# Lecture 5: Archaeology: Methods for Studying Material Culture

## Archaeology

The study of material remains in order to describe and explain human behavior (Haviland et al., 2009:11).

### Material Remain

Anything that reflects human behavior

#### three types of material remains

1. Environmental
2. Remains of human activity
3. Human remains themselves – Bioarchaeology

#### Four Goals of Archaeology

1. Reconstruct human past across time and space
2. Reconstruct human life ways - Where and when?
3. Explain how and why the past occurred – context is more important than the object itself.
4. One of the key concepts of archaeology – Spatial and temporal relationship between archaeology and the artifact
5. Gives you a better indication of behavior
6. Primary context - When you find objects as they were originally deposited
7. Placement and Deposition – Indicating the behavior occurring at the time

4. Interpretation of cognitive and symbolic behaviours of the past

• The past is important because it tells us about what happened in that place at the time
• Things become symbols of cultural behavior over time

#### Widening Archaeological Applications

1. New Dating Techniques

• More accurate dating

2. “New Archaeology”

• Redefining archaeological aims

3. Cultural Resource Management – Idea that arch are now being used in applied arch where they are required to make sure there are no arch sites are present

• Protection of sites

#### Archaeological Analysis

1. You must recognize things as items used by humans; items that functioned within a cultural system
2. You must interpret how the items were used or how they functioned in a cultural system
3. You must integrate each symbol in its proper system and environment

ARTIFACT

• Any object modified by human beings
• Express a facet of human culture
• Context is important
• Primary or secondary
• If you throw a rock at your prey and it chips, it is now an artifact because its modified by your behavior

TYPOLOGY (TYPE)

• A categorization of artifacts to answer specific questions about a culture

ECOFACT

Items that become associated with a site through natural processes (Give environmental information)

• Found naturally in an environment Example - Chicken bones
• Pollen grains – Most common ecofacts; indestructible
• Fossilized feces – Indicate diet

FEATURE

Things that cannot be taken back to a lab for analysis – Example - Hole, burial – We can take the skeleton and soil samples but not the burial

• They are part of the earth
• Moving will alter or destroy them

SITE

Place in which human activity occurred – Has to be occupied over a period of time

• Association – Relationship between all the artifacts within a site
• Can be as small as an infant’s grave

A spatially distinct place that exhibits evidence of human activity

Characteristics -

• Fundamental unit of analysis for an archaeologist
• Primary unit of association for artifacts
• Must be spatially distinct
• May be occupied over a period of time

A site or ensemble of related sites represents the material remains of a single cultural system called a COMMUNITY.

• Sites often found in farms because of the turning of the soil
• Riverbeds

### How Do Archaeologists find a Site?

#### Survey

Clues -

• Disturbance by human activity - Artifacts
• Disturbance by natural causes – River banks
• Vegetation – Poison ivy in ON
• Often found at clandestine graves
• Ethnohistorical Data – Documents and artifacts providing data
• Amateur archaeologists or farmers

Systematic Survey – Similar to missing persons search

• Walk over an area in regular intervals – Record all artifacts
• Dig test pits – Dig holes 6 ft apart to look for artifacts
• Screening – Churning the dirt to look for artifacts
• Aerial photos
• Beneath the surface
• Proton Magnetometer – Magnetic variation in clay structures; when clay gets fired, it traps electrons
• Electrical Resistivity – Sending electrical currents into the ground; Good for stone walls because it looks at changes in the electrical resistance
• Ground Penetrating Radar – Radio impulse into the ground, looking for echos
• Seismic and Acoustic – Sonar, used for underwater excavations
• Infrared Photography – Looking for living things

#### EXCAVATION

1. Grid system – Grids usually 1m x 1m
2. Datum point (Reference point)
3. Excavation of squares
4. Flotation
5. Soil screening
6. Flotation
7. Soil screening

#### Fieldwork Records

1. Strati graphic records
2. Location & depth of all artifacts
3. Scale map of all features
4. Photographs and scale drawing of the objects
5. Soil samples

#### In the Laboratory

Artifacts Are -

1. Cleaned
2. Catalogued
3. Analyzed in relation to function, environment, activities, diet etc..
4. Interpretation
5. Written report

### Two Approaches Taken by Archaeologists

1 .Ethnoarchaeology

Observe & study traditional cultures to resolve archaeological problems

2.Experimental

Make or use artifacts to determine their manufacture and function in the past

• Try to recreate an artifact

### Ethical Issues in Archaeology

1. Conservation

Ancient Objects and the idea of ownership of the objects

• Historical buildings
• Archaeological sites

3. Indigenous Peoples

4. Gender – Always a push for more female archaeologists and people from the same nation

### Archaeology Dating Methods

#### RELATIVE DATING

Involves ordering artifacts into sequences relative to each other

1. Stratigraphy
2. Typological sequencing (Cross dating)
3. Seriation
4. Fluorine, Uranium & Nitrogen Dating (F.U.N.)
5. Palynology (Pollen dating)
6. Palentology (Faunal dating)/Biostratigraphy

1. Stratigraphy - The study of stratification

Artifacts are deposited into layers – Strata

Law of Superposition - One layer lies on top of the other, so that the layer at the bottom is the oldest (Example - Deposited first)

2. Typological sequencing - Cross Dating

• Classification of artifacts into types
• Similar artifacts are grouped together
• Relative dates are assigned to an artifact if it matches other artifacts already recognized within a well-established typological system

3. Seriation - Relative dating technique

• Order artifacts into a temporal series based on
• Similar attributes
• Frequency of the attributes

Seriation Battleship Curves

• Curve 1 shows a pottery type at the earliest of your site sequence. It is initially at its most popular and it is decreasing in frequency with time.
• Curve 2 shows the entire lifespan of a pottery type from its origin, through it’s period of maximum popularity and finally to the end as it goes out of style and decreases in frequency
• Curve 3 shows a pottery type that is at the most recent of your site sequence because it is increasing in popularity.

CURVE 3 CURVE 2 CURVE 1

4. Fluorine, Uranium & Nitrogen Dating (F.U.N.) - Method for the relative dating of bones

• Bones in the ground absorb fluorine & uranium from the ground H2O
• Therefore, older bones have more fluorine & uranium
• Nitrogen – Reversed (Less for older bones)
• Disadvantages - Site specific, Environmentally variable

5. Palynology (Pollen Dating)

• Based of the relative dating of pollen grains
• All flowering plants produce pollen
• Fit pollen grains at a site to a broader zone sequence

6. Palentology (Faunal Dating) Biostratigraphy

• Based on the relative extinction of mammalian species
• Sequence of changing species
• May be imprecise

### ABSOLUTE DATING

Designation of the age of an event, object or fossil in terms of solar years (Absolute time)

1. Calendar & historical chronologies
2. Dendrochronology (Tree ring dating)
4. Potassium Argon dating (K/Ar)
5. Argon/Argon
6. Fission track dating
7. Paleomagnetic dating
8. Amino acid racemization
9. Electron spin resonance
10. Thermoluminescence
11. Obsidian Hydration

1. Calendars & historical chronologies - Connection between archaeological evidence and chronologies & calendars of ancient peoples

• Example - Ancient Egypt

2. Dendrochronology (Tree ring dating) - Used for wooden artifacts

• Method for measuring age of wood objects
• Developed by A.E. Douglass
• Match ring pattern of wooden artifacts to chronology sequence of trees of the same species in a particular region
• Dates back about 2000 y.a.

3. Radiocarbon 14 Dating (C14) – Most important dating for human evolution

• C 14 is v unstable – Passed on thru the carbon cycle
• Ratio of c14: N14
• Method for dating organic materials
• N14 ﻿$\rightarrow$﻿ C14 ﻿$\rightarrow$﻿ CO2 ﻿$\rightarrow$﻿ Plants ﻿$\rightarrow$﻿ Animals ﻿$\rightarrow$﻿ Death ﻿$\rightarrow$﻿ N14
• ½ life = 5730 years
• Date back approx. 50,000 y.a.

Not equal to calendar year so it has to be calibrated.

4. Potassium Argon Dating (K40/Ar40) – Radioactive decay of K40:Ar40

• Based on the principle of radioactive decay
• Mostly for volcanoes
• Intense heat causes K40 to turn into Ar40
• Can date back to anything older to thousands of years ago
• Long half life – Billions of years
• Volcanic Rock – Intense heat after an eruption causes a slow decay of K40 ﻿$\rightarrow$﻿ Inert gas Ar40
• ½ life = 1.3 billion years
• Strata must be 100 – 400 kya
• Often used to date strata from 1-5 million y.a.

Methods used to check the reliability and validity of K/Ar results

• Argon/Argon dating (Ar40/Ar39)
• Fission track dating (Uranium238 decay)
• Crystal, glass, uranium rich minerals
• Paleomagnetic dating
• Shift of earth’s magnetic poles

5. Electron Spin Resonance

• Attempt to age organic materials from 7-8 thousand years ago
• Based on bone and shell – Used in dental enamel
• Covers the gap between the upper one and the lower one
• Used for organic material
• Measures trapped electrons within bone & shell
• Up to 1 million years old

6. Amino Acid Racemization

• Measures ratio of L amino acids: D amino acids
• L racemizes to D after death
• Llooks at the spin of amino acids – Live is left and dead is right
• Up to 1 million years old

7. Thermoluminescence

• Ceramics, fired clay, pottery, tile, fired rock
• Limitation - Its destructive
• Advantage - Last 10 000 years

8. Obsidian Hydration

• Important in dating of prehistoric stone tools
• Obsidian – Volcanic glass (Very sharp edge)
• Many stone tools are made out of obsidian
• Nice chipping
• Rehydrate obsidian to get a date
• Depends on sunlight, temperature, exposure

Remember if they’re chronological or absolute.

MUST KNOW CARBON, POTASSIUM AND ARGON