Archaeology Assignment: Oral Presentation & Essay

Our class is not meeting today, Tuesday, November 24.

Choose either (1) or (2) for your essay (3 pages minimum) and oral presentation. Please send me an email by Sunday, November 29, about what you plan to do your presentation and essay on. Enjoy the holiday! ~ Dr. Chew

Click on “read more” for a list of Terms to Know from class on Friday, November 20.

The presentation should be 5 minutes long. While you can simply read from your paper, you should (for full credit) seek to think about how most effectively to present its content and ideas in a presentation format (with visual aides, for instance). Presentations will be given on Friday, December 4th, and the paper is due the last day of class (December 8th, Tuesday).

Assignment #1: The Problem of Dating

Consider this scenario: some mysterious disease wipes out the U.S. and all the population dies but all buildings remain intact. This happens two weeks from today. Your are to look at the building you live in and determine what an archaeologist 2000 years from now would say about the date of the building. Some assumptions you can make: this hypothetical archaeologist is hopelessly backward and only knows the dating techniques that we know today. Second assumption: All paper (all) will completely deteriorate but that all other material will preserve well.

Among the questions you should answer are:

1. What will the archaeologist use to date the building?

2. When will she conclude the building was built?

3. When will she conclude the building was abandoned?

4. What are the sources of error in her conclusions?

You will be graded not only for the accuracy of the dates, but for the accuracy and elegance of your logic and for the variety of ways you come up with to establish your construction and abandonment dates.

Remember also that after an atomic blast, techniques such as radiocarbon dating will be of no use to you. So keep in mind how this mysterious disease might change things. The more specific you can be about the material evidence left for you to investigate, the better.

Assignment #2: Artifacts and Inferences

Archaeologists use artifacts discarded in a location to infer the activities that went on there. You are to report on a simple experiment that relates activities with the artifacts that are left behind.

1. Find a Location: This should be a public location, such as a public park, a classroom, or an outside area on campus. Define a specific area of interest, no larger than about 25 feet by 25 feet (for example, 10 feet on either side of a picnic table, bench, newspaper stand, coffee bar, desk or whatever). The measurements don’t have to be exact; you can pace it off or just estimate.

2. Location: In a sentence, identify the location (e.g., the blue bench around the tree near Dineen Hall in the Saint Peter’s College courtyard).

3. Map. Draw a sketch map of your area. A sketch map can be in pencil and need not be drawn to scale or be of publishable quality, but it should be clear and show the major features, such as tables, trash cans, planters, trees, grass, or sidewalk.

4. Artifact Inventory. Look carefully all over the area you have laid out for discarded items on the ground or in formal disposal areas (e.g., a trash can). Your artifact inventory should consist of a list of artifact classes (5 or so classes should be sufficient; e.g. snack wrappers, bottles , or discarded pieces of paper) quantified in relative terms (e.g., rare, moderate, or common).
– Present this data in a simple table.
– Also think about whether different classes of material are found in different parts of your area. Are bottles more often found in trash cans and candy wrappers on the ground, that is:
Bottles = rare
Snack wrappers = common
Unidentified paper = common
– Also consider the materials used in the artifacts that you find: Are some bottles made of plastic, others of glass? Can you establish a typology?

5. Inferred Behavior. Describe in a paragraph what the trash that you have recorded implies about the behavior occurring in this area and why you draw those conclusions. Include some relative statements about frequency (e.g., common eating of snack items). Don’t describe what you’ve seen go on here, but what you infer based only on the trash.

6. Observed Behavior. Finally, spend 10 minutes observing the area you have selected and describe in a short paragraph the behaviors you observe and their relative frequency, recognizing that your 10 minutes may not be representative of all of the activities that take place in this location.

7. Contrast. Briefly discuss the relationship between your inferred and observed behaviors and how you would account for any differences.

8. For the essay part of this assignment, expand on your report by referring to the other archaeological concepts we have discussed in regard to religion and ritual; the archaeology of settlement; material culture and economics; social archaeology. That is, based on your findings of the artifacts and features, what can you infer about the above four topics?

Terms to Know
social archaeology
ascribed status achieved status
segmented societies
the Delian League


About kristinachew

classicist | translator (of ancient Greek & Latin poetry & drama) View all posts by kristinachew

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