Stewart 2002 - giewwl, RM. (9902/) l“ Archaeolan :...

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Unformatted text preview: giewwl, RM. (9902/) l“ Archaeolan : (5.15;; pm”, WW, __ Kendall/liqu My Duhufiuel lOWA-u Ff; W‘BQ, i'\ \. "Hg s on; x; \jj ._ .fiiyw,.__..’tL.%.u-khm WI. The Archaeological Record andthe Recognition of Evidence - What seest thou else In the dark backward and abysm of time? waliiom Shakespeare, The Tempest—— u-sw'gwehmmeewmam'" ' *z‘r'n'r :".‘..: .- . . E H The archaeologicai record is a contemporary phe- RE CO IS F0 R M E D noinena. When we encounter an archaeological deposit in the field, it represents everything that has happened to it from the time of the original behavior that resulted . . . in th creation of mat riai evidei t ' . to Inateriai evrdence, Its context, and all of the process— 6 e . we to he pmseifi The . _ . _ . . . nature of the archaeological record can be very different , es responsrbie for then creation and present condltion. dc endm u on when We (inflame: it If e d. d E‘hese characteristics are embodied in archaeologicai p g p ' W lscovere i deposits. The archaeological record is both formed and and InveSilgaiEd our hypmhetical Site prior to 1990’ H . ‘V! A . . transformed by a variety of cuitural and natural pro— xgiiiahe £1:et1;i:n%0;:c::if gweaidedt layiimig 01 cesses. Any human behavior that creates some type of i’ p y u I 3 0m, 8 emma ions material evidence helps to form the archaeological Of the age 0f the depom’ and the recons/{mcaon Bf the record. lntum,hu1nan behavior (cuitural processes) can namral processes afiecung the deposm and Signg the alter or transform the condition of pie—existing material lanciscifie t5HOUgh tune' It WOUId have contamed rec— evidence aed its context. This is also true ofnaturai pro— Egilza i 6‘: béne’fl an Uiibmkefi. ammarsmne’ a cesses. The same processes that create and transform . a 3 i001 an. micro akes' our ability to accurately the physical worid in which we and our ancestors have iigggplgt we fit: would be piefiyfmd‘ By fig: end Of lived can, and have, acted to form and preserve archae— b . ’f far: as 6W? {ypes 0 am afis’ a 3mg er Hum" ological deposits, or are responsible for varying degrees 63 0 .dm aCtS’ an “6 commit .Of the finds has iieen _ Ofthair alteration and destruction. dramaticaliy altered: Interpretanon of this evrdence There are innumerable cultural and natural processes woum Izaak the detali’ Clarity” arid confiéence Of ihe that could he listed as having a potential effect on the piemlggo effort You may SOmEtlmes him” arehaeoigh .' formation and transformation of the archaeological gig/ES {affixing ii) a Wallfresmefid‘ipfim131333611“? record. Our hypothetical example on the following page a Single OCClipatlon as a SBapSth 0f ume’ This @038“ t " deals with only a few but illustrates the realities with mean that Hing has semishow been frozen and that which all archaeoiogists must cope. The archaeological evemmng.ls Jusft. as It was .m the paSi’ Raiher’ It _ . . _ . . denotes a high abdity to recognize and control for all of record is subject to change. It raiely, if ever, retains the . . , , the processes respon31ble for the deposrt 3 formation and transformation. The archaeological record is shorthand for referring character it had when human behavior generated a material fingerprint. l9 (Inertia- Two imagine a scene that was undoubtedly enacted many times in ancient North nmerica. A lone hunter stalks a deer grazing in an open field along a stream. The hunter hurls his spear and brings down the deer. Approaching the kill, he removes a chunk (core) of flint from his leather pouch. Searching the ground, he finds a fist—sized cobble deposited by the stream during a previous flood. He uses the cobble (hammerstone) to strike the core. Small, nearly unnoticeable chips of flint (microflakes) are detached from the core along with a large, sharp—edged flake. Discarding the hammerstone, he uses the large flake (flake tool) to dress out the deer, removing its entrails and isolating the meatier portions of the carcass. The flint core goes back into the pouch. During the butchering, the flake tool occasionally strikes bone, resulting in the detachment of a few microflakes from along the sharp edge being employed. Before the butchering is complete, the edge of the flake tool becomes dull. The hunter removes an antler tine from his pouch and uses the pointed end to pressure flakes of the stone tool, rejuvenating its dulled edge. Replacing the antler in his pouch, he completes the butchering and discards the flake tool. Securing the hindquarters of the deer together with a leather thong, he hefts them over his shoulder and heads back to the camp that he left earlier in the day. At this moment in time, let’s say 1000 years ago, material evidence of the hunting and butchering activity left "on—site” consists of some deer remains (soft tissue and a partial skeleton), a hammerstone, a flake tool, and microflakes resulting from the production, use, and maintenance of the flake tool. Human behavior (or cultural processes) produced a deposit of artifacts or material evidence. That night, a small pack of wolves find the remains of the deer and consume most of the remaining soft tissue and some of the bone (deposit transformed by a natural process). The following night, a foraging skunk passes what is left of the deer and stops to gnaw a portion of foreleg. The skunk consumes some skin and tendon and leaves gnaw marks on the bone (deposit transformed by natural process). Over the next several weeks of hot and humid weather, the remaining soft tissue of the deer decays and is consumed by insects, leaving only whatever bone is left (deposit transformed by natural process). The bone dries out and begins to crack over the ensuing months (deposit transformed by natural process). Six months after the original kill, the nearby stream floods. it rises over its bank and creates a pool of sediment—laden water on the landscape where the deer bone, hammerstone, flake tool, and microflakes are located. The floodwater recedes, leaving behind 10 centimeters of silt that cover the artifacts (deposit transformed by natural process). Burial below the silt slows down the weathering of the deer bone. Time passes, the sediments weather, vegetation grows, dies, and decays on the existing surface. in the next 7000 years, tWo additional floods effect the landscape and add another is centimeters of sediment to the surface (deposit transformed by natural processes). The already slowed weathering of the deer bone is further retarded. By the year 1990, the deer bone, hammerstone, flake tool, and microflakes are buried about 30 centimeters below the existing surface ofthe land. A modern farmer repeatedly plows, to a depth of one foot (about 30~35 centimeters), the field in which the archaeological deposit is buried. Plowing moves the artifacts up and down and from side to side in the ground. it brings the remaining deer bone, the hammerstone, and some of the microfiakes to the surface. The hammerstone is struck by the plow and fragmented. Only one of the fragments bears the damage resulting from the cobble’s original use as a hammer. By bringing the bone to the surface, plowing promotes its rapid mechanical, chemical, and biological decay. By 1995, the bone no longer exists and the only arrtifacts left in the deposit are the fragmented hammerstone, flake tool, and microfiakes. Plowing also homogenizes the color, texture, and structure of the soils or sediments in which the artifacts originally occurred (i.e., their matrix). it blends and mixes the once visible artifactbearing layer as well as those that formed on top of it (deposit transformed by cultural process). THE ARCHAEOLOGlCAL RECORD mo THE RECOGNITION OF EvaoENCE 21 The hammerstone Fragments and some microflakes are churned back underground by repeated plowing, and the Flake tool is brought to the surface. An artifact collector walking the field during the winter of 1999 sees the flake tool, recognizes it as an artifact, picks it up and takes it home (deposit transformed by cultural process). At the turn of the millennium, the archaeological deposit consists of Fragments of the hammerstone and microtlakes. The archaeological record is patchy. Not all sites are subject to the same processes that act to preserve or destroy material evidence, so not all types of artifacts or material evidence are going to be consistently pre- served. Anita.ch based on organic materials are typi~ cally underrepresented. Our ability to reconstruct the physical environment in which people lived may be possible in. some areas where plant and animal remains are preseivcd in some form, but not in other areas where preservation is poor. Not ali cultnral behavior may be encoded in some type of material evidence amenable to study by archaeologists. But it is prema- ture to list behaviors that we will never be able to reconsnuct or examine. Because of the variability in formation processes of. the archaeological record, some types of behavior may be represented in one region and not another, or at one site and not another. The archae— ological record is not a direct reflection of human behavior, as a variety of processes act on material evi» dence and its context following its creation. It is up to archaeologists to translate material evidence into behavior through obiective interpretation of evidence. As I noted in chapter 1, archaeology and the archae— ological record have the ability to provide perspectives on the past that are not found in documents and that get around the bias of the persons who created documents. William Dancey (1981:17) says it best when he notes that: it is possible to "falsity history” through the written record, but it would be a rare thing indeed if people intentionally set our to create an archaeological record that reflected behavior as they wanted it to be viewed by later generations. This fact is what makes archaeology such a potentially powerful tool for understanding the post, in both prehistoric and historic periods. The potential for artifacts and ecofacts to be preserved once they are a part of an archaeological deposit is con— ditioned by many variables that relate to mechanical, chemical, and biological weathering or breakdown. Variables include: Hf what an object is made of, its hardness, density, pen meability, moisnn'e/wateg content, and chemistry. if whether the object has been modified, and if so, how has modification affected the object’s hard» ness, density, internal structure or chemistry, and permeability. 13k the micro of the depositional environment, its type, chemistry, oxygen content, climate, moisture con— tent, related plants, animals and organisms, and how all of these attributes fluctuate over the short-tenn. [if the nature of the long—term, postdepositional envi» ronment, its type, chemistry, oxygen content, cli- mate, moisture content, related plants, animals and organisms, and how all of these attributes fluctuate. Things fashioned from rock, many metals, and syn— thetic materials (cg, alloys, ceramics, and glass) are obviously more dnrable than those involving organic materials. Remember though that with time even rock weathers and metals corrode and rust. Porous materials that can absorb water or already have a high water con- tent will be ver susceptible to mechanical destruction brought on by repeated cycles of drying and wetting, or freezing and thawing. These same attributes can also contribute to chemical and biological processes that result in the breakdown and decay of materials. Any modification to an object that inhibits its ability to absorb and lose moisture fosters preservation. For example, dense types of hardwoods will outlive more porous species. Wood that has been charred will outlast uncharted wood since the cleaning process drives off nioistnre and hardens the remaining wood. The soft tis— sue of an animal can disappear relatively quickly, while the bone wili last longer. Of the bone, denser elements like teeth have a better chance of being preserved than other skeletal elements. Low-fired, porous types of pot— teiy (cg, terra cotta, earthenware) will fragment at a higher rate than more highly fired ceramics (cg, stoneware, porcelain). 22 CHAPTER Two FIGURE 2.1: Exposing whale bone at the Summer Bay Site in the Aientian Islands, Alaska. The density of the bone and long—term trends in cinnate worked to preserve these organic remains. The depositional environment of material evidence is equally critical. Where, how, and with what was something discarded, lost, or cached? Materials left at or near ihe surface are most susceptihle to the effects of climate, the interaction of water, snnlight, soils, vegeta- tion, and organisms, and the general behavior of animals. Water and other fluids are mediums that can promote mechanical hreakdown as well as chemical and biological processes. The degree of acidity that a soil or sediment possesses (pi-l values of l to 6) can affect the rate of decay; acid environments foster decay while environments with a neutral or basic pH (values of 7 to 14) are not as detrimental and may actualiy aid in the preservation of artifacts. Deposirional environ" ments containing high percentages of salts or oils can act to preserve some types of organic artifacts. Organic artifacts discarded in association with quanti- ties of sheli, a situation that characterizes large numbers of sites in coastal areas, have a much increased chance of being preserved. The weathering of the calcium carbonate—rich shell creates a chemical environment with highfhasic pH vaines. Organic artifacts discarded in association with some metais can he preserved by the rust and oxidizing materials derived from them as they corrode. Warm weather tends to promote chemical reactions and the destructive activities of organisms, insects and vegetation, cold weather less so (Figure 2.1). in con— junction with the acid soils that often occur, tropical environments are some of the most destructive of organic artifacts. The degree to which environmental conditions finctnate over the short—term also has an effect. Daily and seasonal extremes in temperature and precipitation promote the mechanical breakdown of materials to a greater degree than conditions that remain relatively stable over the longnterrn. The consis~ tently dry environments of many rockshelters and caves are well know to archaeoiogists for their potential to contain preserved organic artifacts. The same can he said for depositional environments that are consistently underwater, waterlogged, Wet, or cold (Figure 2.2). The pnbiic is prohabiy most aware of the dramatically pre- served organic materials derived from these latter envi- ronments. Shipwrecks, the remarkably preseived bodies of the Bog People of iron Age Europe, the Iceman from the European Alps, Pcnivian mummies from the THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECORD AND THE RECOGNETEGN'OF'E cs CE _ FIGURE 2.2: Abandoned wells often were convenient places to discard trash during historic times. The belowmground context, and the moist and oocasiona‘zly waterlogged depositional environment of the weil, aids in the preservation of organic artifacts. This example dates from the 1860s~i8783 and was associated with working ctass households in Philadelphia (Lee Decker et a1 1993). heights of the Andes mountains, and the innumerable examples of animals found frozen in giacial ice have captured the popular imagination in recent years and provided important insights into the past. The potential for artifact preservation, especially of organic artifacts, is enhanced by rapid or intentional burial, or the removal of materiais from exposed sur- face contexts where weathering can proceed fairly quickly. Butchered animal bones that get discarded in a pit that is ‘oackfiiled will long outlive similar bone left at the surface. Artifacts deposited upon a Surface that is scon buried will be better preserved than those on sur- faces that remain reiativeiy stable for long periods of time. Rockshelters, caves, and the interiors of struc— tures provide environments in which artifacts are shel» tered from many of the weathering processes that take place in the open. The implications for organic artifacts are clear, but differences in depositionai environments also affect more durable materials. The refitted stone tool shown in Figure 2.3 is made from metarhyoiite, a materiai that weathers more rapidly than many other types of rock used by prehistoric artisans. The upper, more darkly colored half of the tool was discarded (and suhsequentiy excavated) from the interior of a rocksheltcr. The more weathered, lightencolored half of the artifact was discarded and found in the open area in front of the rockshelter. The nature of a depositionai environment can change over time and influence the preservation of archaeolog~ ical evidence. Natural and cultural processes can bury the original deposit more deeply and remove it further from the weathering processes active near surfaces, or they can expose once buried deposits, The weight and compaction of the deposits above the matrix in which artifacts occur may foster mechanical stress and alter drainage characteristics. Changes in climate and con— cornitant changes in drainage, plant and animal com— munities may occur. How does an understanding of formation processes influence the ways that we search for and investigate archaeological deposits in the field? Since formation processes can be so variable from place to place, we must not expect to be able to use the same strategies to investigate every archaeologicai site. Some sites will require more attention and care than others because of the nature of artifact preservation or the integrity of their contexts. Developing a basic understanding of natural processes and attention to environmental recon- struction is a first step that can be taken towards recog— nizing what has happened to an archaeologicai deposit, .24 CHAPTER Two The Windover Site, 81311246 (Doran and “Dickei 1988; Doran et ai. 1990), iocated in Fiorida, is a great example oi: how a variety of the Factors discussed above contribute to the preservation of: human remains and organic artifacts. ftt the 7000 iyear—old site are burials that inciiide over “:68 individuals and plant Fiber textiles representing garments, bags, and matting, bone and antler impiements, floral and Faunai remains. The burials were emplaced in a wooded marsh, below water, sometimes being staked down to hold them in place. Most individuals appeared to have been buried within 48 hours of death, so rapid burial in a consistently wet environment would have aided preservation. When discovered and excavated, the burials were in a peat deposit more than two meters below the bottom of a shallow pond. T he anaerobic (oxygen'poor) environment and the neutrai pH of the water and peat worked together to Foster iong—terrn preservation. FSGURE 2.3: _ Refitted pieces of a broken stone too? from a rockslielter in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Maryland. The upper half of the artifact was found in excavations inside of tile rocksheltei‘ while the lower haif occurred in excavations in the open area in front of the rockshelter. evaluating the degree to which it has been disturbed, Ef colievial processes (those involving slopes and the and devising a field strategy appropriate for its investi— action of gravity), gation. Processes _of interest include: . . . . , . . ' - i ' l ' ‘ , [if biological activfiy (the life cycle of vegetation, anhan processes a mse mm wag the Wind) behavior of animals and or anisms « l - g )’ glec1at1on, 33’ chemical reactions, volcanism 3 @/ climate’ earthquakes and faulting, m” fluvial processes (those involving surface water), Elxaxflflilflx and fluctuations in sea levei. All around you, every day, are examples of how mod— ern life impacts the landscape. As an archaeologist you should become attuned to these activities and add them to your catalog of cultural processes that have the potential to affect archaeological deposits. As you read history, anthropological accounts of living cultures (ethnography), archaeological perspectives on living cul— tures {ethnoarchaeolagy), and archaeological reconstruc— tions of cultures, you will get an appreciation of the range of behaviors that humans are capable of and the type of material evidence that they might generate. The ongoing analysis of archaeological evidence feeds back into an understanding of deposit formation and transformation. Things fall apart, decay, and even vanish from archaeological view. Most of the artifacts that you will find in the field will be broken or damaged in some way. Only vague physical traces of organic artifacts may be encountered. It will heip if you are already familiar with what whole objects look iike, the technol— ogy involved in their manufacture, how they are used, how they might be expected to break, and the debris these processes create. Taphonomy, the study of the processes that affect organic remains after their death, can be expanded to include considerations of the pro— cesses that affect all manner of material things follow— ing their discard. So we can talk about the taphoaoiny of bone as well as the taphonomy of an abandoned house or discarded knife. hi this more global sense, taphonomy is synonymous with transformation pro— cesses as the term has been used in our discussion of the archaeological record. There are procedures that can be used in the system— atic search for hard—towsee artifacts and ecofacts. Flotation is a method of using water or other fluids in combination with line-meshed screen to separate small fragments of small (micro) artifacts and plant and ani— mal remains from excavated matrix. It was developed specifically to cope with these degraded, easy-to-miss types of evidence. In some cases it may be necessary to systematicaily evaluate the chemistry of excavated matrix in order to recognize chemical signatures of organic evidence that has completely decayed (see chapter 9 for a discussion of these and other techniques used for the recovery of plant remains). Field technicians need an elementary understanding of conservation techniques in order to be prepared to stabilize artifacts found in a delicate state of preserva— tion (see chapter 9). Excavating and removing artifacts from their matrix changes their depositional THE ARCHAEOLOGiCAL RECORD AND THE Racooumos OF EVIDENCE 23 environment. Exposure can cause them to lose or absorb moisture rapidly, initiating shrinking or swelling and mechanical stress. Any type of artifact made from porous material is susceptible, although organic materials tend to suffer the most. I know exca— vators who have literally watched newly exposed bone disintegrate before their eyes as it rapidly lost the mois- ture that it had retained for so long. Underwater archae- ologists probably have the best appreciation of these matters since so much of what they recover requires conservation because of the effects of overlong immer~ sion in water and salts. RECOGNIZING ARCHAEOLOGI- CAL EVIDENCE The definition of what constitutes an artifact or mate~ rial evidence is fairly straightforward. But how do you recognize this evidence in the field? How do you answer the question, Is this an artifact? Don’t confuse this with the closely related question of What is it? These are dif- ferent issues. Recognizing something as the byproduct of human action is the first step. You will encounter things that you know are artifacts or teaches, but not be able to readily explain what they are, what they were used for, or what they meant to the people making and using them. Many of us study the archaeology of cultures alien or dif- ferent from our own. There is no reason why we should assume that the material evidence created by these cul~ tures will automatically be recognizable to us. Archaeoiogists have a framework for recognizing evidence. It is constructed from: analogs with things in our own culture, documentary and pictorial records, knowledge of ethnography, ethnohistory, ethnoarchaeology, the cumulative achievements of archaeology, experimental archaeology, fififigxgkgxaxgx the natural and material sciences, and m’ evaluation of context and associations. 26 CHAPTER Two There are things that you will instantly recognize as airi— facts because they have analogs in obiects still found today (Figure 2.4). But the farther back in time that we go, the fewer the opportunities to employ such analogies. Care roost be taken not to extend the analogy of form/shape to function, or other inferences that go beyond that of recog- nizing something as an artifact. Shared form does not have to equate with the use of similar raw materials, manufac— turing processes, use, symbolic or ideological meaning, or FIGURE 2.4: The objects in this photo span over 300 years of time. The youngest in age is at the top of the picture and is probably the most familiar. The one below it on the left dates from the l93{)s and is ceramic, as are the next three, dating from the 19th and 18th centuries respectively. The oldest, at the bottom, is Native American and fashioned from catlinite or pipestone. All are recognizable as artifacts called pipes. Analogies in the form of objects is one way to recognize artifacts, and in some cases provide information about their function. any social relations related to these things. And since arti- facts are but a first step in developing objective reconstruc— tions of the past and learning about social relations, we don’t want to blur our archaeological vision with strict, all- encompassing analogies. The ethnographies of living peoples that anthropolow gists and others have produced since the 19th century provide a broad look at the tremendous diversity of lifestyles, technologies, material culture, and. belief sys- tems created by humans worldwide. They encompass studies of hunter—gatherers, herders, fishing peoples, farmers, and societies organized in bands, tribes, chief- doms, and states. Many ethnographies of Native American peoples were written as the United States government and non-native settlers expanded across the conntry. Earlier accounts were generated by explor— ers, traders, missionaries, and early colonists. Scholars have used these acconnts, other documentary evidence such as maps and deeds, and oral histories to create ethnalzistmy. An ethnohistory attempts to recreate the life of a people, but unlike the anthropologist doing ethnography, the ethnohistorian cannot directly observe or question the people being studied. Ethnography, eth- nohistory, history in general, and documentary and pic— torial records will coavey to the student of archaeology a sense of the things that people do and create. Studies relevant to the region where you are working will of course be the most helpful. Archaeologists attempting to use etlniographies as a source of information for modeling how human behavior translates into some form of material evidence were often frustrated. Descriptions of material cuiture were not always included in an ethnography, or were not detailed enough, or were not clearly linked with a specific type of behavior or activity. To remedy this, some archaeologists began doing ethnographic fieldwork with an archaeolog- ical bent. They would live with and observe a people, but with an eye focused on how behavior results in the cre— ation and transformation of material evidence. Called ethnoarchaeology, the intent is not simply to see how people make and use things with which we may not be familiar, but to better understand how different cultures perceive, organize, and transform space; how, where, and why objects are discarded; and how subsequent activities of people may affect preexisting material evidence. There is a fairly vast archaeological literature that describes, illustrates and interprets native and non-native material culture. Of coarse, evaluations of context and associations have played a role in deriving these intern pretations. Becoming familiar with the work that has been completed in your area of interest will aid in your ability to recognize artifacts and other material evidence in the field. There are a variety of general works that illustrate the technologies involved in the production of different types of artifacts (sampie references are iisted at the end of the chapter). Archaeological deposits are littered with debris generated by the procurement of raw materials, the manufacturing, use, and maintenance of artifacts and features. Acquaint yourself with these byproducts (and the technologies that create them) because they far outnumber the finished items that you will enconnter in the field. Dispiaying and interpreting material culture is the bread and butter of museums and is an easy way for you to begin to reap the benefits of existing archaeoiogical research. One of the techniques used to better understand the archaeological record is the design and completiori of replicative experiments. The scope of such experiments is Wide ranging and includes the manufacturing and use of artifacts, the observation of the processes affecting artifacts and features once they are abandoned or discarded, and the simuiation of archaeological deposits and contexts for the purpose of examining their transformation over time. One of the results of experimentation is that it expands existing ideas about the types and condition of material evidence and con- texts that we might expect to find in the field. As I’ve already noted, the debris created as a resuit of various manufacturing processes especially is worthy of our attention, and is less likely to have a form or shape recognizable to the uninformed. From the natural and material sciences archaeologists gain backgronnd about the makeup of the natural world, its operative processes, and the things that these processes are capable of producing. How do henna} products differ from what humans create using natural resources? How can we teii if a rock has been shaped by humans or simply modified by some natural process? Is the landscape we are examining a natural one or has it been shaped in some way by humans? As simple as it may sound, a lot of archaeological evidence can be recognized in the field as a result of answering ‘no’ to the question, is it natural? The question can be appiied to landscapes, features of the landscape, rocks and minerals, plants and animals. it shonid be apparent that having background in the subjects that l’ve summarized above would be helpfnl, but detailed knowledge of the natural world is essential. The exam— ples beldw illustrate my point. All of the rocks in Figure 2.5 have had their exterior surfaces worn smooth by being tumbled for a iong peri- od of time in a stream. All have been subsequently used as hammerstones in the fashioning of chunks of rock into tools. This left distinctive damage on the ends of THE ARCHAEOLOGlCAL RECORD AND THE Racocwmos or EWDENCE 27 the cobbles that wore through their stream—smoothed exteriors. The isolated location of this damage distin» guishes them from cobbles that might have experienced accidental battering in nature. The accidental battering would have damaged a greater number of areas on the cobbles. Is the stream—rolled cobble shown in Figure 2.6 an artifact? It has no Visible damage, use wear, or signs of intentional modification. There are no residues on its surfaces. is it an artifact? The correct answer would be, FIGURE 2.5: Stream-rolled cobbles that have been used as hammerstones in the manufacturing of stone toois. FIGURE 2.6: A stream-rolled cobble exhibiting no damage or intentional modification. The context in which an object is found can lead to its identification as an artifact. _._28 I' CHAPTER Two ‘it.. depends on where it was found.’ Found in a streambed or along the banks of a river with hundreds or similar objects, the cobble is easily interpreted as a product of nature that has never been made, used, or altered by a human. It makes sense in the context in which it occurs. What do we say about this selfsairie cobble when found on a mountaintop where geologists and environmental scientists tell us no stream, river, or glacier has ever flowed? In this context it is identifiable as an artifact. Its presence on the mountaintop is the product of human activity by default. We may never be able to say what the cobble was to be used for, why it was transported to the mountaintop, or what it may have meant to the person who transported it. But our understanding of the natural World and context makes it recognizable as an artifact. Without a prior understanding of regional geology you might not recognize all of the rocks depicted in Figure 2.7 as artifacts. The rock is a Miocene sandstone that weathers at a dramatic rate once freshly broken or worked and left exposed at the surface. Area archaeol- ogists often ignored the material in their work until they began finding artifacts with easily recognizable shapes made from it, and realized what they had been missing. Vegetation can be considered as an artifact in some cases, and provides evidence suggesting the presence of archaeological features. Old—growth cedar trees along the Northwest Coast still show scars from where Native Americans systematically removed wood from them for planking generations ago (cg, Stewart 1996). Historic archaeologists are wary of ornamental plants, shrubs, or trees growing in aimamral settings or contexts that may be near former house sites, linear or patterned arrangements of old trees hinting at road alignments, property or field boundaries (cg, Schlereth 1980: E47459). The spruce trees seen in the foregroend and background of Figure 2.8 are out of place in this upland environment that typically supports a temperate decida— ous forest. In this same cluster are apple and pear trees. All are out of context in an environment not altered by humans. The trees flank the location where a stractore belonging to a 19th—century farmstead once stood. Patterned growth in vegetation or crops (crop marks) can also provide clues about what types of archaeologi- cal featores may exist below ground. Below—ground fea~ totes influence vegetation at the surface because they have an impact on drainage characteristics and soil chemistry. Things like hackfilled pits, cellar holes, or FIGURE 2.7: Highly weathered prehistoric artifacts (top row) of Miocene sandstone from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and freshly broken pieces of the same material (bottom row). THE ARCHAEOLDUICAL Recoso AND rHE Recoomriou OF EVIDENCE 29 FIGURE 2.8: The Spruce and fruit trees in this photograph are not species typically found in the forests that develop in this type of upiand environment. They are intentional plantings flanking the former location of a 19th—century structure. buried foundations might hold water longer than the sur— rounding undisturbed soiis, and thus foster thicker or lusher vegetation at the surface (cg, Figure 2.9). Or these features might retain less moisture than the sur— rounding matrix and be nutrient—poor, so the vegetation growing over them would be thin or stunted in compari— son with surrounding vegetation. In either case, the resnit is patterned growth that appears unnatural to the eye. In some cases, patterned vegetation indicative of subsur- face features can be seen from the ground. A lush stand of ferns growing over a backfilled weil is easily spotted. Examining landscapes from the air or evaiuating aerial photographs provides the best results when large features are involved, like stroctures or entire settlements. Archaeological features may be recognizable as anomalies in soil color or texture at the surface, as well as beiow ground in excavations. The dark stain in which the person is standing in Figure 2.10 is the former loca« tion of a dump or inidden associated with a late prehis— toric Endian farming village, 18WA23. The dark color of the sediments relates to the high degree of organic mate» rial that was discarded and decayed here when the vil— lage was in existence. The stain corresponds with the highest densities of pottery and bone fragments found on~site. The tops of backfilled pits, or any archaeological feature that originally involved a subsurface disturbance, can sometimes be visible as soil anomalies at an existing surface. This is most often the case in plowed or culti— vated fields where subsurface deposits are periodicaily churned to the surface. Features recognizahie as soil anomaiies are usually encountered in excavations. Natural processes layer sediments and soiis in specific ways (Figure 2.1 Ea). Sediments and the soils that develop fiom them take on a number of characteristics as time passes. They become more compacted and can develop structure (aggregates of soil particles, see chapter 7). Humans do all sorts of things to disturb the natural status quo, like digging pits for the storage of goods, the disposal of trash, the burial of the dead, the construction of foundations, welis, and drainage facilities. This dig— ging interrupts or breaks the natural layering or stratigra— phy in the ground (Figure 2.3 lb). It can also atter the degree of compaction or structtn‘e of the soii removed from the pit, and mix sediments that were once part of discrete layers with different colors and textures. The hackfilling of a pit, whether intentionai or the result of natural processes, contributes to the mixing of sediments and layering that is different from the undis- turbed stratigraphy surrounding the pit (Figure 2.1ic). Even if someone tried to put the excavated sediments 30 CHAPTER Two “Wm-WW FIGURE 2.9: The dark-colored rings (20—25 feet in diameter) visible in the grass in fiont of thercomfield probably mark the loca- tion of wigwamdike structures at the Miley Site in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Excavations in the nearby cornfield reveaied rings of postmolds describing structures of the same size (MacCord and Rodgers 1966) The loca- tion of the former walls of these houses have an effect on the ahility of the soil to retain moisture. The dark—colored rings are where grass was more well-watered, and thus greener/darker than the surrounding growth. FIGURE 2.10: The derk~colored stain in which the person is standing is the former location of a damp or midden associated with a late prehistoric Indian fanning village along Antietam Creek in western Maryland. Sediments, too, can be aitifacts if they are modified or altered by humans. G. Natural Layering Or Strotigmphy b. Excovoted Pit Disturbs Natural Strotigmphy c. Pit Bockfilied d. Buifdup Of Deposits Over Pre-Existing Surface FIGURE 2.11: The creation of a pit feature recognizable as a soil anomaly. back into the ground in the same order in which they were naterally arranged, it would be difficult to replicate the degree of compaction or structure of the original, undisturbed strata. Backfilling can also incorw porate new sediments and artifacts, differentiating pit {131 even further from the adjacent, undisturbed stratig- raphy. As time passes, the top of the bachfilled pit can be obscured by other deposits and soil development (Figure 2.11d}, An archaeological excavation adjacent to our hypo— thetical pit would begin by removing the first visible layer or stratum (Figure 2.1221). At the base of this first Recognizing a pit feature in an excavation unit. excavation level we would see the consistent color and texture of the undisturbed subsoil. An excavation tinit opened over the location of the pit feature would encounter a different situation {Figere 2.1%). With the first layer removed, the floor of the unit wouid Show a square pattern of sediments with a color and texture distinctive from that of the surrounding matrix. The top of the backfilled pit is revealed. FIGURE 2.? 2: THE ARCHAEOLOGECAL RECORD AND THE RECGGNITION or EVEDENCE 31 Planview a. Undisrurbed natural sediments seen in excavation after The removal of the surface layer. Planview b. Top of pit feature revealed as a soil anomaly after the removal: of the surface layer The recognition of pit features or other excavations can be complicated by the character of the natural stratig— raphy. Pits dug into single sedimentary layers= or through layers that are similar in color, texture, and structure may not result in a coiored anomaiy, visibie because of its contrast with the surrounding matrix. These features are discernibte, however, as textured or structural anomalies. Also, be aware that a variety of nonceltural processes 32 CHAPTER Two can create and later til} hoies in the ground, or create subsurface disaubances. Again, knowledge of the natural world and your archaeological skills wifl help you dis— tinguish between natural and cultural phenomena. The stepped “mound” in Figure 2.13 will be recog— nized as an “artifact” or “feature” by many of you. You may even have contributed to its construction, or one like it. It is a landfill of succesive layers of garbage and sediment fiii, and represents a constructed type of land- scape. it is identifiable as an artifact of liurnan activity because it is manual in the context of the naturai landscape or topography. Aithough of modern vintage, this exampie underscores the importance of knowing natural trends in topography and what causes them, When I first saw the “mound” pictured in Figure 2.14 I was so excited that I almost drove my car into a ditch. I was doing fieid work and gathering data to write an Indian prehistory of a large valiey system in western Maryiand. The mound stood out as unnatural in the context of the locai topography. For months I had pored over topographic and geotogic maps and spent countless hours driving and hiking around the valiey to learn about the natural environment. {had a great sense FIGURE 2.13: The stepped mound seen here is a part of a sanitary laudfiil. It is a modern example of a humannbuilt iandscape/ artifactffeature. of what should be nature}. My documentary research had turned up references to buriai mounds that had once been in the area but had been destroyed by farmers and curiosity seekers over the years. The couple in the nearby farmhouse fed any excitement when they told me that, yes, everyone called it an indian bariai mound, but no one had ever dug into it. What a find! Even the project geologist was convinced it was the real thing when he first saw it. Soon though, our knowledge of the natural world changed our opinion about the mound. Upon closer inspection we noticed portions of exposed bedrock on one side of the mound and auger borings into its top reveaied a natural layering of sediments, not the unnat— ural stratification that one would expect from humans inounding earth a basketload at a time. Further research showed the mound to be an unusual geological feature, an erosional remnant of the surrounding sandstone and shale bedrock. I later discovered other examples of the same phenomenon during my field werk. This doesn’t denigrate the usefulness of understanding the natural world in archaeological field work, it dramatically underscores it. FIGURE 2.14: The feature shown in this photo was originally thought to be an Indian mound because of its unnatural appearance in the context of the surrounding landscape. Soil and geologic analysis indicated that it is actually an unusual natural, not cultural feature. " __ IMPROVING YOUR SKILLS _ Developing the skills useful in the recognition of I archaeological evidence is a career-long endeavor. Being a voracious reader and a consumer of ethnographies and I ' archaeological texts is a tremendous help. There are innu— ' merahie television programs, videos, and films dealing -. with ethnographic and archaeological subjects. Aithough I the interpretive quality ofthese productions varies greatly, they are nonetheless fall of images of material culture, a '3- past and present. Visit museums. in many areas of the country there is always some type of cultural resource management study in progress. Contact your State Historic Preservation Office to learn about ones taking place in your area. These projects often make provisions for public tours and displays, and occasionally volunteer opportenities. Even spending a single day as a volunteer on an archaeological site (see chapter 10) will enhance your understanding of artifacts and features. Those majoring in anthropology and archaeology in college will have access to a variety ofrelevant courses. APPLYING YOUR KNOWLEDGE - THE ARCHAEOLUGECAL RECORD AND THE RECOCNETiON or EVIDENCE 33 Many schools now offer coarse work in sediments, soils, and geomorphology (landscape evolution) designed for the archaeologist. If you haven’t already taken an intro— ductory course in physical geology, physical geography, or earth science, do so. If you don’t already, Spend more time outside. Buy field guides for the trees, plants, and animals for the region in which you iivo and spend time learning their names and how to recognize them. Which plants prefer wet liahitats, which prefer dry? Are all of the species in your area native ones, or have some been introdaced? Think about Why the character of a forest or field changes over space. Buy the 7.5 minute series topographic map and a geologic map fer an area that you freqeent. Take them with you on walks and refer to them constantly. This will give you a better idea of how mapped data trans— late into three-dimensional landscapes and other features. Areas of steep topography, the banks and channels of streams, may provide yon with a View of rock deposits. Chapters 4 and 6 provide background on these types of maps and their uses. 1. if you are taking an archaeology course or participating in a field school, ask your instructor to arrange a trip to your state museum or State Historic Preservation Office to examine the artifact collections stored there. Your instructor may also know artifact collectors who wouid be willing to have their collections examined. ls) . Try your hand at experimentally replicating one or more of the technologies that you will likely encounter in the field (cg, stone boiling, flint loiapping, pottery construction). Don’t expect instant success. The greatest value of this exercise is to acquaint you with production processes, the debris it can create and how it differs from things produced in natiire. Remember that the waste byproducts/artifacts involved in production are more numerous and better represented in archaeoiogical deposits than the finished end products. 3. Spend a day cataloging activities that you observe around you that have the potential to transform the landscape, and therefore, an archaeological deposit. What kind of activities are the most widespread? Which are the most destructive? 4. Visit a park or other open space available to the public. Tour the area on foot and try to identify land— scapes, piants, and animals there that don’t seem to be a part of the natoral environment. Explain your reasoning for why you think these things are out of context. Continued 34 CHAPT£R Two 5. Select and read an ethnography dealing with a North or South American culture. The purpose of the exercise is to describe what an archaeological site representing a settlement of your culture might look like. What are the natural processes that might have resulted in the burial or nonbun’al of artifacts and feattnes? What types of artifacts and features are on~site? How are they distributed? How do they reflect or not reflect the activi- ties and behaviors that once occurred oil—site? To what degree do the deposits at your site reflect other por- tions of the culture’s territory and the activities performed at other types of settlements? Where did the mate— rials irorn which the artifacts are manufactured ofiginate in your culture’s world? 6. There are a variety of archaeological sites on state and federal lands that are open to the public that you might visit to get a feel for their setting and variety. The National Parlc Service and state departments of parks and recreation are sources of information on such locations. There are also publications that provide information on many of the more wail—known places open to the public. I’ve listed a few of these below. Each is mindful of the fact that sites are fragile resources and need to be treated with care. ' DIG DEEPER Touring Archaeological Sites 0 Wilson, Josleen. 1980. The Passionate Amm‘enr 39 Guide to Archaeology in the United States. New York: Collier Books. 0 McDonald, Jerry N. and Susan L. Woodward. 1987. Indian Mounds of the Atlantic Coast: A Guide to Sites from Maine to Florida. Newark, OH: McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company. o Woodward, Susan L. and Jerry N. McDonald. 1986. Indian Mounds of the Middle Ohio Volley: A Guide to Adena and Ohio Hopewell Sites. Newark, OH; McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company. Formation Processes o Schiffer, Michael B. 1996. Formation Processes oftke Archaeological Record. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. This is the single best place to start your study of formation processes. Read Schiffer then move on to the other works noted below and those listed in their bibliographies. An earlier version of Schiffer’s text (1987) was published by the University of New Mexico Press. 0 Goldberg, Paul, David T. Nash, and Michael D. Petraglia (eds). 1993. Formation Processes in Archaeological Context. Monographs in World Prehistory No. 17. Madison, WI: Prehistory Press. 0 Micozzi, Marc S. i991. Postmortem Change in Human and Animal Remains: A Systematic Approach. Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, IL. Cl For more background on the role of chemistry, archaeology, and artifact preservation check out the following references. a Lambert, Joseph B. 1997. Traces ofthe Past: Miroveiing the Secrets of Archaeology Through Chemistry. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. ' Continued THE ARCHAEOLOGECAL Recon!) AND THE RECOGNITEON or EViDENCE 35 {3 There are a variety of texts that deal with natural processes and their implications for archaeological research. For a good introduction i recommend the following reference. a Waters, Michael R- 1992. Principles ofGeoarcliaeology: A North American Perspective. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. {I} If you are looking for schools that offer specialized course work relaiing archaeoiogy to geology, geomorphob ogy, or sol} science (collectiveiy referred to as geoarchaeology), check out the Guide to Anthropology Departments pubiished by the American Anthropological Society, Washington DC. The guide lists faculty and their interests, which will give you a hint about the feces of the department. You can then look for websites for appropriate schools where course listings and descriptions may be oniine. The Archaeornetry Laboratory at the University of Minnesota (Duluth) publishes a directory of graduate programs in archaeological geology and geoarchaeology. Remember that in many cases you can take college courses Without being enrolled in a degree program. Contact the Continuing Education department of the school in which you are interested. Artifacts and Related Technologies CI The following references provide textual and pictorial introductions to different types of material culture and the processes underlying them. a Andrefsky, Wiiliam Jr. 1998. Lirlrics: Macroscopic Approaches to Analysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. a Hodges, Henry. 1971. Artifacts: An Introduction to Early Materials and Technology (4th ed). London: John Baker. 0 Miller; George L, Olive Jones, Lester/I. Ross, and Terecita Majewslci (compilers). 1991. Approaches to 'Maierial Culture Research for Historical Archaeologists. California, Permsyivania. Society for Historical Archaeology. 0 Noel—Hume, Ivor. 1974. A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 9 Rice, Prudence M. 1987'. Pottery Analysis: A Sourceooolc. Chicago: University of Chicago i’ress. a Rye, Owen S. 1981. Pottery Technology Taraxacum Manuals in Archaeology 4. Washington, DC: Taraxacnm. 0 Sutton, Mark Q. and Brooke S. Arkush. 1998. Archaeological Laboraton Methods: An Inn’odaciion (2nd ed). Dnbuque, IA: Kendalllflcnt Publishing Company. a Tumbaugh, Sarah Peabody and William A. Turnbaugh. 1997. Indian Baskets. Atglen, PA: Scliiffer Publishing Ltd. I Wendrich, Willeiriina. 1991. W720 Is Afi’aid of Baslcetry: A Guide to Recording Baskeo'y and Cordage for Archaeologists and Ethnographers. City the Netherlands: Centre for Non—Western Studies, Leiden University. a Whittaker, John C. 1994. Flintlmapping: Making and Understanding Stone Tools. Austin: University of Texas i3ress. o Wissernan, Sarah U. and Wendell S. Williams. i993. Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials. Langhome, PA: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers. ...
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