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© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following students supplements are available with the
• The Kottak Anthropology Atlas, available shrink-wrapped
with the text, offers 26 anthropology related reference
• The Student's Online Learning Center features a large
number of helpful study tools and self quizzes, interactive
exercises and activities, links, readings and useful
information at
• PowerWeb, available via a link on the Student's Online
Learning Center, offers help with online research by
providing access to high quality academic sources."
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
This chapter introduces students to the field methods and research
methods employed by physical and archaeological anthropologists. It
pays special attention to the field methods, braches of research, and
Methods and Ethics in Physical
Anthropology and Archaeology
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
• Many physical anthropologists and archaeologists work in foreign
• Researchers must create and maintain proper relations between
themselves and the host nations, regions, and communities where they
• The AAA Code of Ethics states that anthropologists should recognize
their debt to the people with whom they work and should reciprocate
in appropriate ways.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
• Researchers should include host country colleagues in their research
planning and requests for funding.
• Researchers should establish collaborative relationships with host
country institutions and colleagues before, during, and after their
• Researchers should include host country colleagues in dissemination of
the research results.
• Researchers should ensure that something is “given back” to host
country colleagues.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Multidisciplinary Approaches
• Physical anthropologist and archaeologists collaborate with scientists
from diverse fields in the study of sites, fossils, and artifacts.
• Palynology, the study of ancient plants through pollen samples, is used
to shed light on the diet of the people and the site’s environment at the
time of occupation.
• Bioarchaeologists examine human remains to reconstruct physical
traits, health, and diet.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Remote Sensing
• Remote sensing plays an important role for locating archaeological
features not visible to the naked eye.
• In Costa Rica, images from a NASA satellite have been used to locate
buried footpaths that linked a cemetery to a spring and quarries.
• Dr. Payson Sheets of the University of Colorado in 2002 excavated
these footpaths in 2002.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Fields of Study in Biological
• Primatology
– Primatology is the close study of primates.
– Primate studies have been conducted in both zoos and natural settings.
– Like ethnographers, primatologists must establish rapport with the
individuals they are studying.
• Anthropometry
– Anthropometry is the measurement of human body parts and dimensions.
– Anthropometry can be used to evaluate a person’s fitness.
– Knowledge about how contemporary humans adapt and use energy can be
used to understand human evolution.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Fields of Study in Biological
• Bone Biology
– Bone biology is the study of bone as a biological tissue, including its
genetics; cell structure; growth; development; and decay; and patterns of
– Paleopathology is the study of disease and injury in skeletons from
archaeological sites.
– Forensic anthropologists work in a legal context to recover, analyze, and
identify human remains and determining the cause of death.
• Molecular Anthropology
– Molecular anthropology uses genetic analysis to assess evolutionary
distance among species, along with dates of the most recent common
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
• Paleoanthropology is the study of early hominids using fossil remains.
• Paleoanthropologists work to reconstruct the structure, behavior, and
ecology of early hominids.
• Working with multidisciplinary teams, paleoanthropologists locate and
excavate sites where hominid fossils are found.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Survey and Excavation
• Systematic survey provides a regional perspective on the
archaeological record.
• Survey collects information on settlement patterns (e.g., the location of
cities, towns, villages, and hamlets) over a large area (e.g., a river
• Survey is one of the ways in which archaeologists locate sites that
might be excavated in the future.
• During a survey, the team records the location, the size, and the
approximate age of the site.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Settlement Patterns
• Settlement patterns are important for making inferences regarding the
social complexity of the prehistoric communities.
– Groups at lower levels of complexity generally have lower population
densities and people living in small campsites or hamlets with very little
variation in architecture.
– With greater complexity come higher population densities (more people
living in the same space) and a variety of sites organized along a
settlement hierarchy (e.g., cities, towns, villages, and hamlets) with
increased architectural variation between sites.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
• Excavation complements the regional survey data with more finegrained data collected at the level of a specific site.
• The layers or strata that make up a site help archaeologists establish a
relative chronology for the material recovered (e.g., this pot is older
than that pot).
• The principle of superposition states that in an undisturbed sequence of
strata, the oldest is on the bottom and each successive layer above is
younger than the one below.
• Artifacts from the lower strata are older than artifacts from higher
strata, and artifacts from the same strata are roughly the same age.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
• Nobody digs a site without a clear reason, because there are so many
sites and because excavation is so expensive and labor intensive.
• Cultural resource management (CRM), or contract archaeology, is
concerned with excavating sites that are threatened by modern
• Most other sites are selected for excavation because they are well
suited to address a series of specific research questions.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Mapping a Site
• Before a site is excavated, it is first mapped and surface collected so
that the archaeologist can make an informed decision about where to
• Using the map, the archaeologist lays an arbitrary grid of one meter
squares across the site.
• This grid is used to record the location of the surface collection units as
well as the excavation units on the surface of the site.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
• Digging can be done either in arbitrary levels or by following the
natural stratigraphy.
– Using arbitrary levels is quicker, but less refined and important
information can be lost.
– Following the natural stratigraphy is more labor intensive, but also more
precise way of excavating as each layer (natural or cultural) is peeled off
one by one.
• Archaeologists use a range of techniques to recover materials from the
– All of the excavated soil is passed through screen to increase the
likelihood that small and fragmented remains are recovered.
– Flotation is used to recover carbonized and very small materials like fish
bones and seeds.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Kinds of Archaeology
• Experimental archaeologists try to replicate ancient techniques and
processes under controlled conditions.
• Historical archaeologists use written records as guides and
supplements in their study of societies with written histories.
• Classical archaeologists study the literate civilizations of the eastern
region of the Mediterranean, such as Greece, Rome, and Egypt.
• Underwater archaeologists investigate submerged sites.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Dating the Past
• Paleontology is the study of ancient life through the fossil record.
• Anthropology and paleontology both are interested in establishing a
chronology for primate and human evolution.
• Taphonomy is the study of the processes that affect the remains of dead
• Much dating depends upon stratigraphy, which is the study of the
sequence of geographical layers.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Relative Dating
• Relative dating uses the natural layers or strata to establish a relative
chronology – material from this layer is older than the material from
that layer.
• Association with known fossils is the most common method of fossil
• Fluorine dating is another relative dating technique and was used to
expose the Piltdown Man hoax.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Absolute Dating
• Whereas relative dating techniques allow you to say only what is older
or younger, absolute dating techniques produce dates in years so
differences in age can be quantified.
• Radiometric techniques are based on known rates of radioactive decay
in elements found in or around fossils.
• Examples are 14C and potassium argon (K/A) dating (both of which are
radiometric techniques), thermoluminescence (TL), and electron spin
resonance (ESR).
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Molecular Dating
• Molecular dating uses genetic materials to create an evolutionary tree
and estimates when each branching event took place.
• This method is based on the contentious assumption that genetic
mutations in humans are constant.
© 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.