are May have been symbolic to the people who made them but we can’t figure out the meaning o Finger flutings (finger painting) Experiments today suggest some of these were done by kids aged 2-5, maybe up on a ladder or lifted by an adult Others done by adult males and females o Some has “human presence” (hand shapes, actual depictions of humans) Dating the Art o Originally believed to be more recent because “cavemen can’t do that” o Ways of dating: Depictions of extinct animals Portable objects of the same style in situ; portable ones dated in archaeological strata and associated with cave art Depictions covered by cave goop Caves blocked by debris (not recently accessible) Depictions covered by and associated with archaeological deposits Radiocarbon dating of charcoal used in paintings Used for Chavet cave Was it visual? o Or was it the act of drawing that was important? o Chaotic drawings with individual part overlapping repeatedly o Maybe depiction of scenes? Especially lots of animals together? Oddities (not natural) suggest not all representation was literal o Result of other cognitive processes besides “look and draw” o Hallucinogenic drugs? What does it mean? o Hunting ritual interpretation: animals that are depicted usually don’t match faunal remains in the archaeological record, but some do… may be connections with hunting more so than a menu (predators, etc.) o Art for art’s sake (decoration because they could) o Structuralism: looking specifically at species represented and suggesting that most common species is most important (horses and bison) Also looking at tectiforms surrounding those species to assign further meaning (inherently male or female tectiforms???) o Seasonality: possibly correlates with lunar movements or seasonal parts of horse drawings (i.e. grasses for spring, pregnant horses in spring, “fuzziness” of horses in winter) o Shamans and trance = depictions in deep caves, where rituals may have occurred, depictions a result of hallucinations, etc. David Lewis Williams’ idea that an intensified trance state has different stages in which different visual phenomena occur o The information age: the depictions convey important information, maybe about group identity A lot of this stuff was produced during the coldest parts of the Ice Age when people were pushed together in a smaller regional area Need to define us vs. them becomes important Beginning of beads, portable objects, etc. Idea of identity and desire to express it not only to others but also internally Things to think about o Is it a problem to interpret based on what something meant? Based on an assumption that can never be proved Meaning shouldn’t be the core part of the argument you make for your interpretations o However, modern cross-cultural ideas about art can be used to help us interpret o Certain images themselves can suggest that they had significant meaning (ex. More horses and bison than people) but not what it meant o We are better off trying to understand what the art was for instead of what it meant o There is not one single interpretation of all early human art (most likely…) There is a big space between knowing nothing and certainty The Practice of Archaeology (February 26) Who does it? o Museums, universities o Government (National Park Service) Education, conservation o Public/contract archaeology (Cultural Resource Management) Doing work required by the legal system, i.e. pre-development surveying Archaeological Legal System (U.S.) o Based on land ownership (unlike most other countries) Antiquities don’t automatically belong to the people, but the land on which they are found Federal land federal law, state land state law, etc. But federal law can still come into play as long as there is federal involvement (ex. Roadway funding comes from feds) o National Historic Preservation Act (1966) Established the National Register (list) of Historic Places including… Places associated with significant historical events (such as Appomattox) or with lives of significant people Really good examples of past things Sites that may be likely to yield or have yielded information important in history or prehistory o Doesn’t have to be excavated to prove that it’s important! Enforced by national and state or tribal officers Section 106 review (review of environmental impact of sites that are or might be on the NRHP and plan to mitigate that impact) required by laws “Environment” includes archaeological resources in the land “Impact” is broadly defined “Mitigation” can go from total excavation (rare because expensive) to documenting and then continuing to destroy The law does not require that the plan to mitigate impact is actually implemented Usually people do because of public interest and good will This is the reason for contract archaeology companies to do this work for developers o Looting of known archaeological sites problem worldwide Slack City, Kentucky: private landowner rented out land for looters and he could do that because archaeological resources are based on land ownership There are no laws that protect archaeological resources on private property! (except burials which fall under grave-robbing laws) 3 ways looters get caught: holes, in the act (rare), but much more likely artifacts appear in an attempt to sell them illegally Artifacts lose context and therefore lose much of their value or archaeological meaning