Chapter 1 - Data in Archaeology

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What is dendrochronology used for?

Obtaining calendar dates for archaeological sites

Which method can be used for sites that are 10,000 years old or younger?


What does archaeometallurgy focus on?

The study of how metals were produced and used in the past

In archaeology, what is taphonomy related to?

The processes that affect an organism after death

What does bioarchaeology primarily focus on?

Examining human bones to identify features of individuals and populations

What do absolute dating methods provide along with the date for archaeological sites or fossils?

Time range within which a site or fossil can be placed

What do macrobotanical remains help archaeologists reconstruct?

Plant use by earlier people

Which of the following animals is considered microfauna in archaeology?


In archaeology, what do specialists from other disciplines contribute to the multidisciplinary approach?


What does the theoretical framework of Networks and Boundaries focus on?

Creation of alliances and community groups

What does Niche Construction Theory (NCT) propose about humans?

They actively change features of their landscape for long-term success

What kind of remains can be recovered from archaeological sites as part of macrobotanical remains?

Seeds and wood charcoal

What does Optically Stimulated Luminescence Dating measure?

The age of sediment samples

What is the main focus of Paleoanthropology?

Exploring early hominin fossils

What characterizes Paleoenvironment?

Changes in climate

How does Optically Stimulated Luminescence Dating set the 'clock' to zero?

By measuring the accumulated light in quartz grains

What does Paleomagnetism use for absolute dating?

Reversals in the magnetic pole

What does Paleoenvironment develop due to?

Changes in climate

What type of dating technique is Potassium-Argon Dating?

Radiometric dating

Which technique is specifically used to study plant pollen for various purposes?


What does Phytolith analysis primarily focus on?

Analyzing plant parts composed of silica or calcium oxalate

What does Postprocessual Archaeology emphasize?

Role of ideology and individual actions

Which time range is suitable for using the Potassium-Argon Dating technique in dating inorganic materials?

100,000 years ago to hundreds of millions of years ago

What can the alignment of magnetic particles in rock help determine?

Age of the rock layer

What is the main focus of Processual Archaeology?

Interpreting cultural changes over time

What is the primary purpose of Radiocarbon Dating?

Calculating the age of organic materials

Why must radiocarbon dates be calibrated?

To adjust for fluctuations in 14C levels over time

What is the key principle behind Radiometric Techniques?

Known rate of decay of radioactive isotopes

Which technique provides a sequence of 'older' and 'younger' but not calendar dates?

Relative Dating

What technology does Remote Sensing primarily utilize?

Satellite images, ground-penetrating radar, LiDAR

Study Notes

Absolute Dating

  • Includes methods that provide calendar dates for archaeological sites or fossil finds
  • Examples: dendrochronology, radiocarbon dating, potassium-argon dating
  • Except for dendrochronology, these methods yield dates with standard deviations, resulting in a time range for a site or fossil


  • Theoretical perspective discussing the role of the individual in shaping change in cultures and societies
  • Focuses on the actions and decisions of individuals in shaping cultural and social change


  • Study of humanity’s past
  • Includes analyses of cultural materials such as flaked stone artifacts, animal bones, prehistoric art and personal ornamentations
  • Examines settlement systems, taphonomy of archaeological sites, past social and political systems


  • Absolute dating method using variation in the Earth’s magnetic pole over time
  • Iron particles in heated clay features are aligned to the magnetic north pole at the time of firing
  • Orientation of iron particles is compared to a magnetic north pole sequence to determine an age for the firing of the feature
  • Can be used for sites that are 10,000 years old or younger


  • Study of the production and use of metals in the past
  • Includes the analysis of metal artifacts and production techniques


  • Examines human bones to identify features of individuals and populations
  • Includes the study of diet, disease, and mortality rates

Macrobotanical Remains

  • Plant remains recovered from archaeological sites
  • Includes seeds and wood charcoal
  • Useful in reconstructing plant use, including plant foods, and local environments


  • Small animals such as mice, moles, and snails
  • Valuable indicators of paleoenvironments due to their sensitivity to changes in local temperature and moisture

Multidisciplinary Approach

  • Collaboration with specialists from multiple disciplines to interpret cultural materials and natural features of archaeological sites
  • Includes specialists from archaeology, geochemistry, geology, ethnography, and chronology laboratories

Networks and Boundaries

  • Theoretical framework focusing on the creation and maintenance of alliances and the definition of political and community groups
  • Examines the ways in which individuals and groups interact and define their boundaries

Niche Construction Theory

  • Humans actively change or manipulate features of the landscape around them and resources in those landscapes
  • Applied to explain the origins of food production and of domesticated plants and animals in human societies

Optically Stimulated Luminescence Dating

  • Absolute dating technique using quartz grains extracted from sediment samples
  • Measures the light emitted from the quartz grains to calculate the last time they were exposed to sunlight
  • Provides dates for the past 10,000 to 100,000 years


  • Study of human cultural and biological evolution
  • Includes the study of early hominin fossils and biological anthropology


  • Types of environments and habitats characteristic of regions during the past
  • Developed due to changes in climate and human manipulation of vegetation and animal communities


  • Absolute dating technique using reversals in the Earth’s magnetic pole
  • Measures the alignment of magnetic particles in rock to determine the age of the layer
  • Useful for sites dating to 780,000 years ago and older


  • Study of plant pollen to better understand past environments, human impact on environments, hominin diet, and climate change


  • Microscopic plant parts composed of silica or calcium oxalate
  • Shapes and sizes specific to particular plants
  • Preserve well and can lend insight into plant use, plant foods, and local environments at archaeological sites

Postprocessual Archaeology

  • Theoretical perspective emphasizing the study of particular cultures and their histories
  • Focuses on the role of ideology and the actions of individuals
  • Does not stress the use of scientific methodology

Potassium-Argon Dating

  • Radiometric dating technique providing absolute dates based on the half-life decay rate of 40K into 40Ar
  • Used in dating inorganic materials such as lava flows or tuff beds
  • Provides bracket dates for archaeological sites and hominin fossil finds

Processual Archaeology

  • Theoretical perspective using social, economic, and environmental dynamics to interpret cultural changes over time
  • Based on the use of scientific methodology

Radiocarbon Dating

  • Absolute dating method using the decay rate of 14C to calculate the age of organic materials
  • Dates materials from the past 40,000 years, and possibly up to 60,000 years ago
  • Requires calibration due to fluctuations in the amount of 14C in the Earth’s atmosphere over time

Radiometric Techniques

  • Dating techniques using the principle of a known rate of decay of specific radioactive isotopes into stable isotopes over time
  • Examples include radiocarbon dating and potassium-argon dating

Relative Dating

  • Techniques providing a sequence of “older” and “younger” rather than calendar dates
  • Examples include stratigraphy and seriation

Remote Sensing

  • Uses technology such as satellite images, ground-penetrating radar, and LiDAR to aid in the location of archaeological sites and buried or vegetation-covered features of sites

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