Archaeology "studies human cultures through the recovery, documentation and analysis of material remains and environmental data, including architecture, artifacts, ecofacts, human remains, and landscapes."
It is the study of human activity in the past, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes (the archaeological record).
Archaeology studies human history from the development of the first stone tools in eastern Africa 3.4 million years ago up until recent decades. (Archaeology does not include the discipline of paleontology.) It is of most importance for learning about prehistoric societies, when there are no written records for historians to study, making up over 99% of total human history, from the Palaeolithic until the advent of literacy in any given society.
Def. the "period of time that has already happened" is called the past.
"[D]ominant groups create and control the meanings and uses of material culture. If other groups wish to be understood by the dominant group, they must express themselves through the goods controlled by the dominant group."
"But, the privilege afforded a certain dominant group of 'normal' archaeologists in terms of their ways of constructing the past influences all aspects of archaeological practice."
"However, some answers to these questions may emerge from a consideration of the dominant group, that is, the five institutions whose scholars published the most articles in the two periodicals."
Def. an assemblage of surfaces that are a portion of land, region, or territory, observable in its entirety is called a landscape.
Landscape comprises the visible features of an area of [terrestrial ecoregion] land, including the physical elements of landforms such as (ice-capped) mountains, hills, water bodies such as rivers, lakes, ponds and the sea, living elements of land cover including indigenous vegetation, human elements including different forms of land use, buildings and structures, and transitory elements such as lighting and weather conditions.
Landscape archaeology is the study of the ways in which people in the past constructed and used the environment around them. Landscape archaeology is inherently multidisciplinary in its approach to the study of culture, and is used by both pre-historical, classic, and historic archaeologists. The key feature that distinguishes landscape archaeology from other archaeological approaches to sites is that there is an explicit emphasis on the study of the relationships between material culture, human alteration of land/cultural modifications to landscape, and the natural environment.
Archaeological field survey is the method by which archaeologists (often landscape archaeologists) search for archaeological sites and collect information about the location, distribution and organization of past human cultures across a large area (e.g. typically in excess of one hectare, and often in excess of many km2).
Surveys are conducted to search for particular archaeological sites or kinds of sites, to detect patterns in the distribution of material culture over regions, to make generalizations or test hypotheses about past cultures, and to assess the risks that development projects will have adverse impacts on archaeological heritage.
The surveys may be: (a) intrusive or non-intrusive, depending on the needs of the survey team (and the risk of destroying archaeological evidence if intrusive methods are used) and; (b) extensive or intensive, depending on the types of research questions being asked of the landscape in question. Surveys can be a practical way to decide whether or not to carry out an excavation (as a way of recording the basic details of a possible site), but may also be ends in themselves, as they produce important information about past human activities in a regional context.
Excavation is the exposure, processing and recording of archaeological remains. An excavation site or "dig" is a site being studied.
Def. an "object, such as a tool, weapon or ornament, [ceramics or pottery,] structure or finding in an experiment or investigation ... made or shaped by some agent or intelligence, ... [as] a result of external action, the test arrangement, or an experimental error ... rather than an inherent element" is called an artifact, or artefact.
In June 2014, the Precolumbian Chiefdom Settlements with Stone Spheres of the Diquis was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
The culture of the people who made them disappeared after the Spanish conquest.
The first scientific investigation of the spheres was undertaken shortly after their discovery and published in 1943 in American Antiquity, attracting the attention of Samuel Kirkland Lothrop of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. In 1948, he and his wife attempted to excavate an unrelated archaeological site in the northern region of Costa Rica. In San José he met Doris Stone, who directed the group toward the Diquís Delta region in the southwest ("Valle de Diquís" refers to the valley of the lower Río Grande de Térraba, including the Osa Canton towns of Puerto Cortés, Palmar Norte, and Sierpe.
The Dropa stones or discs may be a series of at least 716 circular stone discs, dating back 12,000 years, on which tiny hieroglyph-like markings may be found. Each disc is claimed to measure up to 1 foot (30 cm) in diameter and carry two grooves, originating from a hole in their center, in the form of a double spiral.
In "Serbia [are] the oldest copper implements in the world. Some 7000 years ago, tradesmen of great wealth flourished on the Balkan peninsula."
"The soil around Plonik is rich in copper - the metal in a pure state lays often directly at the surface."
The so-called "copper-violets" "are related to the Alpine violets, which we know in Germany from flower pots. But they grow only in a soil with a very high copper content. There - where the soil is too poisonous for the other plants, they blossom in wide carpets - and in so doing point to the presence of copper."
In "the late stone age people picked up the beautiful stones. For instance, malachite. The green-hued mineral belongs to the class of carbonates. Copper content: 57 percent. Our ancestors made experiments with different stones over the fire. From there, it was only a small step to jewels and to more practical objects."
On "the Black Sea Coast in today's Bulgaria, there flourished a prosperous, big city, quite close to today's Varna. Archaeologists have found the cemetary of this settlement. The graves were loaded with treasures: jewels - mostly gold, but also copper - sea shells from the Aegean and tools made of types of stone which must have come from far away."
"In the 5. Millennium BC people lived there in complex, centralized settlements of up to a thousand inhabitants. They invented a new ceramic oven with two chambers which was remarkably well suited to the extraction of metal. We must strongly surmise that there existed relations between the Balkans and Northern Mesopotamia."
"An enormous fire unleashed itself around 5000 BC in the city [of Plonik]. The earth carbonized. The houses collapsed and buried all the possessions of the inhabitants under their walls. When the flame died down, the city had ceased to exist."
In "the deep Southeast of Europe, near today's village of Plonik in Serbia, there existed 7000 years ago a major city. Its inhabitants lived in closely assembled huts and they melted copper to make jewels, tools and weapons."
"The age of the oldest pieces which they have found up to now in the settlement is up to 7300 years. That's a good 800 years older as any other copper implements which have been found anywhere on Earth to this day."
"The people of the Balkan peninsula had a good knowledge of how they could create jewels, tools and weapons out of earth with a high copper content."
"In Plonik, excavators found hatchets of copper. And weapons: axes and maces. With them a new area began. The stone age was gone, the copper age - chalcolithic - had begun."
"From one grave, the excavator dug 1,516 K of gold jewelry. This is more gold than has been found in all the rest of the world for this particular epoch."
"In order to interpret archaeological ceramic assemblages in terms of social identities, a method was developed [that] consists in sorting the potsherds according to, successively, technical, techno-petrographic and morpho-stylistic criteria."
"Rare, though, is the country where ethnic groups balance each other in terms of numbers, wealth or political influence and, consequently, it is not uncommon for the dominant group to use its power to push its own heritage to the fore, minimizing or denying the significance of subordinate groups as it crafts a national identity in its own image."
Historical archaeology is a form of archaeology dealing with places, things, and issues from the past or present when written records and oral traditions can inform and contextualize cultural material. These records can both complement and conflict with the archaeological evidence found at a particular site. Studies focus on literate, historical-period societies as opposed to non-literate, prehistoric societies. While they may not have generated the records, the lives of people for whom there was little need for written records, such as the working class, slaves, indentured labourers, and children but who live in the historical period can also be the subject of study. The sites are found on land and underwater. Industrial archaeology, unless practiced at industrial sites from the prehistoric era, is a form of historical archaeology concentrating on the remains and products of industry and the Industrial era.
In the image on the right, dense forest surrounds the city center of this Classic-era Maya site (top) Tikal. Laser mapping of the same view (bottom) reveals structures and causeways hidden by the jungle.
"Lidar (a type of airborne laser scanning) provides a powerful technique for three-dimensional mapping of topographic features."
"Lowland Maya civilization flourished from 1000 BCE to 1500 CE in and around the Yucatan Peninsula."
"In 2016, the Pacunam Lidar Initiative (PLI) undertook the largest lidar survey to date of the Maya region, mapping 2144 km2 of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala."
"Analysis identified 61,480 ancient structures in the survey region, resulting in a density of 29 structures/km2. Controlling for a number of complex variables, we estimate an average density of ~80 to 120 persons/km2 at the height of the Late Classic period (650 to 800 CE). Extrapolation of this settlement density to the entire 95,000 km2 of the central lowlands produces a population range of 7 million to 11 million."
"Settlement distribution is not homogeneous, however; we found evidence of (i) rural areas with low overall density, (ii) periurban zones with small urban centers and dispersed populations, and (iii) urban zones where a single, large city integrated a wider population."
"The PLI survey revealed a landscape heavily modified for intensive agriculture, necessary to sustain populations on this scale. Lidar shows field systems in the low-lying wetlands and terraces in the upland areas. The scale of wetland systems and their association with dense populations suggest centralized planning, whereas upland terraces cluster around residences, implying local management. Analysis identified 362 km2 of deliberately modified agricultural terrain and another 952 km2 of unmodified uplands for potential swidden use. Approximately 106 km of causeways within and between sites constitute evidence of inter- and intracommunity connectivity. In contrast, sizable defensive features point to societal disconnection and large-scale conflict."
“The new lidar data show that interconnected Maya cities go back to at least 300 B.C.”
The prehistory period dates from around 7 x 106 b2k to about 7,000 b2k.
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