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ANT 101 Archaeology Overview


'The challenge of archaeology is to read the unwritten material record in the ... Examples: Indiana Jones movies; specials on The History Channel, Discovery, etc. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: ANT 101 Archaeology Overview

ANT 101Archaeology Overview
  • The challenge of archaeology is to read the
    unwritten material record in the soil and to use
    these data to write prehistory (p.5).
  • Written records are not available for much of our
    species prehistory. As a result, archaeologists
    rely on fossilized remains, material culture,
    structures and inference to reconstruct our
    shared past.

  • The study of the material remains of society.
    The book indicates past societies, but we might
    agree that work such as Bill Rathjes Garbage
    Project contradiction the notion that material
    culture must be limited to the extinct and not
    inclusive of the extant.

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Prehistory Issues
  • Our text discusses four major concerns of the
    study of prehistory.

Prehistory Issues
  • Who were our earliest human ancestors? What were
    their lives like? Did they hunt for their food,
    or did they obtain it by scavenging kills left
    behind by more powerful carnivores? How were
    early human societies organized? We will address
    these questions in Chapters 3 through 7.

Prehistory Issues
  • How, when, and where did modem humans evolve? How
    did they come to replace more ancient forms of
    human beings, and when and how did they spread
    throughout the world? These questions will be
    addressed in Chapters 8 through 12.

Prehistory Issues
  • When, where, and why did farming replace hunting
    and gathering? When did the first permanent
    villages appear in the Old World and in the
    Americas? Chapters 13 through 20 will address
    these issues.

Prehistory Issues
  • Can we trace the development of the great
    civilizations of the Old World? How did the
    pre-Columbian civilizations of the New World
    develop? These questions will be addressed in
    Chapters 21 through 27.

History of Archaeology
  • We are familiar with many of the contemporary
    examples of archaeology.
  • As we shall consider, some of these examples are
    not necessarily reflective of the real work of
    professional archaeologists.
  • Examples Indiana Jones movies specials on The
    History Channel, Discovery, etc.

History of Archaeology
But, ironically, these images of archaeology
offer us an interesting look at our
understandings of professional archaeologyeven
as they seem imperfect.
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The Four Fields of Anth.
The Four Fields of Anth.
Types of Archaeology
Classical Archaeology
-origins in European classical studies (language,
art history, archaeology)
Prehistoric Archaeology
-also known as anthropological archaeology,
American archaeology, paleoethnography
  • Types of Archaeology

Historic(al) Archaeology
-research into the material remains of
historically-known groups (Fort Michilimakinaw,
Colonial Williamsburg)
Postprocessual Archaeology
-concerned with the ideological aspects of
Origins of Archaeology
  • Nabonidus

555-538 BC King of Babylon Excavated at city of
Ur-of-the-Chaldees Curated material in a museum
Origins of Archaeology
  • Herodotus

Greek historian Observed cultures
(Scythians) Cultural comparison (limited to the
goal of establishing the superiority of Greek
Origins of Archaeology
  • Herodotus

Eight Century Created a chronology of prehistoric
culture Golden Age Silver Age Bronze Age Epic
Heroes Iron Age
Origins of Archaeology
  • Renaissance Era

Interest in classical culture and classical
antiquities Understanding of artifacts as works
of art Interest in European antiquities German
and Celtic culture
Origins of Archaeology
  • Megalithic Sites

Stonehenge Note your texts discussion on pages
6-8, the European Scene
Origins of Archaeology
  • William Camden

1551-1623 British antiquarian Created catalogue
of all British antiquities in 1586
Origins of Archaeology
  • J. Thomsen

Denmark 1788-1865 First curator of the Danish
National Museum Systematically organized and
classified antiquities with a definitive
scheme Stone Copper (Bronze) Iron
Origins of Archaeology
  • Jens JA Worsaae

1821-1885 Succeeded J. Thomsen at the Danish
National Museum Extended the systematization of
artifacts begun under Thomsen The first person
to use controlled excavation techniques
  • The Rise of Prehistoric Archaeology

  • The New Geology

In understanding the development of professional
archaeology, we must look at how earlier
conceptions of natural phenomena have been
altered by advancements in scientific disciplines.
To understand the general significance of how
archaeological thought has changed over time, we
can reflect on a trend in scientific thought.
  • The New Geology

I call this theme, that of The Old and the New
Very often we will talk about an earlier
conception of explaining natural phenomena (the
old) and compare and contrast that explanation
with a more contemporary understanding (the
Historian of Science Thomas Khun (The Structure
of Scientific Revolutions) discusses this idea in
terms of paradigm shift.
  • The New Geology

In terms of Geology, we find our first example of
The Old and the New.
The Bible view of the Earth as a special
creation, not necessarily a geological creation.
Religions throughout the world offer us
interesting understandings of how creation may
have happened.
Religions even offer use timelines as to when
things were apparently created.
  • The New Geology

In the Bible we can find the example of the
timeline of the Earths creation.
  • The New Geology

According to the Bible, the age of the Earth is
6,000 years.
Arch Bishop James Ussher calculated the creation
of the Earth at 4000 BC
John Lightfoot extended the calculation to this
time as to the Earths origin
October 23, 4004 BC at 900 a.m.
  • The New Geology

George Cuviers theory that the earths
geological landscape is the result of violent
cataclysmic events (vast floods and other
disasters wiped out ancient life forms again and
  • The New Geology

Cuvier explained the fossil record as the result
of a succession of catastrophes followed by new
creation events
Understanding Physical Anthropology and
Archaeology, 8th ed., p. 29
  • The New Geology

Eighteen century geologists were becoming
increasingly aware of the complexities that
existing in the geologic record specifically,
through understandings of stratigraphy (referring
to the layers within the earth) and fossils (the
preserved remains of fauna or dead animals within
the earth), these geologists questioned the
legitimacy of these dates and timelines.
Note this discussion is introduced in your
textbook on pages 9-10.
  • Uniformitarianism

Scotsman James Hutton (1726-1797) did not accept
the notions that the geology of the earth is a
result of the Biblical Great Flood. Instead,
(1) He argued, we must look to processes still
at work on the earth today, such as soil erosion
and volcanic activities, to explain what happened
in the past (p. 9)
(2) To Hutton we attribute the concept of
uniformitarianism. As your book states, it
assumes that the geological processes that
operated in the past were similar in nature to
those that are observable today (p. 15).
  • Uniformitarianism

Huttons work, and that of others, emphasized
that the geologic processes of erosion and
sedimentation are slow (layers of rock are thick)
and that the timelines of 6000 years were too
young. As the chart on page 13 of the text
offers us, the geologic age of the earth has been
dated to 3.8 billion years. Our modern human
existence is quite short in comparison.
  • Uniformitarianism

  • Uniformitarianism

Charles Lyell(1797 - 1875) Principles of
Geology 1830
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The theory that the earths features are the
result of long-term processes that continue to
operate in the present as they did in the past.
Elaborated on by Lyell, this theory opposed
catastrophism and provided for immense geological
Science and AnthropologyAn Introduction
Lake Tahoe Community College Fall 2002
  • The Scientific Method

Science is a cycle of asking questions, finding
patterns, generating hypotheses, making
predictions, and conducting experiments or making
observations to support or refute those
predictions (Michael Alan Park, Introducing
Anthropology, McGraw-Hill, 2003, p. 21)
Belief differs from science in that it is taken
on faith, cannot be disproved, relies on answers
that cannot be tested, provide stable bases for
our behaviors, offer explanations for what is
beyond or out there (existential questions).
  • The Scientific Method

Understanding the Scientific Method
A number of theorists in the History and
Philosophy of Science have suggested that we
consider the processual nature of the scientific
  • The Scientific Approach

Here is one conceptualization of the scientific
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The scientific method is akin to a cycle which
involves a number of processes. The most basic
step involves asking the questions we wish to
answer or describing the observed facts we wish
to explain. We look for patterns, connections,
and associations, allowing for possible
explanations or hypotheses. We attempt to
formulate a general explanatory principle that
will account for the specific pieces of data we
have observed and we wish to explain (induction,
or moving from specific observations to general
  • X

Next, we attempt to either support or refute our
hypothesis by testing it. We can then suggest
that specific data would be found if a hypothesis
were true (deduction or moving from the general
to the specific). This leads to future
predictions of phenomena and new observations,
experiments and data. The process then repeats.
When this process allows us to generate an
integrated body of ideas forming a general
concept that coordinates, explains and interprets
a wide range of factual patterns in a given area,
we call this theory.
  • Belief Systems
  • Belief Systemsideas that are taken on faith and
    cannot be tested. Karl Popper suggested that
    science is an engagement in falsificationscientis
    ts never really prove their ideas, but they
    continually strive to prove that they are not
    wrong or cannot be refuted by another explanation.

  • Questions
  • What Kinds of Questions Do We Ask?
  • The ontological questionwhat is the form and
    nature of reality and therefore what is there
    that can be known about it?
  • The epistemological questionwhat is the nature
    of the relationship between the knower or
    would-be knower and what can be known?
  • The methodological questionhow can the inquirer
    (would-be knower) go about finding out whatever
    he or she believes can be known?

  • The Goals of Science/Its Community
  • Science has three general goals
  • (a) describe a phenomenon of interest
  • (b) explain what causes it
  • (c) predict what it causes
  • falsification Karl Popper, things can never be
    proven, just refused or shown to be wrong

  • Approaches
  • Positivistic Approachesassume that there is one,
    ultimate essence or reality that can be known
  • Interpretive Approachassumes that there are
    multiple truths and perspectives present in the
    world. Many can be understood or known, but no
    one takes precedent over others
  • We might say that archaeologists are lucky in
    that they deal in both arenas.

  • Research Process
  • choose topic
  • focus research question
  • design study
  • collect data
  • analyze data
  • interpret data
  • inform others
  • dataare the empirical evidence or information
    that one gathers carefully according to rules or
  • quantitative (expressed as numbers) or
  • qualitative (expressed as words, pictures,
    objects, discourse)

  • Archaeology in the 1950s

A shift in dealing with the past along with
numerous methodological breakthroughs.
(1) Growing archaeological record in non-Europe
(China, Africa)
(2) Growing awareness of non-European archaeology
in Europe
(3) Dating techniques were introduced (Absolute
Age as opposed to Relative Age)
(4) Antiquity is no longer the focus
  • Archaeology in the 1950s

A shift in dealing with the past along with
numerous methodological breakthroughs.
(5) Global stratigraphy (plate tectonics,
geomagnetism, off-shore drilling) allows the
construction of global climate
(6) A shift from a focus on the individual pieces
(types of artifacts) to the idea of an
assembledge of artifacts
  • Archaeology in the
  • 1960s-1970s

A movement away from the idea of culture history
to a new paradigm of culture as adaptation
Culture as Adaptation asks how can we explain
what happened in the past in terms of human
Today, archaeologists generally share five goals
for research and interpretation. First, they aim
to build a time and space framework for the past.
Archaeologists want to answer the basic who,
what, why, and when questions of human prehistory.
Second, archaeologists try to understand how
humans lived in the past. What kinds of houses
did they build? What kinds of food did they eat?
How did they make their living?
Third, archaeologists want to be able to answer
the why questions of human prehistory, that is,
to try to explain why change takes place in human
societies. These first three goals have formed
the basis of archaeological research for over 30
Two additional goals have come to the forefront
in recent years. The first is the goal of
understanding the nature of the archaeological
record itself. Archaeologists want to understand
the relationship between material remains, such
as pieces of pottery and house foundations, that
are discovered through excavations and the actual
prehistoric behavior that produced those remains.

Second, archaeologists are interested in
preserving the past for the future.
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