Linking to the Past: A Brief Introduction to Archaeology

By Kenneth L. Feder | Go to book overview

UNIT 6

To be honest, while being spot-on in locating the Peoples State Forest site (the result of luck as well as a bit of archaeological prescience), accurately predicting the location of archaeological remains is something archaeologists do on a regular basis. There is nothing supernatural or extrasensory about it; a commonsense understanding of the settlement patterns of an ancient group of people is all one needs to perform this apparent act of magic.


How Do Archaeologists Know How Old
Artifacts and Sites Are?

People are fascinated by antiquity; the older the better for most. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that one of the first questions I hear people ask when they show me an artifact that they have found or when I talk about a specimen discovered in my fieldwork is: “How old is it?” And, indeed, that question is one of the first that comes to the mind of the professional archaeologist as well when confronted with a newly discovered site or specimen.

Would that it were the case that, like our modern coins, ancient people stamped the year of manufacture on all of their objects. Archaeological dating would be quite simple, indeed, if all one needed to do upon recovery of a spear point or potsherd was to apply a little spit to the surface or wipe with a damp cloth to reveal an object's date, though we probably would be quite skeptical of the authenticity of an object that bore a date like 2000 B.C.

Artifacts are generally not conveniently dated, so we need to assess age in other ways. For example, archaeologists have long employed procedures of artifact sequencing in their preliminary attempts to date sites. These sequencing procedures, called relative dating, whereby artifacts or sites are placed in chronological order or sequence without specific age assignment, often continue to be the first step in attempting to date archaeological material.

An arrangement of artifacts or sites into a chronological sequence is useful, but of course we hope to do more than simply put things in order; we also would like to be able to assign accurate and precise dates to the materials we

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Linking to the Past: A Brief Introduction to Archaeology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Linking to the Past - A Brief Introduction iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface xi
  • Prologue - How to Use Linking to the Past 1
  • Introduction 7
  • An Archaeological Narrative - How I Spent My Summer Vacation 14
  • Unit 1 16
  • Unit 2 43
  • Unit 3 53
  • Unit 4 82
  • Unit 5 106
  • Unit 6 124
  • Unit 7 150
  • Unit 8 165
  • Unit 9 181
  • Unit 10 192
  • Unit 11 225
  • Unit 12 249
  • Unit 13 273
  • Unit 14 297
  • Unit 15 304
  • Epilogue - Can We Reconstruct the Past? 311
  • Glossary 314
  • References 351
  • Index 363
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