BU CAS AR 100 - Ch1: Principles of Archaeology

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What ties us to the past are trends in our development as a technological species – growth, diversification, and specializationGrowth – increasing number of people on the planet and greater complexity of human technology and organizationDiversity – variable roles and social relationships that exist in society and in the kinds of environments our species inhabitsSpecialization – tools and techniques used to obtain food and manufacture objectsStory of past is then the story of these changes over time; change from small, local groups of people to large nation-states involved in global trade, warfare, and politics.Archaeology is the study of our human past, combining the themes of times and changeChange in our biology and change in behavior over timeArchaeology is the closest thing we have to a time machineFirst need introduction for comprehending our human past – themes of time and change – along with basic methods and principles of archaeologyBig Bang Theory – at first there was nothing, but then with the explosion, helium and hydrogen were thrown into the universe and eventually began to compact and create starsStars gave rise to the heavier elements of carbon, oxygen, magnesium, silicon, sulfur, and the other elements – more stars are created and eventually so are the planetsEarth formed about 4.6 billion years ago – among the chemicals in the oceans there were a combination of atomsAble to reproduce itself and live, life emerged 4 billion years agoThis life was then able to reproduce and reproduce, eventually becoming more complex and elaborate – developed metabolic and sexual reproductive functionsSystems for eating and internal metabolism enabled organisms to obtain energy from other life-formsSexual reproduction allowed for a tremendous diversity in offspring and, thus, a greater capacity for adapting to changing environments and conditionsPlants appeared in the oceans and spread to the land – photosynthesisSwimming cooperatives of molecules moved to the land – fish, amphibians, reptiles, insects, mammals, and birds spread outThen came the human beingGeological TimeUniverse believed to be 10 billion years old – Earth roughly 4.6 billionArchaeologists deal with the time period of humans being on the Earth – roughly 6 or 7 million yearsArchaeologists use geological time, but have also created a means of reckoning time that reflects changes in human behavior and artifacts – system of chronologyInvolves decisions such as Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron AgeGeologists deal with the history of the earth and distinguish a series of eras representing major episodes – usually separated by significant changes in the plant and animal kingdomsPrecambrian [origin  600 million years ago] – single celled organismsPaleozoic [540 m.y.a.  245 m.y.a.] – first vertebrate species: fish and the first amphibiansMesozoic [245  65] – the Age of the DinosaursCenozoic [65  now] – expansion of modern mammals, birds, and flowering plantsCenozoic Era further divided into 7 epochs – only the last four are relevant to the evolution of the human speciesMiocene: [25  5.5 m.y.a.] witnessed first humanlike ancestor near the end of the epochPliocene: [5.5  2] variety of hominines appearPleistocene: [2  0.01] series of major climatic fluctuations; completely modern forms of the human species appeared towards end of epochRecent/Holocene: (or Postglacial or Present Interglacial) [11,000 years ago] witnessed origins of agriculture, the first cities, and the industrial age, including our present timeChange, modification, variation – themes describing the path of evolution from first self-replicating molecules to the fully modern humans of todayMost evolution on Earth is marked by biological evolution from one species to another in order to adapt to changeWe have a second system of adaption – involves learned behaviors: Culture – means of human adaption based on experience, learning, and use of toolsAllows us to modify and enhance our behavior without a corresponding change in our genetic makeupAs a consequence – biological evolution and natural selection alone cannot explain the culturally acquired traits of the human speciesPrehistoric period is characterized by both biological evolution and culture developmentsBiological changes dominated our first several million years of existence – Evolution was highlighted in changes of movement, body size, teeth, and the size and organization of the brainCultural traits through learning occurs much more rapidly than Darwinian evolution – past 100,000 years have been marked by cultural rather than biological changesBiological EvolutionTheory of natural selection – formulated by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace – describes the process of changeDarwin and Wallace influenced by Thomas Malthus, who observed that growth rate of human population potentially exceeded the amount of food available – famine, war, and disease limited the size of human populations – Not everyone who was born survived to reproduceDarwin coined the term natural selection to account for increase in offspring of those individuals who did survive – introduced concept in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859)surviving individuals because of certain advantageous characteristics they possess – better adapted to the world“survival of the fittest” – continual change in the speciesEvolutionary change is often described as differential reproductive success, and natural selection is the principal, though not the exclusive, mechanism responsible for itViews on process of evolution change over time – debate over level in populations at which selection operates, the pace of changeStephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge of Harvard University describe uneven pace as “punctuated equilibrium”Some changes gradual, others abrupt and suddenIn one sense, archaeology is the investigation of the choices that our ancestors made as they evolved from the first humans to the historical presentPiecing together history from the archaeological standpoint can be frustrating because the clues to past human behavior are enigmatic – broken, decomposed, and often missingIt’s like a detective storySubject matter is highly diverse and highly human – high range of interestsChemistry, zoology, human biology, ceramics, classics, computers, experiments, geology, history, stone tools, museums, human


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BU CAS AR 100 - Ch1: Principles of Archaeology

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