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Archaeology Method and Practice.

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Presentation on theme: "Archaeology Method and Practice."— Presentation transcript:

1 Archaeology Method and Practice

2 ARCHAEOLOGY Locating Sites The Excavation Investigating the Evidence
Dating Methods

3 LOCATING SITES How do we know where to find archaeological sites?
Sometimes they are obvious (eg. Colosseum) However, most are found by chance.

4 LOCATING SITES Chance vs Investigation
Chance finds are common, lost sites may be exposed by natural elements such as weather, or by human activity such as farming, construction, warfare, fishing, dredging etc. Eg. Pompeii was found when a drain was constructed in late 1500’s.

5 In 1974, workers digging for a village water project in China found some strange pottery items. Their discovery led to the unearthing of the great Terracotta Army.

6 LOCATING SITES Investigation is actively looking for a site. There are several methods used by archaeologists. Written Documents: old maps, ancient texts Scientific Methods: Aerial photography, Surveying, Satellite imagery, Photographic Probes. Trial Trenches: usually 1m by 1m “test” pits across a site.

7 Satellite Imagery of Angkor Wat temple complex, Cambodia

8 EXCAVATION What happens on a dig?
The excavation is a process of recovering, collecting and recording information. There are many steps to the process of excavation. Once a site has been located and a decision is made to excavate, the site director selects a team of experts. Some experts used on a dig: Cartographer Anthropologist Epigrapher Architect Botanist Numismatist Geochemist Radiologist Climatologist Zoologist Pathologist Papyrologist

9 EXCAVATION The Excavation team Title Job Description Director
Supervises dig, maintains site records. Assistant Director Care and allocation of equipment. Finance. Site Supervisor Responsible for specific section of the site. Labelling of artefacts and recording relevant information. Diggers Unearth items, clear soil from around artefacts. Recorders Record position of artefacts, enter details in a log. Measurers Record location of artefact at the site, measure dimensions. Washers Wash artefacts. Sifters Sift excavated dirt to locate small finds. Photographers Record finds and strata profiles. Surveyors Survey the site, draw up layout of site. Lab Experts Preserve / repair artefacts. Illustrators Scale drawings of artefacts.

10 EXCAVATION Methods of Excavation: a) Grid Excavation
This is where the site is divided into squares of boxes in a given size. Each square is numbered and then excavated leaving a wall (called a baulk) in between. Each baulk provides a vertical record of the layers that have been dug through. The layers are called strata and each one is labelled with everything found in them.

11 BAULK Profile of a Baulk



14 EXCAVATION b) Open-area excavation
This is where the site is uncovered layer by layer. Different strata are not revealed.

Generally, a site depends on the principle of Stratigraphy; That each settlement on a site will leave a layer of debris. Normally, the oldest strata will be the deepest. Stratigraphy can become very complex, due to movements of the earths crust and intrusions (such as wells or pits).



Archaeologists follow three basic stages of investigation. The archaeologist asks question at each stage of the investigation to determine the relevance and reliability of the evidence.

Stage 1: OBSERVATION Collection of information. - Where was it located? - Who used it? - Purpose / function? Stage 2: CLASSIFICATION & RECORDING Place objects in correct context Record important information. - Is it authentic? - What can be learnt from it? - Does it relate to other evidence? Stage 3: INTERPRETATION Draw conclusions by looking at the evidence and studying patterns that may emerge.

20 DATING THE PAST Prehistory & History
Historical Times Prehistory = before civilisation (writing) History = Since Writing

21 DATING THE PAST Historical Dating The measurement of time
Calendars have been used based on natural events, eg. sun and moon, Ancient Egyptians based time on the annual flooding of the Nile. Based on written documents. (After 3500 B.C) Most used is based on Christ’s life. AD (anno Domini,) and BC (Before Christ)

22 DATING THE PAST Relative vs Absolute Dating Methods
Relative Dating = Gives a general idea of the time period an artefact comes from. Often dated through chronological sequence (in relation to something else) Absolute Dating = Gives an absolute date in calendar years (also called scientific dating)

23 (Earliest Old Stone Age)
Iron Age 1,000 BC Bronze Age 3,000 Copper Age 5,000 Neolithic (New Stone Age) 9,000 Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) 10,000 Upper Palaeolithic (Latest Old Stone Age) The Three Age System: Stone, Bronze, Iron 30,000 Middle Palaeolithic (Middle Old Stone Age) 100,000 Lower Palaeolithic (Earliest Old Stone Age) 2 Million

TYPE? DESCRIPTION? USES? Stratigraphic Typology Seriation Three Age system The study of layers in the earth (strata). The oldest is at the bottom. Classifying objects according to their characteristics. Compare scientifically dated objects. The arrangement of artefacts in a chronological sequence. 3 stages of technological development by humans – Stone age, Bronze age and Iron Iron age, Grid excavation. Sites where geological change is noted. Inside test pits. Items found in large quantities eg.pottery Artefacts found in large quantities – similar uses to typology dating Anything made by humans out of stone, copper, bronze or iron.

25 Typology of Turkish Pipes


27 DATING THE PAST Absolute Dating Methods 1. Radiocarbon Dating
All living things absorb isotope carbon-14 from the atmosphere. At the point of death this process ceases. C-14 begins to decay at a known rate > 5730 years half is decayed (“half life”) By measuring the amount of C-14 left in an organism, scientists can tell when it died, therefore its age. Dates expressed in + or – BP. That means: something could be 2000 years + or – 100 years Limit is 50, 000 years.

28 How C14 Dating Works

29 DATING THE PAST Absolute Dating Methods 2. AMS Dating
Recent development in radiocarbon dating Can date very small amounts of material containing C-14 Will extend radiocarbon dating back to 100,000 years First absolute dating method used in Rock Art. (pigments of paint from ochre trees or charcoal)

30 DATING THE PAST Absolute Dating Methods
3. Tree-Ring Dating (Dendrochronology) Dates timber objects Counting the growth rings of a tree Most species ring annually or every two years. Comparing overlapping trees (in age) can reveal a continuous sequence for thousands of years.

31 Dendrochronology (Tree Ring Dating)

32 DATING THE PAST Absolute Dating Methods 4. Thermoluminescence Dating
Used to date pottery and clay that has been fired Clay gives off radiation. This displaces electrons which become trapped in the structure of the clay. When re-heated, electrons go back to original positions, giving off light. The light is measured to determine age of the clay since firing. Dates to 35,000 years

33 DATING THE PAST Absolute Dating Methods 5. Potassium-Argon Dating
Used to date volcanic rock Similar to radiocarbon dating Volcanic rock contains potassium-40 which converts to argon-40 as it ages. Half life of 1.3 billion years Useful in dating fossil remains (human and other) embedded in volcanic rock.

34 Which Dating Method? CHOOSE THE METHOD OF DATING FOR THE FOLLOWING, AND STATE WETHER IT IS A RELATIVE OR ABSOLUTE DATING METHOD. Inscription on a stone wall Stone tool from Africa found without any other material Human remains found in a tomb Wooden beam found as part of Viking ship A glass bottle found during an excavation The Great Pyramid in Giza Aboriginal rock art painting Piece of charred bread from stomach of a bog body A group of stone tools varying in style A collection of pottery from a site in Athens Single pottery piece from Sparta A bronze axe from Italy Papyrus paper from Ancient Egypt A fossil of a hominid jaw from East Africa A coin found at Byblos in Lebanon Seed residue from a stone hand axe

35 Research and explain how the following dating methods work
Carbon 14 (radiocarbon) dating Potassium – Argon dating Dendrochronology Thermoluminescence dating

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