Linking to the Past: A Brief Introduction to Archaeology

By Kenneth L. Feder | Go to book overview

UNIT 9


Excavating Wood Lily

Somewhere in the back of your mind, you probably have an image of the vanishing Cheshire Cat from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps you have seen Disney's animated version of the story, where the large, disconcertingly inscrutable striped cat was played with the perfect degree of disinterest by the languid-voiced actor Sterling Holloway. One minute, the cat is lounging on the branch of a tree, chatting with Alice and then, bit by bit, piece by piece, he slowly fades into translucency, and then invisibility, until all that remains is his fading smile. Finally, even the all-knowing grin vanishes without a trace. At first, you can still hear Holloway's hypnotic voice, but that too fades out and finally nothing at all is left of the cat.

Envision that bit of animation, as the Cheshire Cat slowly fades into invisibility. Now reverse that sequence in your mind. Instead of disappearing, the Cheshire Cat bubbles forth into existence, manifesting itself first as just a smile, adding the face, the torso, legs, and finally the tail. At last, as Alice might have put it, we have a complete and “proper cat.” With that reverse animation in mind, you have a nice analogy for what it is like to be an archaeologist and slowly uncover a complete artifact in the process of excavation. One of my students, Carolyn White, surely experienced this as she worked in excavation unit N25W4 on a steamy July day in 1989.

We had found lots of small, discarded fragments of chipped stone at Wood Lily. These bits of debris, called debitage, are largely produced in percussion flaking, where a hammerstone or antler hammer is used to detach flakes from a core by striking it. Interestingly, although entire, perfect specimens of tools may be more aesthetically pleasing and end up in museum displays, often we can learn more about the process of tool

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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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