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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Saturday: September 24, 2011

Week 2: Archaeological Sediments (continued)


Being Labor Day, there was no class.


We discussed what geoarchaeology is, namely using geosciences to answer archaeological questions. Geosciences typically work at massive scales, but for archaeology the largest scale is a macro-region. An example could be all of North America, or more specific such as Eastern United States. A regional scale is smaller, such as Indiana, or specifically the Ohio River Valley. An archaeological site varies depending on the research question and could mean a specific cave dwelling, a village occupation, or multiple villages in close proximity. The smallest level of archaeological inquiry is at the stratum level – the layers of dirt and sediments in which archaeological sites are contained. This is where geoarchaeology comes in handy.

In order to understand fully what questions can be answered with geoarchaeology, however, we need to have a full grasp of the field’s study materials so we continued talking about sediments. There are three kinds:

  • Clastic (those derived from parent minerals or rocks, such as gravel)
  • Chemical (those created through precipitation from a solution, such as travertine)
  • Organic (those created from organisms, such as sea shells or nut shells)
They then can be classified further by identifying composition (clastic, chemical, and organic), texture (clay, silt, sand, gravel, pebble, cobble, boulder), and physical characteristics (surface features, sorting characteristics, roundness or angularity, and form).
We also held class discussions over the intro and first chapters of the book and three assigned articles (see the Library for bibliographic information).
  • Archaeological Sediments in Cultural Environments
  • Socializing Geoarchaeology: Insights from Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice Applied to Neolithic and Bronze Age Crete
  • Archaeological Sediments in Coastal Environments
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