Susan Foster McCarter, "Introduction to Archaeology"
The T-ac-ing Company | 1996 | Course No. 193 | 24 lectures | 45 minutes / lecture
AVI, DivX, 640x480, 29.97 fps | MP3@128 kbps, 2 Ch, 48.0 kHz | 4.25 Gb
Language: English | Genre: eLearning
Have you ever found yourself, perhaps after visiting a museum, an art gallery, or a historic site, wanting to know more about a long-lost civilization, a fortress that was bitterly fought over ages ago, or a ruined city sitting mute but poignant in the midst of what was once a thriving human world but is now a trackless jungle or a lonely plain?
If such experiences have gripped your imagination, then you have probably also wondered how, more generally, groups of human beings dealt at different times and places with the challenges of their environments, and how, in turn, the environment shaped past peoples across the unchronicled millennia of human prehistory.
Writing was invented only about 5,000 years ago. Since scientists can trace humanity s origins back 500 times as far-to almost 2.5 million years ago-sometimes the desire to explore questions like these cannot be satisfied by the pages of written history. The place for you to turn, as this course will show, is to archaeology.
Part meticulous empirical science and part inspired detective work, archaeology seeks answers about the obscure reaches of the past by using techniques and insights from a wealth of other fields, including geology, anthropology, history, physics, art history, and even philosophy-along with long hours in the field studying the physical traces that our forebears have left behind.
Windows Into the Past
Your guide to the study of archaeology is Dr. Susan Foster McCarter (Ph.D., Brandeis University), an affiliate of the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She also lectures for the Smithsonian Institution s Resident Associates Program.
With decades of teaching and field experience as well as a special scholarly interest in prehistoric Aegean sites on Cyprus and Crete, Dr. McCarter shares with you her expertise and her love for finding windows into the past.
The goals of the course are to explain key archaeological concepts and practices, and to illustrate how archaeologists reconstruct the past, especially the prehistoric past (before the invention of writing), says Dr. McCarter. Archaeology is a science, and archaeologists are trained in many subdisciplines. They reach their conclusions by careful research. This is not true of pseudoarchaeologists, who use selected archaeological information to support preconceived ideas about the past.
Archaeology is a recent science; until about 100 years ago, all excavation was licensed looting. But some collectors were as interested in understanding the ancient cultures that had produced the works of art they collected as they were in the art itself. We refer to such collectors as antiquarians-people who recovered ancient remains more to preserve the past than for personal enjoyment.
The first scientific excavation occurred in 1784 when Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 17 years before he became president, excavated native burial mounds according to the Law of Superposition (the earliest remains are those which were laid down first, and the latest remains are those which were laid down last). He recorded everything he found and published his data. Essentially, Jefferson conducted a modern scientific excavation.
As the 19th century progressed, antiquarianism set the stage for scientific archaeology. You will learn about General Augustus Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers, Sir Flinders Petrie, Sir Arthur Evans, Alfred Kidder, and George Bass-British and American founders of the scientific methods of archaeology.
Scientific Archaeology has three goals:
to describe and classify what is found
to figure out the function of what is found
to explain how and why ancient cultures changed over time.
Discover the Archaeological Process
Along with history and basic concepts, much of the course s first half, The Archaeological Process, introduces you to the ways in which archaeologists find, excavate, preserve, and date valuable sites (using everything from tree rings and changing pottery styles to atomic technology) and the assemblages of artifacts associated with them. You learn about such topics as:
why archaeological surveys must cover the same ground at several different times of day
how archaeologists learn volumes from discards and garbage
why ceramic artifacts are so important to the study of the past
how the presence of glaciers assists archaeological research in Scandinavia.
Some sites, such as the pyramids in Egypt, have always been known. But most sites are far less conspicuous. The method used by archaeologists to find over 70 percent of sites is called archaeological reconnaissance, or site survey.
Survey begins with gathering published information about the area to be studied. Archaeologists then go to the area and walk over it, recording what they find. Surveys can be enhanced by the use of aerial photography and various scientific sensing methods. An archaeologist uses the information gathered through the survey to decide whether to excavate, and if so, where.
In addition to surveying, Dr. McCarter discusses in depth topics such as:
scientific dating methods
analyzing the meaning of remains
methods of excavation.
Interpreting Archaeological Finds
In the second half of her series, Interpreting Archaeological Finds, Dr. McCarter shows you how archaeologists use evidence to formulate and test hypotheses about the past. You will learn how archaeologists debate among themselves the question of change-the primary process they study-and about the competing theories that can be devised to explain the same concrete pieces of evidence.
For early archaeologists, Dr. McCarter points out, classification was the most important aspect of research. Today, although classification is no longer the archaeologist s main concern, it remains a fundamental aspect of processing excavated archaeological material.
By examining finds from the past, archaeologists can amass data about social and cultural practices, populations, diet, disease, age and sex, and causes of death.
You will learn what is discovered by examining such items as:
Professor McCarter also discusses how we can track the rise and fall of civilizations through evidence gleaned by scientific excavations.
These days, archaeology is part of popular culture. Museum displays are aimed at the general public. Mass tourism now visits ancient sites. Archaeology receives extensive publicity through popular writing and journalism and even contributes to home entertainment through prime-time programs.
Archaeology today, Dr. McCarter concludes, faces dilemmas posed by the destruction of thousands of unexcavated sites and by ethical questions hanging over the disposition of remains and artifacts, but continues to provide us with a priceless picture of how our past unfolded and our present came to be.
Course Lecture Titles
Lecture 01 What is Archaeology?
Lecture 02 The Scientific Underpinnings
Lecture 03 Historians, Treasure Hunters, and Antiquarians
Lecture 04 The Fathers of Scientific Excavation
Lecture 05 Preservation of Archaeological Remains
Lecture 06 Stratigraphic and Sequence Dating
Lecture 07 Seriation, Ancient Sources, and Sediments
Lecture 08 Dating Using Flora and Fauna
Lecture 09 Radiocarbon and Potassium-Argon Dating
Lecture 10 Other Scientific Dating Methods
Lecture 11 Archaeological Survey
Lecture 12 Excavation
Lecture 13 Interpreting Finds
Lecture 14 Stone Tools
Lecture 15 Pottery
Lecture 16 Bones
Lecture 17 Features and Structures
Lecture 18 Reconstructing Ancient Cultures
Lecture 19 Archaeological Theories about Change
Lecture 20 Paleolithic Art
Lecture 21 The Neolithic Revolution
Lecture 22 Catal Huyuk
Lecture 23 The Rise of Civilizations
Lecture 24 Archaeology and Ethics
No Mirrors Please!