introduction to archaeology l.
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Introduction to Archaeology. Artifacts, Ecofacts, Fossils, Features. artifact - anything made or modified by a human lithics ceramics ecofacts - natural objects that have been used or affected by humans bones pollen insects

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artifacts ecofacts fossils features
Artifacts, Ecofacts, Fossils, Features
  • artifact - anything made or modified by a human
    • lithics
    • ceramics
  • ecofacts - natural objects that have been used or affected by humans
    • bones
    • pollen
    • insects
  • fossils - impression or remains of insect, human, animal, usually embedded in stone
  • features - artifacts that cannot be removed from a site
    • hearths
    • pits
    • living floor
    • buildings
creation of sites
Creation of Sites
  • Sites are known or suspected locations of human activity in the past that contain a record of that activity.
  • Sites are created when remnants of human activity are covered or buried by some natural process.
    • volcanic activity, as at Pompeii
    • dirt accumulation from wind or water
    • plant matter decay
  • A stratum (plural: strata) is a level of occupation of a site.
  • From the Greek for “laws of the grave”
  • Study of the natural processes of site disturbance and destruction
how are sites found
How are sites found?
  • Accidentally
    • new construction
  • Pedestrian survey
    • sampling
    • systematic surveying methods
  • Remote sensing
    • geomagnetics
    • soil interface radar (SIR) or ground penetrating radar (GPR)
  • Historical documents
    • Troy

Troy (Turkey)

  • Excavation compliments the regional survey data with more fine-grained data collected at the level of a specific site.
  • The layers or strata that make up a site help archaeologists establish a relative chronology for the material recovered (e.g. this pot is older than that pot).
    • The principle of superposition states that in an undisturbed sequence of strata, the oldest is on the bottom and each successive layer above is younger than the one below.
    • Artifacts from the lower strata are older than artifacts from higher strata and artifacts from the same stratum are roughly the same age.
excavation planning
Excavation: Planning
  • Nobody digs a site without a clear reason, because there are so many sites and because excavation is so expensive and labor intensive.
  • Cultural Resource Management (CRM) or contract archaeology is concerned with excavating sites that are threatened by modern development.
  • Most other sites are selected for excavation because they are well suited to address a series of specific research questions.
excavation preparation
Excavation: Preparation
  • Before a site is excavated, it is first mapped and surface collected so that the archaeologist can make an informed decision about where to dig.
    • Using the map, the archaeologist lays an arbitrary grid of one meter squares across the site.
    • This grid is used to record the location of the surface collection units as well as the excavation units on the surface of the site.
    • Sampling is useful if you cannot excavate the entire site.
excavation preparation9
Excavation: Preparation

Archaeologists use grids, such as this grid in Teotihuacan, Mexico, in order to record the location of artifacts recovered during excavation.

excavation stratigraphy
Excavation: Stratigraphy
  • Digging can be done in either arbitrary levels or by following the natural stratigraphy.
    • Using arbitrary level is quicker, but less refined and important information can be lost.
    • Following the natural stratigraphy is more labor intensive, but also more precise way of excavating as each layer (natural or cultural) is peeled off one by one.

James Adovasio records the stratigraphy of the Meadowcroft rock shelter site in southwestern Pennsylvania.

excavation recovery
Excavation: Recovery
  • Archaeologists use a range of techniques to recover materials from the excavation.
    • All of the excavated soil is passed through screen (¼” in historical archaeology) to increase the likelihood that small and fragmented remains are recovered.
    • Flotation is used to recovered carbonized and very small materials like fish bones and seeds.
analysis conservation reconstruction
Analysis: Conservation/Reconstruction
  • Conservation is the process of treating artifacts, ecofacts, and in some cases even features, to stop decay and, if possible, even reverse the deterioration process.
  • Reconstruction is putting the pieces back together--fragments of a skull, pottery, etc.
what can we learn
What can we learn?
  • From an artifact...
    • form
    • way an artifact was made
    • how an artifact was used
  • From ecofacts and fossils…
    • evolutionary relationships
    • times of site occupation (palynology)
    • Wolff’s Law
  • From features…
    • past human behavior
    • form and function
    • social organization
relative dating techniques
Relative Dating Techniques
  • Stratigraphy
  • F-U-N trio
  • Seriation
  • Cross-dating
  • Pollen analysis
absolute dating techniques
Absolute Dating Techniques
  • 14C - up to 80,000 years B.P.
  • Thermoluminescence (TL) - up to 1 mya
  • Electron spin resonance - up to 1 mya
  • Palaeomagnetism - between 5 and 55 mya
  • K-Ar and Ar-Ar - 5,000 years B.P. to 3 billion years B.P.
  • Uranium series - less than 300,000 years B.P.
  • Fission-track - from 20 years B.P. to 5 billion years B.P.
  • Dendrochronology
research questions and results
Research Questions and Results
  • 1. Construct cultural chronologies
  • 2. Reconstruct past lifeways
  • 3. Examine cultural processes
  • 4. Discover cultural meaning