Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Feb. 19: Reconstructing the Past

Feb. 19: Reading assignment for today’s class: Ashmore and Sharer, Chapter 8: “Reconstructing the Past,” Pp. 179-211.

Reconstructing the Past

Learn more about this image at The Darl Living Surface: A Transitional Archaic Camp


Past activities can never be observed, so must interpret based on comparison with other societies- living, recorded in writing (history, ethnography)
Analogy- unknown is inferred from known

Uses and abuses of analogy (e.g., Abuse (use of only one criterion))

Specific and General Analogy

Specific analogy-
1. cultural continuity,
2. comparability in environment
3. similarity of cultural form
General analogy- actualistic studies between actual behaviors and particular material remains

Sources of Analogs:
Ethnoarchaeology (living societies)
Experimental archaeology
More the analog links, more reliable-- sources such as history, enthnography, actualistic studies (experimental archaeology)

Analog + spatial order of data = reconstruction of past behavior

Learn about using GIS in archaeology at ESRI's Journal of GIS in Archaeology


Three broad areas- Techno-economic (text terms it technology, but really focuses on both technology and economics), 2. Social Systems, and 3. Ideology

1. Technology (includes economy too, so sometimes also called Techno-economic) – most direct (physical) interaction with the environment- the set of techniques and knowledge to procure raw resources and transform them into tools, food, shelter, etc. -Cultural choices using the environment- Cultural ecology.

Cultural Ecology- interaction of people/culture with the natural environment. Much of it is focused on subsistence. Reconstruct the ancient environment through observation of the current landscape (topography and biotic & mineral resources) and collection/analysis of ecofacts.

2. Social systems- roles and relationships among people, such as kinship, political structure, exchange networks, etc. - settlement patterns- spatial arrangement at different scales- activity areas, households, sites, landscapes (site cachement), regions- which data are nonlocal and represent exchanges (analogies from ethnography, economics, geography)

Two different approaches:

A. Settlement Archaeology- study of spatial distribution of ancient human activities and occupations at scales from site to regional
B. Exchange systems- ways to acquire goods and services not available locally

Spatial patterns reflect behavioral patterns-

a. single structure/household/occupation level (ex: cave floor)- activity areas (food preparation, sleep, storage) (ex: Micromorphology)

b. sites or settlements may reflect social stratification and social control (size and elaboration of residential units)

c. region (GIS helps)
-reconstruct function of each component in the settlement system and look at ways the components fit together into system (social network)
-Regional Analysis (from economic geography)
Locational Analysis- located in place where maximum number of resources can most efficiently be used with least amount of effort, natural environment and also neighboring groups
Central Place Theory- as landscape fills with people, settlements tend to be evenly distributed, and central places- settlements with wider goods and services, arise at regular intervals in overall distribution- pattern tends to be hexagonal-lattice, like honeycomb
==Most recently broadest scale also focuses on the landscape, relationships among all cultural and natural features on the land
--Symbols attached to natural features in the land, such as mounds and rock art locations

3. Ideology- ideological systems- knowledge and beliefs as way to explain the world and meaning of life --most difficult to approach in archaeology- few material remains- symbols (symbolic archaeology) but difficult to be sure of the interpretation- writing IF present can help but many societies did not have writing, --rock art, pottery decorations, archaeoastronomy- study of ancient astronomical knowledge from material remains (observatories, medicine wheels, solar year, lunar phases, and stars), etc. can all help with this. Worldviews underlying concepts- three vs four, etc

The Goal of Archaeology is to reconstruct and understand past lifeways- most complete reconstructions should take into account all three areas—although technology-economy are the easiest areas to investigate, and social organization is not far behind, the reconstruction also should attempt to work with the ideological sphere as well, though as an immaterial aspect of culture (though its products often have material results), ideology is much more difficult and less amenable to the scientific method which was developed for material aspects of reality (and some scientists believe that materiality IS the only reality!)

Reading assignments for next class on Thursday, Feb. 21: Ashmore and Sharer, Chapter 9: “Understanding the Past,” Pp. 212-237 and Chapter 11, “Old Time Religion – New Age Visions,” pp. 278-310.

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