Doing Archaeology and Biological Anthropology

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5 pages
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Tyler Gach
Study Guide 1-2 Kottak, Chapters 4 & 5
Chapter 4: Doing Archaeology and Biological Anthropology
1. Describe/provide examples of the multidisciplinary nature of biological anthropology and
archaeology.
Palomar.edu (n.d.) differentiated biological anthropology from archeology. Based on this
article, Biological (or physical) anthropology studies on the non-cultural aspects of humans and
near-humans. Non-cultural refers to all those biological characteristics that are genetically
inherited in contrast to learned. The primary interest of most biological anthropologists today is
human evolution--they want to learn how our ancestors changed through time to become what
we are today. He added that biological anthropologists also are interested in understanding the
mechanisms of evolution and genetic inheritance as well as human variation and adaptations to
different environmental stresses, such as those found at high altitudes and in environments that
have temperature extremes. While anthropology studies on the non-cultural aspects of
humans, Archaeology is interested in recovering the prehistory and early history of societies and
their cultures. They systematically uncover the evidence by excavating, dating, and analyzing
the material remains left by people in the past. Archaeologists search through many thousands of
pieces of fragmentary pots and other artifacts as well as environmental data to reconstruct
ancient life ways. The two is related to one another in their use of the same methods in
excavating and analyzing human skeletal remains found in archaeological sites.
2. Describe archaeologists’ field methods of survey and excavation.
Archaeological field survey is the methodological process by which archaeologists (often
landscape archaeologists) collect information about the location, distribution and organization of
past human cultures across a large area (e.g., typically in excess of one ha, and quite often in
excess of many sq. km). These include archaeological survey (reconnaissance), excavation, and
detailed analysis of recovered artifacts. Survey, or the discovery and recording of archaeological
sites or other human-created features, such as roads and irrigation systems, is usually the first
phase of archaeological research. Excavation methods are the various techniques used within
archaeology to dig, uncover, identify, process, and record archaeological remains. Archeological
excavation involves the removal of soil, sediment, or rock that covers artifacts or other evidence
of human activity. Early excavation techniques involved destructive random digging and
removal of objects with little or no location data recorded. Modern excavations often involve
slow, careful extraction of sediments in very thin layers, detailed sifting of sediment samples,
and exacting measurement and recording of artifact location.
3. Identify the kinds of archaeology in which researchers may engage.
There are several different kinds of archaeology that the researchers may engage in: prehistoric,
historic, classical, and underwater.
4. Summarize the strengths and weaknesses of the relative, absolute, and molecular dating
methods used by archaeologists and biological anthropologists (this includes naming them
and providing examples of each).
Relative dating does not offer specific dates, it simply allows to determine if one artifact,
fossil, or stratigraphic layer is older than another. Absolute dating methods provide more
specific origin dates and time ranges, such as an age range in years. How specific these dates
can be will depend on what method is used.
5. Recall the primary areas of study in biological anthropology.
The different areas of study in biological anthropology are human biology, primatology, or
paleoanthropology. Human biology is concerned with learning about human diversity, genetic
inheritance patterns, non-cultural adaptations to environmental stresses, and other biological
characteristics of our species. Primatologists carry out non-human primate studies.
Paleoanthropologists recover the fossil record of early humans and their primate ancestors to
understand the path of our evolution.
6. Summarize biological anthropologists’ and archaeologists’ ethical obligations.
The following are the ethical obligations of anthropologists and archeologists based on the Code
of Ethics of the American Anthropological Association (1998):
a. Anthropological researchers have primary ethical obligations to the people, species, and
materials they study and to the people with whom they work.
b. Anthropological researchers must do everything in their power to ensure that their research

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