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Archaeological Research What do we want to know? False Impressions Archaeology as “treasure hunt” Archaeologist as collector Focus on things Archaeologist as anthropologist Focus on what things tell us about people

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archaeological research

Archaeological Research

What do we want to know?

false impressions
False Impressions
  • Archaeology as “treasure hunt”
  • Archaeologist as collector
    • Focus on things
  • Archaeologist as anthropologist
    • Focus on what things tell us about people
  • Wide range of potential questions about what people did in the past based on the physical remains they left behind
archaeology is research driven
Archaeology is Research Driven
  • Must have a question in mind before you start digging up stuff
    • Research Design
  • RD determines where one looks, how one excavates, what types of analysis etc.
    • “plan of attack”
  • “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”
    • Planning with flexibility
  • Questions; Data; Methodology; Analysis; Interpretation; Publication
example tomb of tutankhamen
Example: Tomb of Tutankhamen
  • 1917, Howard Carter sets out to find unlooted tomb
  • Knew name (king lists); date (New Kingdom, 14th cent. B.C.); probable region (Valley of Kings)
  • Ruled out areas of VoK already investigated, conducted systematic excavation of remainder
  • Five year project; finds tomb in 1921; aided by clearly defined research design
basic low order questions
Basic, “Low-Order” Questions
  • Where are archaeological sites located?
    • Most basic; landscape studies; survey
  • What kinds of archaeological sites are present?
    • What ranges of behavior are represented?
    • What lifestyles were practiced?
  • What are the ages of sites present?
    • Can be very difficult question to answer
  • “Baseline” Data
example willey and the vir valley
Example: Willey and the Virú Valley
  • 1946: Gordon Willey undertakes extensive survey of Virú Valley, N. Peru
    • First major regional survey in Americas
    • Previous focus on individual urban sites
      • First to look at all types of sites over entire landscape
  • Research questions for survey
    • How did different kinds of sites relate to landscape features and available resources?
    • What were relationships between sites?
  • Significance: first to look not at collections of things at single places, but at the activities and relationships between people over large areas in relation to their environment
    • Pioneered “Settlement Pattern Analysis”
middle order questions
Middle-Order Questions
  • Food & Diet
    • What people ate related to how they lived
  • Technology
    • Tools tell us about the activities they were used for
  • Trade and Exchange
    • How did people acquire resources?
  • Health and Mortality
    • How people died tells you what their lives were like
  • “Materialist Data”-relatively easy to study based on material remains
highest order questions
Highest Order Questions
  • Social Organization
    • How did people relate to one another?
      • Gender, rank
  • Ritual and Religion?
    • How did beliefs relate to activities?
  • Art
    • What were ancient aesthetics? What did ancient art mean?
  • “Idealist Data”-hardest to study objectively
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