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Archeology Today


									  Archeology Today
A Method of Historical Inquiry
       Questions to Consider
• Briefly outline the stages that
  archeologists go through in preparing a
• Aside from the information in the slide,
  what do you think might be important?
• How do you think improved dating
  techniques assist in exposing fraud?
         Secondary Sources
• Once they have a focus, historians begin hunting
  down data. Data are often sparse and hard to
  find, especially about people who had no rank or
  power. Historians rely on two types of resources
  when gathering information. Secondary sources:
  books, journals, and film are accounts of the
  past based on research and analysis. They help
  provide a context for research and are important
  starting points. Secondary sources help the
  historian see how others have interpreted the
  past and which biases may have shaped their
           Primary Sources
• Critically important to the study of history
  are primary sources, accounts recorded at
  the time of an event, which may include
  diaries, eyewitness accounts, government
  records, ships' logs, or newspaper articles.
  Primary sources can also be non-written
  data such as pottery pieces (also called
  potsherds) or other artifacts found by
  archaeologists, cave paintings, or the
  remains of an ancient religious site.
         What is archeology?
• Archaeology provides scholars with the primary
  data necessary to answer certain questions. As
  archaeology is a means to an end, rather than
  an end in itself. Archaeologists do excavations to
  solve a problem or test a hypothesis. The
  artifacts that they gather become a primary
  source for anthropologists, ethnologists,
  paleontologists, biologists, and historians. In
  short, archaeology is the set of methods used to
  extract information regarding the past from the
  earth and sea.
                   The Team
• An archeological crew may
  consist of:
• A field director (licensed
• A few supervisors
• The crew (less experienced
• Photographers and surveyors
• …and depending on what is
  found, they may need zoologists,
  botanists, geographers, or even
            Starting the Work
• While the top layers of earth are removed, close
  attention is paid to the soil, in case a stain or an
  artifact appears. A variety of things leave tell-tale
  stains in the soil. Some stains are left by the
  decaying posts of a wooden structure. Other
  stains are made by hearths (fireplaces) and
  middens (garbage pits), both extremely valuable
  sources of information. Middens often yield bits
  of pottery, carbonized seeds, bones, and other
  remnants of daily life. As stains and artifacts are
  discovered, they are recorded in field notes
          Plan of Clava
  The two cairns at Clava, with
  the ring cairn between them
 At Clava, two main tombs are
laid out, open to the visitor, one
  at each end of the complex.
    Both have their entrance
 passage pointing in the same
    direction, so that on Mid-
   winter's day, the rays of the
setting sun point right down the
Between the two main cairns is
     a monument of a rather
 different type known as a ring
         Continuing the Work
• Archaeology is essentially destruction: once a
  site has been excavated, it can never be
  reworked. Accurate and meticulous notes are
• But most of the work is done in the laboratory,
  analyzing the raw data.
• For the work of the archaeologist to be of value,
  the primary data and the completed analysis
  must be published. Ontario law requires all
  archaeologists granted licenses to prepare a site
  report at the end of each season in order to get
  their licenses renewed for the next year.
             Determining Age
• Human remains present a special challenge to the
  archaeologist. Much can be learned about a people by
  studying their skeletal remains. The first goal in the
  analysis of human remains is to determine the age and
  sex of the person. The age of young children and teens
  can be determined within one year by examining their
  teeth. The age of young adults is determined by
  examining the fusion between the ends and shafts of
  long bones. Determining the age of adults is much less
  precise since it is done by studying tooth wear, which
  can be affected by several things.
This 45-year-old woman from the Roman town of Herculaneum
died during the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79CE She was
found buried under volcanic material, on the beach near her
home. Due to the action of bacteria and the elements, all that
remains are her bones and jewels.
              On Tools…
• A great deal of information can be learned
  from stone tools and pottery. A
  microscopic examination of the edges of a
  stone tool will often reveal evidence of its
  use. For example, tools used for cutting
  plant stems may have silica gloss on them
  from the silica in plants. Stones used to
  make tools were not randomly selected,
  but were quarried to obtain the proper type
  and quality.
            Dating Items…
• When an archaeological find occurs, the
  first thing determined is the age of both the
  artifacts and the site. The archaeologist
  can choose from a variety of dating
  techniques, and while few of these allow
  for absolute dating, approximate and
  relative ages can be obtained.
• A commonly used method of dating is
  stratigraphy, the study of the layers (strata) of
  archaeological remains at a site. It is based on
  the principle that the most recent materials are
  found at or just below the surface. Materials
  found are progressively older as the dig goes
  deeper. The consecutive periods of the
  occupation of a site can be distinguished and
  differentiated, with each layer revealing the lives
  of the inhabitants.
Stratigraphy can reveal the ages and other information
about the layers (strata) of the occupation of an
archaeological site. Where does the earliest
occupation lie?
           Radiocarbon Dating
• Professor Willard F: Libby; the American chemist who
  discovered the principles of radiocarbon dating, raised
  these limitations in 1949. Radiocarbon dating determines
  the age of organic material by measuring the level of the
  radioisotope carbon 14 (C14). Carbon 14 is formed by
  neutrons interacting with the earth's nitrogen. This
  process creates radio- carbon, which is equally
  distributed throughout the atmosphere. All living things
  absorb radiocarbon throughout their lives, and at the
  moment of death, the process is reversed and the
  radiocarbon begins to decay at a constant rate.

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