History & Development of Archaeology – 2009
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History & Development of Archaeology – 2009

  • Lecture 9 – Questions in ArchaeologyLecture summary:“Implicit in lectures 8 and 10 is the idea that there is a “progression” towards “civilization”. However, the transitions between these different ways of living are rarely that simple, and there are a lot of unanswered questions about the rise – and fall – of past societies, with vanished civilizations playing a large role here in the popular if not the archaeological imagination.Clive Gamble lists five "big questions" for archaeology - Origins of hominids; Origins of modern humans; Origins of agriculture and domestic animals; Origins of urbanism and civilisation; Origins of modernity. All of these can also be considered to be pivotal points of change. We have already touched on some of these. What is it like for individuals living through these periods of change? How can an archaeological approach add to our understanding of these complex processes?”

  • How archaeologists think about change

    • Changes in societies, landscapes and objects

    • Questions about origins

    • Competing explanations


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The classification of Societies

Renfrew & Bahn (2004)


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Landscape & society in Neolithic Wessex

Calculations of the investment of time in the construction of monuments indicates increasing centralisation – this is seen in the distribution of monuments in the landscape.

Renfrew & Bahn (2004)


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The Mississipian culture

Moundville Archaeological Park, in western Alabama, was the site of a Mississippian Indian settlement from about AD 1000 to 1450

© Mound State Monument/NPS/Hulton Getty Picture Collection/Stone


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Changes in settlement patterns

In the south-central region of North America the Mississipian culture developed through the 11th to 16th century AD. The major monuments were mounds, which both marked centres and also served as burial grounds for the elite. The status of sites is indicated by the number of mounds. The diagrams show changing settlement patterns in the Moundville region (S.W. Alabama). In Phase I (AD1050–1250) Moundville was simply a site with a single mound, like other similar sites in the area. By Phase II, however, it had grown larger, establishing itself as the major regional center. After its heyday in Phase III, Moundville disappeared as a significant site in Phase IV (after 1550), when the region no longer had a dominant center.

Renfrew & Bahn (2004)


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Flow diagram of Carneiro’s explanation for the rise of complex societies.

Renfrew & Bahn (2004)


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Deserted and “forgotten” sites raise questions about the end of civilizations.

The “Castillo” at Chichén Itzá - In 1839 Stephens and Catherwood journeyed through the Maya heartland. This is one of Catherwood’s superb illustrations.Image from http://www.latinamericanstudies.org

Aerial view of Ur at the start of excavations in 1922. Visible are the ziggurut, trenches tracing the temenos wall, the oval outline of the city and the excavated area of the Nanna temple. The dark area and wall are the expedition house. Image from Expedition 20 1977


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Typologies rely on change end of civilizations.

The arrangement of artifact types in a sequence is based on two simple ideas: first, that products of a given period and place have a distinctive style or design; and second, that changes in style are gradual, or evolutionary. Gradual changes in design are evident in the history of the automobile (top) and of the prehistoric European axe (above: (1) stone; (2–5) bronze). However, the rate of change (a century for the automobile, millennia for the axe) has to be deduced from absolute dating methods.

Renfrew & Bahn (2004)


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Individuals, style and typology end of civilizations.

Pots are made by individual potters – how many of these changes in “style” come from their individual decisions?

What processes underlie the changes in “style” and the “popularity” of the product in society?

Pottery typology, as exemplified by this 500-year sequence of Hohokam bowl styles from the American Southwest.

Renfrew & Bahn (2004)


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Questions about origins end of civilizations.

The first four on this list have been a focus of work ever since archaeology emerges as a discipline (although the distinction between the first two took a while to emerge):

1. Origins of hominids – a question about bodies and brains.

2. Origins of modern humans – a question about essences and relative achievement.

3. Origins of agriculture & domestic animals – a question about manipulation, control and progress.

4. Origins of urbanism and civilization – a question about our civilised origins and how some centres of power came to dominate.

 The fifth shows that archaeology is now part of the historical sciences

5. Origins of modernity – a question about attitude.

 PS Clive Gamble also wishes to add “Global colonisation by the human species – a subtly different question which may put the others in perspective” as a sixth big, how and why question.

After Gamble (2001)


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The different modes of stone tools end of civilizations.

The division of the record of stone tool “industries” into five technological modes was proposed by J.G.D.Clark in 1968 and serves to bring order to the variety of described industries and cultures in the archaeological record.

From Foley & Lahr (2003) Evolutionary Anthropology 12 109-122


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Why do stone tools change? end of civilizations.

From Stringer & Gamble (1993)


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Lascaux Cave end of civilizations.

The map of the cave, from Lewis-Williams (2002) indicates how different activities may have been carried out in different parts of the cave.

Hall of the bulls

Nave

Images from http://web.culture.fr/culture/arcnat/lascaux/en/

Shaft


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Questions about origins end of civilizations.

The first four have been a part of the agenda since archaeology emerges as a discipline (although the distinction between the first two took a while to emerge):

1. Origins of hominids – a question about bodies and brains.

2. Origins of modern humans – a question about essences and relative achievement.

3. Origins of agriculture & domestic animals – a question about manipulation, control and progress.

4. Origins of urbanism and civilization – a question about our civilised origins and how some centres of power came to dominate.

 The fifth shows that archaeology is now part of the historical sciences

5. Origins of modernity – a question about attitude.

 PS Clive Gamble also wishes to add “Global colonisation by the human species – a subtly different question which may put the others in perspective” as a sixth big, how and why question.

After Gamble (2001)


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Settled hunter-gatherers in the Levant end of civilizations.

From an article by Simon Davis in New Scientist: 17.11.83


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The transition to agriculture in the Levant end of civilizations.

From an article by Simon Davis in New Scientist: 17.11.83


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Plant and animal bases of the economy at Tell Abu Hureyra end of civilizations.

In the earlier period at Tell Abu Hureyra, most of the animal bones came from Gazelle. It seems likely that Gazelle were hunted during their annual migration.Later, the numbers of the hunting traps (kites) increased dramatically in the southern part of the range and the result may have been a scarcity of Gazelle for the people of Tell Abu Hureyra, which in turn caused them to concentrate on sheep and goats.

Pie charts comparing Epipaleolithic (foraging) and Neolithic (farming) plant remains from Tell Abu Hureyra. In the earlier period 90% of the plant-based diet came from 160 species. By the Neolithic period shown, 90% of the plant-based diet came from just 9 species.Figures from Renfrew & Bahn (2004)


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The origins of farming: a processual explanation. end of civilizations.

Renfrew & Bahn (2004)


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The Ertebølle story end of civilizations.

The approximate distribution ofErtebølle and other hunter-gatherer groups (diagonal shading) and LBK farming groups (horizontal shading) in Northwestern Europe c. 4000bc

Chronology and terminology of the transition to agriculture in southern Scandinavia.

Ertebølle vessel from Tybrind Vig. Charred food remains on the inside gave a radiocarbon date of c. 5640BP.

From Mithen in Cunliffe (1994)

From Price & Gebauer (1992)


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Models explaining the origins of farming end of civilizations.

Bogucki (1999) The origins of human society.


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Using models to make predictions end of civilizations.

Expectations of the population pressure vs competitive feasting model for the origins of farming (after Hayden , 1992)


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Questions about origins end of civilizations.

The first four have been a part of the agenda since archaeology emerges as a discipline (although the distinction between the first two took a while to emerge):

1. Origins of hominids – a question about bodies and brains.

2. Origins of modern humans – a question about essences and relative achievement.

3. Origins of agriculture & domestic animals – a question about manipulation, control and progress.

4. Origins of urbanism and civilization – a question about our civilised origins and how some centres of power came to dominate.

 The fifth shows that archaeology is now part of the historical sciences

5. Origins of modernity – a question about attitude.

 PS Clive Gamble also wishes to add “Global colonisation by the human species – a subtly different question which may put the others in perspective” as a sixth big, how and why question.

After Gamble (2001)


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The development of an urban society end of civilizations.

From an article by Simon Davis in New Scientist: 17.11.83


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Flow diagram of Carneiro’s explanation for the rise of complex societies.

Renfrew & Bahn (2004)


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Chronological chart complex societies.

Renfrew & Bahn (2004)


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Questions about origins complex societies.

The fifth shows that archaeology is now part of the historical sciences

5. Origins of modernity – a question about attitude.

After Gamble (2001)

A view of the “Enlightenment Gallery” in the British Museum


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Competing explanations for/of change complex societies.

1. Migration (19th century) 2. Diffusion (early 20th century) – copies of Eastern Mediterranean tombs etc). 3. Functional-Processual (1970’s) – defining territory, legitimizing claims via the ancestors. 4. Neo-Marxist explanation (1980’s) – exercise of power by small elites within the group. 5. Postprocessual explanation (1990’s) – symbolism of “Houses for the Dead”

The appearance of megalithic monuments, like the West Kennet long barrow have been explained in a number of different ways.

Renfrew & Bahn (2004)


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Collective to Individual complex societies.

Individual burial in the Early Bronze Age: the recent excavation (above, right) of the “Amesbury Archer” – the richest known grave (right) of this period.It contained 3 copper knives; 2 small gold hair tresses; 2 sandstone wristguards; 16 barbed and tanged flint arrowheads; a bone pin; 5 Beaker pots; 4 boars’ tusks; many flint tools and flakes; a red deer spatula used for working flints; and a cushion stone used for metal working.

West Kennet Neolithic long barrow: Above, the façade; below the central passage between the chambers which contained disarticulated human bones.


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