Renfrew & Bahn pp37-56 Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Renfrew & Bahn pp37-56 Deck (35):

Archaeology remains

1. Deliberate constructions > built to last
2. Primarily to impress the observer > scale of the enterprise
3. Discarded garbage frm daily activities of human existence (most)
4. Preserved by extremes of temp and humidity / natural disasters
(e.g. volcanic eruption)
5. Varied lvl of preservation: Most sites not in areas subjected to extremes of climate



*- Objects used, modified, or made by ppl
- e.g. stone tools, pottery, metal weapons
- Evidence to hp answer ALL key questions, e.g. single clay pot:
1. Date of the pot, date of location where it was found
2. Find the source of clay
3. Evidence for range and contacts of group that made the pot
4. Pictorial decoration
> form / related to sequence of design styles + ancient beliefs
5. Shape / food / other residues > pot’s use



*- Organic and environmental remains not made by humans
- e.g. human skeletons, animal bones, plant remains, soils, sediments
> Can still be very revealing abt many aspects of past human activity
> e.g. what ppl ate. Environmental conditions under which they lived


Archaeological research

- Analysis of artifacts + ecofacts (found tgt on sites)
+ surrounding landscapes + grouped tgt into regions



*- Non-portable artifacts
- e.g. hearths, postholes, storage pits
- Simple features as postholes in combination with remains of hearths, floors, ditches
> Evidence for complex features / structures, e.g. houses, granaries, palaces, temples
- Some researchers broaden the term ‘artifact’ to include features


Relationship btw artifacts, features, structure

- Artifacts and features are found in association with the structure



*- Places where artifacts, ecofacts, features are found tgt



*- Material surrounding a find (an artifact, ecofact, or feature)



*- Exact (horizontal and vertical) position of a find within the matrix



*- A find’s relationship with other finds, usually in the same matrix



*- W/o context, an artifact loses much of its archaeological value
> e.g. looters dig up sites indiscriminately looking for rich finds
> W/o recording matrix, provenience, or associations
> All contextual info is lost


Primary context

- Looters shift aside material they are not interested in
> Destroy that material’s primary context


Secondary context

- If archaeologists subsequently excavate that shifted material (primary context got destroyed)
> Need to be able to recognize that it is in a secondary context


More difficult for a site disturbed in antiquity, human activity

- e.g. Ten of thousands of years of the Old Stone Age
- OR Paleolithic period > forces of nature > encroaching seas or ice sheets, wind and water action



- The study of formation processes
> Formation processes: which may have affected:
1. Which finds came to be buried
2. What happened to them after they were buried


Formation processes

- Affect:
1. Which finds came to be buried
2. What happened to them after they were buried
- 2 types:
1. Cultural formation processes
2. Natural formation processes


Cultural formation processes

- Involve deliberate / accidental activities of human beings as they
make / use artifacts, build / abandon buildings, plow their fields


Natural formation processes

- Natural events that govern BOTH burial + survival of archaeological record
- e.g. :
> Sudden fall of volcanic ash @Pompeii (exceptional)
> Gradual burial of artifacts / features by wind-borne sand / soil
> River action, activities of animals


Experimental archaeology

- Instructive abt some of the formation processes that affect physical preservation of archaeological material
- e.g. replica stone tools to cut meat off bones
> Differentiate cutmarks on bones made by stone tools frm those made by teeth of animal predators


Separate cultural formation processes

1. Reflect original human behavior and activity before a site became buried
2. Came after burial (e.g. plowing / looting)
> Most sites = complex sequence of use, burial, reuse > repeat
> Goal: Attempt to reconstruct original human behavior


4 Major activities of original human behavior

1. Acquisition
2. Manufacture
3. (Storage) Use
4. Disposal
> Remains enter record at any 1 of these stages


1. Deliberate burial / hoards

- Prime source of evidence for original human behavior
- Times of conflict / war: ppl deposit prized possessions in ground
> Intend to reclaim them later > BUT fail to do so for reasons
- e.g. @European Bronze Age - hoards of metal goods; @later Roman Britain - treasures of silver


2. Burial of the dead

- Another major source of evidence
> In simple graves, elaborate burial mounds, giant pyramids
> Usually + grave goods (e.g. ceramic vessels / weapons), + painted tomb-chamber walls (e.g. in ancient Mexico / Egypt)


Human destruction of archaeological record

1. Caused by burials of the dead (+ceramic vessels / weapons) being dug into earlier deposits
2. Rulers destroy monument / erase inscriptions belonging to previous chiefs
3. Burning (NOT always destroy)
> e.g. on plants, clay, timbers > improve chances of survival of remains


Survival of materials under natural formation

1. Inorganic materials (usually survive better than organic)
2. Organic materials


Survival of inorganic materials (3 categories)

1. Stone tools - survive very well
2. Fired clay (pottery) - survive very well
3. Metals - gold, silver, lead survive very well; copper corrode depending on soil conditions; iron rarely survive in uncorroded state
*- Inorganic materials (stone tools + pottery) equalled / superseded in abundance and importance by objects that usually do NOT survive (wooden tools / baskets)


Influence on inorganic materials by sea

- Potentially very destructive
> Underwater remains = break + scatter by currents, waves, tidal action
- Preserve artifacts
> Metals coat with thick, hard casing of metallic salts
> Simply taken out = + acid > destroy remaining metal
> If use electrolysis > leave metal artifact clean + safe


Survival of organic materials (3 main factors)

1. Matrix: conditions of soil / sediment surrounding material
> ONLY special circumstances preserve organic material
2. Climate: local + regional weather
> Affect soils, erosion, flora fauna
3. Natural disasters: volcanic eruptions, extremes of dry, cold, wet climates


1. Matrix

A. Chalk: preserve bone well
B. Acid soils: destroy bones + wood within a few years; leave telltale discoloration where postholes / hut foundations once stood
C. Sandy soils: brown / black marks = skeletons
D. Copper: favor preservation of organic remains (prevent destructive micro-organisms activity)
(E.g. @southeast Europe - copper mines with remains of wood, leather, and textiles)
E. Combination of salt + oil - preserve animal + fruits (prevent decomposition frm bacteria) (e.g. La Brea, Los Angeles)


2. Climate

A. Local climate
I. Cave: protect frm outside climatic effects; limestone cave - alkaline condition > preserve bones or even footprints
B. Regional climate (more important)
I. Tropical climates = heavy rains + acid soils + warm temp + high humidity + erosion + wealth of vegetation + insect
> Most destructive, hinder looters (e.g. southern Mexico)
II. Temperate climates = relatively warm, variable temp, fluctuating rainfall
> Accelerate decay (e.g. Europe, North America)
> Local conditions can counteract these processes
> e.g. clay compacted btw layers > create oxygen-free pockets
> + chemicals produced by bracken, bone > sterile the locality


3. Natural disasters

- Sometimes preserve sites
- e.g. violent storms, mudslide, volcanic eruption


Extreme conditions

1. Dry environments
2. Cold environments
3. Waterlogged environments


1. Dry environments

- Shortage of water
> Prevent destructive micro-organisms to flourish
- e.g. Egypt, American Southwest, central and southern Peru


Land archaeology

- As opposed to archaeology beneath the sea
- Can be drawn btw dry land and wetland sites
1. Wetland sites (e.g. lakes, swamps, marshes, fens, peat bogs)
> seal organic materials in wet and airless environment effectively
> 75-90%, even 100% finds = organic
2. Dryland sites: decompose organic materials
> If wet site dries out seasonally > decomposition
- Acidic peat bogs preserve wood and plant remains, destroy bone, iron, pottery
- Famous lake sites: alpine regions of Switzerland, Italy, France, southern Germany


Wetland archaeology

- Peat bogs: northern latitudes (e.g. southern England, continent of Europe, Ireland)
- Bog bodies: individuals frm violent death, executed as criminals, killed as sacrifice
> Threw into bog e.g. Denmark’s Tollund Man
> Within skin, disappeared bones and most internal organs, except stomach and its contents
> e.g. Prehistoric human brains @Florida
- Lake-dwellings rival bog bodies
> Contributions: preserve timber for study of tree rings, old waterfronts of towns and cities
- Major prb of wetland archaeology: deteriorate rapidly once uncovered
> Dry and crack