32402f12 - Introduction to Archaeology: Class 12 Site...

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Introduction to Archaeology: Class 12 Site formation, linking arguments, and ethnoarchaeology Copyright Bruce Owen 2002 So now we are digging. We want to know about people, cultures, and societies but we are digging up layers of dirt and garbage. how can we get from this limited, strange evidence to answers about our anthropological questions? By using "middle-range theory" that links observations about evidence to inferences about behavior artifacts were originally made and used by people. They played a role in a functioning society. They were in systemic context not the greatest term, but we are stuck with it here refers to the setting, use, meanings, value, etc. of things as parts of a living society this is presumably what we want to know about strata, artifacts, etc. are found in archaeological context this is the relationships among them at the time of excavation (or surface collection, etc.) the artifacts and their relationships that we observe are the result both of their original systemic context and subsequent processes of disposal, burial, disturbance, etc. that produced the archaeological record that we can observe today if we want to correctly infer anything about the systemic context, we have to understand how it has been transformed into the archaeological context Formation processes : Processes that create the archaeological record may be cultural (what Thomas focuses on) and/or natural (which Thomas does not pay much attention to) Depositional processes discard casual in dumps, pits, etc. intentional burial for retrieval, as food in storage pits or a cache of coins buried in the back yard not for retrieval, as in burials of the dead, offerings to the supernatural, etc. loss abandonment and decay of buildings, walls, etc. catastrophic burial (mudslides, volcanic ashfalls, sand dunes, etc.) note that there are two kinds of deposition being discussed here: deposition of the artifacts themselves, usually by the behavior of people deposition of soil around and on top of them, either by people or by natural processes which is often (but not always) important in that it helps to protect and preserve the cultural evidence and it helps to separate artifacts deposited at different times
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Introduction to Archaeology F 2002 / Owen: Site formation, linking arguments, ethnoarchaeology p. 2 with no soil deposition, artifacts from different times would just end up laying on the same ground surface, mixed together in a way that could never be separated by archaeologists note that in many circumstances, few or no artifacts enter the archaeological record and that often, even if they do, no soil is deposited on them, so they are exposed to the sun, weather, etc. and may be poorly preserved or not preserved at all reclamation processes people taking items out of the archaeological record and returning them to systemic context for reuse eventually to go back to archaeological context again! scavenging lithic (stone) points or flakes for reuse
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32402f12 - Introduction to Archaeology: Class 12 Site...

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