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The I, Caveman campsite through the eyes of an archaeologist Todd A. Surovell Department of Anthropology, University of Wyoming Structures.

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Presentation on theme: "The I, Caveman campsite through the eyes of an archaeologist Todd A. Surovell Department of Anthropology, University of Wyoming Structures."— Presentation transcript:

1 The I, Caveman campsite through the eyes of an archaeologist Todd A. Surovell Department of Anthropology, University of Wyoming Structures and Natural Features What was left behind? Work AreasAD Mouse over these buttons to navigate:

2 Overview Structures Natural Features The I, Caveman Camp: Structures and Natural Features Work Areas

3 This map shows the appearance of the first campsite used in I, Caveman after it was abandoned by the group. Archaeologists study the spatial organization of campsites of recent peoples to better understand ancient archaeological sites Overview Structures Natural Features The I, Caveman Camp: Structures and Natural Features Work Areas

4 Two structures occurred near the center of camp. The construction of a third was started but never completed. Structures were primarily used as sleeping areas, although the mild weather during most of the experiment permitted some individuals to sleep outside. Overview Structures Natural Features The I, Caveman Camp: Structures and Natural Features Work Areas

5 Overview Structures Natural Features Human spatial behavior is shaped both by cultural and natural features. The natural vegetation in the camp area had many effects on where people did things. Standing trees were used for the construction of equipment racks and served as support elements for the additional structures built at the site. The tree canopy provided shady areas, where the group often worked and congregated during hot times of the day. Shrubby areas were generally avoided and therefore shaped how people moved around the site. Because shrubby zones are not useful work spaces, they also served as areas for the accumulation of refuse, a pattern also observed among recent foraging peoples. The I, Caveman Camp: Structures and Natural Features Work Areas

6 Hearth Area Exterior Work Area The I, Caveman Camp: Work Areas Flintknapping Area Structures & Natural Features Left Behind

7 Hearth Area In prehistory and in I, Caveman, the hearth was a magnet for human activity because it provided localized areas of enhanced heat and light. The I, Caveman group ringed their hearth with stones, something that is not always seen prehistorically. They also delimited the hearth area pentagonally with the trunks of dead trees, which also served as “site furniture,” or places to sit. The floor of the hearth area was covered with fir boughs to provide more comfort than the hard ground surface. Many activities occurred in this area including cooking, eating, socializing, group decision making, and tool making. The hearth area was most commonly used during mornings, evenings, and at night, when temperatures were lower. Exterior Work Area The I, Caveman Camp: Work Areas Flintknapping Area Structures & Natural Features Left Behind

8 Hearth Area Exterior Work Area While the fire in the hearth served as the furnace for the campsite, the shade of trees served as the air conditioner. Although many shady areas were used for work, rest, and other activities, one major exterior work area occurred just behind the primary structure and outside of the door of the secondary structure. This area became a major focus of activity during hot parts of the day because it is relatively near to the center of camp, free of obtrusive ground vegetation, and shady. The I, Caveman Camp: Work Areas Flintknapping Area Structures & Natural Features Left Behind

9 Hearth Area Exterior Work Area Flintknapping Area The I, Caveman Camp: Work Areas Flintknapping initially occurred in the hearth area, but Lora expressed concern that it should be moved to a less used part of the site. She worried that members of the group might cut their feet on the sharp edges of chipped stone artifacts. By contrast, in prehistoric archaeological sites, flintknapping regularly occurred in high traffic zones of sites including hearth areas. Even house floors in archaeological sites are found littered with thousands of sharp flakes of stone. By contrast, a shady area on the northern edge of the campsite became the primary flintknapping area, where Billy and others could make stone tools. Flintknappers would sit on the ground, leaning against a tree trunk, and work stone. When the site was abandoned a small cluster of hundreds of flakes and a few unfinished tools remained in this area. Structures & Natural Features Left Behind

10 The I, Caveman Camp: What was left behind? Work Areas In general… Stone Bone Wood Hide AD 22011

11 The I, Caveman Camp: What was left behind? Work Areas In general… Unlike many modern peoples, nomadic foraging peoples avoid the accumulation of material possessions because everything you “own” must be carried on your back. As a consequence, when campsites are abandoned, many things are left behind. In the most general sense, they abandoned things that were impractical to be moved because they could be easily acquired or manufactured at their new campsite. They left other things behind simply because they were perceived to be unnecessary. Stone Wood Bone Hide AD 22011

12 The I, Caveman Camp: What was left behind? Work Areas In general… Stone Stone is heavy, and therefore, when it was moved between sites in prehistory, it was always done in a very selective way. The I, Caveman group behaved similarly. Three kinds of stone were abandoned at the site: natural sandstone, hammer stones, and raw material for chipped stone tools. Natural pieces of sandstone ringed the hearth, weighed down hides on structures, and were used as anvils. Pieces of sandstone were abandoned because they could be easily acquired at the new campsite if needed. Hammer stones for making stone tools are usually well- rounded river cobbles and are less common in high elevation areas. A few select hammer stones were transported to the new site. Some raw material for making stone tools was carried to the new site, although a large amount of it was abandoned at the first campsite. The group was able to effectively estimate how much stone they would need for the remainder of the experiment, and the rest, they simply left behind. Wood Bone Hide AD 22011

13 Work Areas In general… Stone Bone Wood The I, Caveman Camp: What was left behind? Quite a bit of animal bone was abandoned at the site including skulls, limb bones, and toe bones. The vast majority of the material left, however, was antler. The group found much of the bone already at the site upon their arrival, and likewise left most of it behind. While bone and antler provide excellent raw material for manufacturing a wide range of implements, like needles, awls, weapons, and flakers (for making stone tools), those tools tend to be very durable and last a long time. Accordingly, the group only chose to transport a small but useful inventory of bone items to their new campsite. Hide AD 22011

14 The I, Caveman Camp: What was left behind? Work Areas In general… Stone In the forested mountains where the group lived, wood was ubiquitous, so there was no need to carry it to the new campsite, with the obvious exception of tools made out of wood, like spears and atlatls (wooden tools can be cheaper to carry with you than to make from scratch at a new site). A woven fish trap was abandoned because it was not perceived to be useful (nor was it ever recognized as a fish trap). A large surplus of unused firewood was also left at the site. This wood represents the product of a considerable amount of labor that went to waste, in that the wood was never burned. However, hunting and gathering peoples often accumulate surpluses of wood and stone at their sites because having shortfalls of either could lead to additional costs, like the loss of fire. Thus, the small cost of maintaining a stockpile, or surplus, of firewood outweighs the potential cost of having to recreate fire from scratch, a very costly activity, energetically speaking. Wood Bone Hide AD 22011

15 The I, Caveman Camp: What was left behind? Work Areas In general… Stone Bone Wood Hide Some animal hides were taken, and others were abandoned. The skin clothing worn by the group was obviously moved to the new campsite, as were a number of hides that were used as bedding. The latter served the dual purpose of serving as “luggage” for transporting materials between sites, as many items were bundled into them. The multi-functional nature of hides is common in hunter-gather technology, since designing single tools to perform multiple functions is one way of reducing the number of items that a nomad must carry. The great majority of the animal skins abandoned at the original campsite were architectural, or the raw hides that served as the external covering of structures. Two other tanned hides used as bedding were left behind as well. AD 22011

16 The I, Caveman Camp: AD 2011 Virtually everything we know about human life in the Paleolithic is learned from the archaeological record. How would the I, Caveman camp appear to an archaeologist working 20,000 years in the future? Put the mouse over the “AD 22011” button to find out. AD Left Behind AD 2011

17 The I, Caveman Camp: AD AD Left Behind AD 2011 What happened?

18 This simple simulation provides a glimpse of the stark reality of learning about the human past through material remains preserved in the archaeological record. Most often, only the hardiest materials survive. After 20,000 years, only a few things would remain: stone, charcoal, and features, or remnants of areas of sedimentary disturbance. Two clusters of chipped stone would be present. The hearth and stone boiling pit would be evident, although the function of the boiling pit would probably remain ambiguous. Only weak indications of the presence of structure would remain. A few cobbles of sandstone would mark its perimeter, and a handful of post molds, circular stains of sediment marking the locations of decayed posts, might be present. Geological factors at the campsite are not beneficial for bone preservation. In order for bone to be preserved, it must be buried within five to ten years, and even if it were buried, the presence of acidic forest soils in the area means that it would be unlikely to be preserved. The archaeological record, then, is often but a weak reflection of the richness of human life, and presents a difficult but fascinating challenge to archaeologists who wish to understand prehistoric lifeways. Challenges like these are what I most enjoy about my chosen profession. What do you think could be learned by an archaeologist working 20,000 years in the future from this meager scatter of material remains? AD 2011 The I, Caveman Camp: AD AD Left Behind


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