ARCHAEOLOGY: AN INTRODUCTION TO METHOD,THEORY AND PRACTICE
WHAT ARCHAEOLOGY IS NOT Paleontology Grave Robbing Treasure Hunting Paranormal Curses and Magic
“THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL METHOD”1. Formulate a Research Question2. Identify a Suitable Site/Region3. Select an Appropriate Research Method4. Collect Data5. Analyze Data6. Reassess Research Question
RESEARCH DESIGN Formal archaeology start with a Research Question (i.e., testable Hypothesis) Research interests are influenced by the broader research in the social or hard sciences. Archaeology shifts in focus from hard sciences focus to humanities focus. 1950-1980 “Processual” Archaeology: emphasizes scientific method in archaeology. Aims to create unifying theories of cultural action. 1980-present “Post-Processual” Archaeology: emphasizes symbolic processes and complexity of human interaction. Aims to explore the variability of human interaction. 2000-present “Behavioral” and “Evolutionary” Archaeology: suggests that natural selection operates on human behavior creating varied but scientifically predictable reactions to natural and cultural stimuli. Research Buzzwords of the last decade: Feasting and Commensality, Ideology and Hegemony, Agency, Materiality, Evolutionary Psychology, Public Archaeology, Behavioral or Cognitive Processes, Ecological Determinism.
IDENTIFYING ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES Primary means of identifying archaeological sites is SURVEY. Several different forms of survey using different methodology. Beyond site identification, archeological surveys are used to assess regional settlement patterns. Aerial photograph of Tell Megiddo in Israel
TRADITIONAL SURFACE SURVEY Ground Survey consists of physically traversing the landscape identifying sites. Two types of survey: Unsystematic and Systematic. Unsystematic: The collection or recording of sites encountered in traversing the landscape. Biased by the archaeologist’s sampling. Systematic: Survey conducted using rigorous controls. Creating a grid system or a series of equally spaced transects. Ensures the entire survey area is analyzed uniformly. The primary type of archaeological site in the Near East is the TELL. Tells are the result of the construction of successive layers of occupation at a specific location. Other sites include: Roads, Wells, Watchtowers, Campsites, Irrigation Ditches, Quarries, Mines, Agricultural fields, Bridges, etc.
AERIAL OR SATELLITE RECONNAISSANCE Use of aerial photography or satellite imagery to identify past activity on the landscape.
REMOTE SENSING TECHNIQUES Electro-Magnetic Resistance: measurement of electrical conductivity in topsoil to map archaeological sites. Stone and mudbrick walls and other features conduct electricity differently than surrounding soils. Ground Penetrating Radar: Waves of radio energy are transmitted into the topsoil and the echo is measured to determine changes in soil composition and depth.
EXCAVATION TECHNIQUES:SAMPLING Non-probabilistic sampling: used when archaeologists already are familiar with the landscape or are interested in a particular site. Probabilistic sampling: used when a representative sample is required to test hypothesis or the site is poorly understood. Several types of probabilistic sampling. Random sampling: area of excavation chosen at random from grid layout of site. Systematic Sampling: area of excavation chosen at equally spaced intervals in grid.
EXCAVATION: EXCAVATION TECHNIQUE Horizontal Excavation – the removal of large horizontal exposures to reveal the extent of occupation during a single level at a site. Primary goal is recovery of architecture
EXCAVATION TECHNIQUES: WHEELER-KENYONMETHOD Excavation of smaller trenches (ca 5 x 5 m) separated by baulks to control for stratigraphy. Primary goal is a overview of the depth of occupation in association with other trenches at site.
EXCAVATION TECHNIQUES: STEP TRENCH Large open excavation that narrows as it descends. Goal is to discover the complete extent of occupation at the site. Limited in terms of information provided other than date.
EXCAVATION: RECORDING AND RECOVERY Archaeological artifacts are unintelligible without a knowledge of stratigraphy and spatial context. In order to control finds are recovered by level, called a LOCUS. Visible finds are recorded on sight and placed in bags for each Locus.
EXCAVATION: RECORDING AND RECOVERY Soil is then removed and screened to recover small artifacts
EXCAVATION: RECORDING AND RECOVERY To recover botanical samples, archaeologist sometimes employ Flotation.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL DATA: WHAT CAN IT TELL US? The Date(s) of the site The Size of the site Social Structure Food Procurement Labor Organization Gender Roles Burial Practices Technology Trade Patterns Architecture Dietary Practices Cultural Aesthetics Religious Activity
CHRONOLOGY The most important aspect of archaeology is correctly assigning a date to archaeological materials. Two ways archaeologists ascertain the date of archaeological materials: Relative Chronology: The association of archaeological materials with other materials at both the site and regional scale. Absolute Chronology: The assessment of a specific date through scientific or textual methods.
RELATIVE CHRONOLOGY Stratigraphy – the study and interpretation of the layering of the earth. The general rule is that layers that are deeper are older than those above it. Seriation – the study of the change through time of specific artifact classes. Either Stylistic of Frequency Based.
STYLISTIC SERIATION The previous 4 slides show changes in pottery in Mesopotamia over 3000 years. A few obvious trends emerge. Beginning in the Halaf Period the fabrics are of better quality. Painting styles – Samarran and Halaf pottery are bi-chrome painted (two colors) with more intricate motifs, Ubaid pottery is a black paint on white background and Uruk pottery is not painted at all. Shapes – In general the shapes of vessels becomes more simplified and easier to produce quickly. Uruk period pottery is made differently with the introduction of the fast-wheel and mold made Beveled rim bowls. By finding these pottery styles on a site in greater Mesopotamia we can assign that site a relative date.
ABSOLUTE CHRONOLOGY The scientific analysis of chronology, several means of dating based on applicability of archaeological materials. Most Common: Radiocarbon (C-14) Dating - Half-life 5730 years Dendrochronology (Tree Ring Dating) Uranium Series Dating Potassium-Argon Dating Thermo-luminescence
WRITING Texts can provide a great source of information when discovered. Dating – often texts describe events in which a date is given. Power Structure – Texts often describe the workings of the upper levels of the social hierarchy. Record Keeping – Ancient texts often functioned as receipts recording economic transactions Religious Rituals – texts often record the steps taken in religious ceremonies or the powers of specific deities.
ARTIFACTS Artifacts are portable items used in antiquity. Analysis of artifact classes form the core of archaeological knowledge. Ceramics Lithics Ground Stone Metals Animal Bone Botanical Remains Texts Personal Adornment Human Bone
FEATURES Features are large man- made non-portable structures or facilities. Houses Temples Palaces Trash Pits Ovens Kilns/Furnaces Hearths Storage Bins
ANALYSIS: QUALITATIVE TECHNIQUES Analysis that describes artifacts in terms that cannot be measured. Color, texture, shape or form, etc. Most common is the creation of TYPOLOGIES. Typology is the arrangement of artifacts in chronological or developmental sequence. Studies of decoration or form of artifacts, texts, art, or architecture are often qualitative.
ANALYSIS: QUANTITATIVE TECHNIQUES Analysis that records the measurable attributes of artifacts mathematically. Application of advanced statistics to artifact assemblages. Often applied to make meaning of qualitative attributes (i.e. percentage of pottery vessels with a particular design)
INTERPRETATION OF DATA: PATTERNING The application of both qualitative and quantitative analysis allow archaeologists to recognize patterns in the archaeological record. Patterns of distribution or use are key to coherent analysis. Dissimilar patterns point to anomalies in distribution or use and are more difficult to interpret.
INTERPRETATION OF DATA: THEORY Once data has been collected and analyzed archaeologists return to their working hypothesis or research question. Here data is used to support or disprove a broad range of general theories of human interaction ranging from evolutionary psychology to Agency-based practice theory. The nature of archaeological data prevents the creation of truths or laws and more data always fills in gaps in archaeological knowledge.
THE REAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL METHOD1. Formulate research question over beers with fellow archaeologists.2. Survey. Then drink3. Select appropriate research method over beers with fellow archaeologists.4. Excavate. Then drink.5. Analyze data while drinking.6. Reassess research question over beers with fellow archaeologists.