Each time an archaeological site is brought up in class, in a film shown in class, or in a slide presentation keep in mind the following:
Historic Period means a period in which the cultures in question have a documentary record and in which writing has a full impact both on the cultures being studied and on the scholarship of the investigations. When records are capable of altering the basic methods and techniques of studying past societies, then we are dealing with historical archaeology.
Historical Archaeology is the archaeology of European culture throughout the world since the 16th Century and its impact on indigenous peoples. This includes the spread of Asians and Africans since it was a direct result of European expansion.
In class when a new site is presented or a film is viewed -- Things that you should look for and remember:
1. Name of site
2. Type of site
3. Time period
4. Archaeologist in charge of project
5. Questions being asked
6. How questions were answered (if they were)
7. Excavation techniques used (procedures and equipment)
8. Material culture recovered:
a. Artifacts - portable objects used or made by humans
b. Features - usually observable features in the soil, normally not removable
c. Ecofacts - plant, animal, pollen, phytoliths, charcoal, etc.
that provide information on subsistence and the environment.
d. Structures / ships
e. Human skeletal material
9. Types of documents used and what data they provided
10. Major contributions to our understanding of archaeology/history of the time period/area.
Three major goals stated for historical archaeology (Orser & Fagan, p. 56) are:
1. To provide information useful for historic preservation and site interpretation;
2. To document the lifeways of past peoples;
3. To study the complex process of modernization.
Lifeways is defined as the day to day activities characteristic of a society or culture.
Modernization is one way of saying archaeologist are interested in studying the changes in institutions in cultural systems and looking at the process by which human culture changes through time.
As noted in class, interpretations in historical archaeology result from the integration of field excavation results, the study of recovered material culture, and the use of documents.