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Chapter 2: The Record of the Past
I. The Goals of Archaeology
A. Constructing Culture History
Box 2.1: Discovery: The Folsom Bison Kill Site, New Mexico
B. Reconstructing Ancient Lifeways
Box 2.2: Site: Sounds of the Past
C. Explaining Cultural Change
II. The Process of Archaeological Research
Box 2.3: Doing Archaeology: An Archaeologist’s Ethical Responsibilities
A. Research Design
B. Data Acquisition
E. Publication and Curation
III. What is Culture?
IV. The Archives of the Past: The Archaeological Record
V. Preservation Conditions
A. A Waterlogged Site: Ozette, Washington
B. A Dry Site: Puruchucho-Huaquaerones, Peru
C. Cold Conditions: Nevado Ampato, Peru
D. Volcanic Ash: Cerén, El Salvador
Box 2.4: Discovery: Tragedy at Cerén, El Salvador
A. Time and Space
B. The Law of Association
C. The Law of Superposition
This chapter focused on the fundamental principles of archaeology.
Archaeologists have a primary responsibility to conserve the past for future generations.
Archaeology’s other goals are to construct cultural history, reconstruct ancient lifeways, and
study processes of cultural change.
The process of archaeological research begins with a research design, and then proceeds
to data collection, analysis, interpretation, and publication of the results.
Archaeologists study ancient cultures, with culture being, in part, the shared ideas that
human societies hold. Culture is also our primary way of adapting to our environment.
Many archaeologists think of human cultures as cultural systems made up of many
interacting subsystems, these cultures being part of much larger ecosystems.
The study of cultural processes involves interpreting the ways in which cultures change
over long periods of time.
The archaeological record consists of the material remains of human behavior, a finite
archive of the past, which has a context in time and space.
The chapter defined some of the components of the archaeological record and the widely
differing preservation conditions that can affect our knowledge of the past.
All archaeological finds have a context in time and space, defined by the laws of
association and superposition.
Topics for Classroom Discussion
1. Discuss with your students the concept of cultural ecology. Have students determine some
cultural-ecological relationships. Perhaps you could divide your class into different teams,
which would be assigned different environments and different levels of technology from
which to work. Have each group propose where exactly they would live (e.g. near a river,
lake, in the foothills, etc.) and why. Furthermore, have them explore the carrying capacity of
the land for their level of technology. Have them propose just how many people could live in
a family, village, or other group depending once again on technology. Finally have each
team critique the other team’s presentations.
2. Review the scientific method with your students. Have them pick some problem in
archaeology or anthropology. Assign your students a project and have them prepare a
research design for the problem they chose. Go as far as having them cost out their project,
including all costs for labor and food.
1. View a photo of the Tollund Man to explore the fascinating preservation possible in the peat
bog environment: http://www.tollundman.dk/
2. Review the modern research design by Clemens Reichel, Ph.D. and note its features:
3. Look at “Archaeology Explorer” for an excellent review of this discipline. What elements of
this website relate to this specific chapter? How?
Multiple Choice Questions
1. Which best defines the concept of culture history?
a. Cultural anthropologists have built up a picture of the past through time.
b. The record of the human past described and classified in a context of time and space.
c. This process is the secondary stage to any archaeological investigation.
d. Culture history represents a stratigraphic survey.
2. Tollund Man was a human sacrifice of the early
a. Protestant era.
b. Christian era.
c. Minoan era.
d. Jewish era.
3. What definitive proof did Jesse Figgins have for the habitation of North America
as early as 10,000 years ago?
b. a projectile point
d. written records
4. Method(s) people use to make their living or to acquire their food is
a. an economic system.
c. hunting and gathering.
d. a cultural ecological model.
5. Chavín is a maze of subterranean passages and water channels, a shrine where rituals of
transformation turned ___________ into animals such as the jaguar, transformations depicted
on the temple walls.
6. Which city in the Valley of Mexico was a trading center for the Mesoamerican
7. The correct order for the process of archaeological research:
a. discovery, research design, analysis, data collection, publication, interpretation
b. discovery, research design, data collection, publication, analysis, interpretation
c. research design, discovery, analysis, data collection, publication, interpretation
d. discovery, research design, data collection, analysis, interpretation, publication
8. What process requires knowledge of culture history, environment, and lifeway data?
a. culture process
b. data acquisition
9. What is the most important part of any archaeological project, large or small?
a. data acquisition
c. research design
10. Surveying a tool-scatter on a parcel of land or excavating a large-scale archaeological site are
both forms of
a. data acquisition.
c. research design.
11. What step of the archaeological process pulls together all the data, tests the propositions in
the research design, and represents the conclusion?
a. data acquisition
c. research design
12. All members of the family Hominidae are
a. Homo sapiens.
13. The primary means by which we adapt to our natural environment is
14. What are ancient writings featuring pictures or ideographic symbols?
15. The system of behavior in which every individual participates is the
a. cultural environment.
b. cultural process.
c. cultural condition.
d. cultural system.
16. The remains of an archaeological site and the activities that unfolded there from the surviving
a. tell us a nearly complete story of the past.
b. are what we call the archaeological record.
c. continue to unfold as the materials are always incomplete.
d. challenge us all to think of our own cultures.
17. Humanly and naturally caused changes in an archaeological site are known as
a. cultural processes.
b. natural processes.
c. transformation processes.
d. artifactual temporal shifts.
18. The objects manufactured or modified by humans
a. are artifacts.
b. represent the material culture of all humanity.
c. pertain to our creative ability.
d. do not in and of themselves prove our humanity.
19. What term relates to food remains, such as animal bones, seeds, and other finds, which throw
light on human activities?
20. Context is
a. the two-dimensional measurement of an artifact.
b. the three-dimensional location of an artifact.
c. the exact position of a find in time and space.
d. the cultural model necessary for understanding the usefulness of an artifact.
21. What type of technology did archaeologist Payson Sheets use to locate houses buried
underneath the ash at Cerén in El Salvador?
a. subsurface radar
d. mortar and pestle
22. Provenance or provenience of an artifact is determined by
a. analyzing the artifact in the laboratory.
b. creating a random sampling technique designed to possibly find other similar artifacts.
c. measuring the exact position of every find and feature three-dimensionally.
d. determining the former cultural function of the artifact.
23. What type of context occurs when a group allows the dead to remain unburied until the
corpse has decomposed, then buries the bones in a bundle in a communal burial chamber?
a. primary context
b. secondary context
c. tertiary context
d. quaternary context
24. The law of association allows that objects in direct contact
a. must be related to each other in time and space.
b. may or may not be related to each other in time or space.
c. must be related to each other only in the time axis.
d. requires an instant analysis to determine spatial-temporal association.
25. The law of superposition comes from what subdiscipline?
c. stratigraphic zoology
d. stratigraphic geology
26. The well-preserved body of the Tollund Man was laid to rest
a. in a Danish peat bog.
b. on the floor of the Amazon Forest.
c. in a Bolivian tin mine.
d. below many feet of frozen ground in the Italian Alps.
27. What type of preservation condition can preserve everything except flesh, feathers,
d. volcanic ash
28. The thousands of mummies buried in the Puruchucho-Huaquerones cemetery are
decomposing because they are located beneath
a. a flooding riverbed.
b. a melting glacier.
c. a shantytown.
d. volcanic ash.
29. What type of preservation condition can preserve nearly every element of an
d. volcanic ash
30. Herculaneum and Pompeii were both destroyed in A.D. 79. What type of
preservation did they undergo?
d. volcanic ash
31. What is culture history? How is it important to our understanding of the past? What were its
failings? What do we do now to improve on that process?
32. What is subsistence? What types of subsistence activities might be discovered by
archaeologists in dry conditions? What can subsistence activities tell us about the society?
33. Give an example of archaeologists trying to explain cultural change. How can they complete
34. List and explain the steps of the process of archaeological research.
35. What are archaeologists’ ultimate goals? Why are these responsibilities ultimately important
1.b,31 2.b,45 3.b,32 4.b,33 5.a,34 6.c,33 7.d,37-40 8.a,36 9.c,37 10.a,39 11.d,40
12.b,41 13.c,42 14.d,42 15.d,42 16.b,43 17.c,43 18.a,44 19.b,45 20.c,45 21.a,50
22.c,51 23.b,51 24.a,52 25.d,54 26.a,45 27.b,46 28.c,46 29.c,48 30.d,49