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Chert connections

Thursday: July 14, 2016

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I read an article recently about my generation, and how we don’t necessarily match up with Generation X, and I’ll burn anyone who claims we are Millennial (no offense – it’s not your all’s fault). Rather, I am a Generation Y-er and one of our defining characteristics is that we grew up with the internet. Not that we grew up with the internet the way that Americans now grow up with TV, but rather, we were growing during the internet’s own growth. We were just shy of being adults when it went mainstream, and we took to it like ducks to water. It was new, and therefore shrouded in magical mystery. Yet, at the same time, a lot of mistrust was cast over it and everyone you met online was automatically a creep (even though you yourself were online, ha!). I am eternally grateful to have been born in this era because it allows for awesome things like connecting to people far across the globe.

On that, I was contacted today by Dr. Crandell about an old post I had written in which I mentioned an article of his. I’ve since updated it, so if you are interested in geoarchaeology and chert identification, please check it out! I’ve linked to his more thorough paper on the topic, all in English. (The form I originally linked to had been translated into Romanian for that article.) Thank you, Dr. Crandell!

Now this reminds me that I’ve got a student wishing to do an independent study with me from a site where we found a lot of chert flakes (did I mention here that I took my archaeology class to do a pedestrian survey at a farm and definitely found a prehistoric site? More on that, some day). If the landowner does not get back to me before the semester begins to let us continue our investigation, this article would be a good substitute should I need to shift the study into a lab methods course rather than field methods. [And lastly, today I renewed my contract for another year as visiting lecturer, for better or for worse… More on that later, also.]

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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Friday: May 31, 2013

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This is a waaaay long overdue post I found in my drafts:

Week 11: Human Impact on the Landscape

Monday:

We talked about the basics of stone tool analysis (mostly involving chert because that is the most common source). There is a lot of theory that can go into this, but most of the intpretations are framed within a life history approach. That is, how the stone was 1) procured, 2) manufactured into a tool, 3) tool use, 4) tool maintenance or recycling into other tools, and 5) discard.

We also had a lab to identify chert types. We were given examples that Dr. M had collected in Indiana. Part of the assignment was to use two different forms to catalogue the chert. Otis Crandell was one of the first to provide a way to standardize a catalogue system for chert, and his form is very thorough. Unfortunately, some confusion exists because of the translation (originally published in Romania, I believe). The other form we used came from Indiana University. Unlike Crandell’s, which came with an article to define how to record each variable, this form was singular. Some of it was easier to follow, but the layout was very crowded and I doubted that I was recording things properly since I did not have reference material. Of course, this likely is not a problem for someone who works with chert or other rock types regularly as the lingo would not be so foreign to them.

Wednesday:

Class discussion over Chapter 9 and:

  • Formation Processes of the Archaeological Record (Chapter 6)
  • The Structure of Archaeological Theory
  • Geoarchaeology in Action
(See the Library for bibliographic information.)
***UPDATE***
Dr. Crandell graciously contacted me to point me to a more in-depth article on chert identification. I direct you here: Macroscopic and Microscopic Analysis of Chert – A Proposal for Standardization of Methodology and Terminology. Happy analyzing!
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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Wednesday: November 2, 2011

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Week 9: Aeolian Environments

Monday:

Remember that open note, open book, open internet test I mentioned? That was on the docket for Monday. Obviously this post is behind, but he has not finished grading them yet. I did hear from him that he has checked out 2 of 5 answers from my test and so far I have an A. Woot!

Wednesday:

 Normal class discussion. Chapter 6 and these three articles (see the Library for bibliographic information):

  • Eolian Environments: Sediment Erosion, Transport, and Deposition / Sand Dunes / Loess and Dust / Stone Pavements / Eolian Erosion / Volcanic Ash (Tephra)
  • Sand Dune Morphodynamics and Prehistoric Human Occupation in NW Ireland
  • Geoarchaeology of Dissected Loess Uplands in Western Illinois

One day, if I get more free time, I shall discuss what the big picture from the groups of articles actually is. For now, I settle with a simple inventory.

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Geophysics at Lew Wallace

Wednesday: November 2, 2011

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I was able to attend another digging weekend at Lew Wallace (bonus – it doubled as extra-credit!). This time, Dr. M worked with a team from IPFW (Dr. McCullough and Colin Graham) to collect geophysical data. I mostly sifted dirt with undergrad Kylie or helped clean up the trench with archaeologist Anne M in preparation for next season. Anna, another grad student, worked with Dr. M taking measurements with a total station. The other undergrads worked with the IPFW team for most of the day.

Archaeology at Lew Wallace

The epic study of Lew Wallace. Note the colored flags - they were used to delineate survey areas.

Archaeology at Lew Wallace

Dirt sifted through a screen. Ooooo.

Archaeology at Lew Wallace

Anne and I in the "reflecting pool" that is unexpectedly deep.

Later, Kylie and I helped Colin take magnetometry readings by creating the path for him to walk along. First, he calibrated the machine above the earth’s surface for a base measurement to be used as a comparison. Then he walked the path as we moved it across the area to be scanned, taking overlapping parallel recordings. Once that was finished, he imported the data to a computer and checked out the preliminary results which I got to see. I tell you, it is much cooler seeing geophysics in action than reading long and dense articles on the subject!

Archaeology at Lew Wallace

Colin calibrating the magnetometer.

Archaeology at Lew Wallace

Kylie and I setting the path for Colin's next recording. (The excavation unit is seen next to me.)

I was also lucky enough to check out their ground penetrating radar device. It was not at all what I expected – kind of like a stroller with a monitor on it that gives you instant feedback. The feedback takes a little skill for interpretation but Dr. McCullough was super friendly and showed me how to read it.

Archaeology at Lew Wallace

Archaeologists at work - excavating and total station.

Archaeology at Lew Wallace

Anna holds the stadia rod with the prism on top so that Dr. M in the background can take the measurements with the total station.

Archaeology at Lew Wallace

This is what a total station looks like. You may have seen it along a highway during road construction.

Dr. McCullough also brought out the resistivity machine to show me, which was not used due to all the trees. Unfortunately, moisture in the ground will interfere with the resistivity technique and Lew Wallace’s property had many beautiful old trees that ultimately would hold water at their roots.

I’d like to go into more detail about what each technique does, but I must take the small bits of time I have to post when I receive them. If you would like to learn more, check out the articles in my Library (particulary Kvamme’s Archaeogeophysics article) or do a quick web search – there is a lot of information out there to be had.

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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Tuesday: November 1, 2011

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Week 8: Hydrological Systems

Monday:

Fall break, woot!

Wednesday:

Class discussion resumed as usual. We talked about chapters 4 and 5 then I presented on these three articles (see the Library for bibliographic information):

  • Electromagnetic Conductivity Mapping for Site Prediction in Meandering River Floodplains
  • Geoarchaeology in Alluvial Landscapes
  • Archaeological Sediments in Dryland Alluvial Environments

I suppose I ought to clarify here – it is easier for me to state that I present on all three articles but really it is only two of the three. I just do not have my notes handy usually when I have time to post here and I do not recall which articles I presented versus the undergrad. I read them all each week and write an essay critiquing each one, so they kind of blur together. Just sayin.

We also looked at some stratigraphic photos and used what we learned to identify what was going on in the image. Soil horizons and episodes of deposition and so on. Then we covered what would be expected on our upcoming test. It is never a good sign when the test is essay questions, with a time limit, and open book and notes. Oh, and open internet. Say what?! It put the fear in us.

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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Tuesday: November 1, 2011

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Week 7: Intergrating and Interpreting Data

Monday:

Monday’s lecture has been moved to later in the semester. Instead, we walked through how to turn our data collected with the total station into a contour map using Surfer 9. Then we had class discussion over the readings – chapter 17 from the book and I presented with others on three articles (see the Library for bibliographic information):

  • Darwin Would Be Proud: Bioturbation, Dynamic Denudation, and the Power of Theory in Science
  • Geoarchaeology and the Mid-Holocene Landscape History of the Greater Southeast
  • A Geomorphological Approach to Reconstructing Archaeological Settlement Patterns Based on Surficial Artifact Distribution: Replacing Humans on the Landscape

Wednesday:

Wednesday was a lab day, which was optional if you could find time outside of class to create the contour map, which I most certainly did. Check it:

I made it in pretty orange colors, and chose the Kriging option. The green dots represent all the points where we held the stadia rod. The Smith Mall would be below this image, the library would be above it The rectangular pattern traces the sidewalk edge of the landscaping. Esch Hall is to the left and Martin Hall is at the bottom right. [Basically, in the photos from last week’s post, I was standing just about where it is labeled 102 on the bottom right, just next to 107, looking toward the bottom left corner.]

UIndy contour map

University of Indianapolis campus contour map generated from data collected by a total station and processed in Surfer 9.


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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Tuesday: November 1, 2011

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Week 6: Lab Methods & Stone Sourcing Techniques

Monday:

On Monday, we went outside to use a total station in order to collect data for a contour map. We chose a corner by the library, then pushed a pencil into the grass to mark our Datum 1 and told the computer it was at coordinate 1000, 1000, 100. I was chosen to set up the tripod and level it since most others had, or were introduced to it the prior week. The steps are easy but I didn’t weigh enough to push it into the ground, and leveling a triangle takes skill so it took me a while. Then we set Datum 2 and each student had to take 50 points and hold the stadia rod for 50 points so that we had a total of 400 measurements. By the time class was over, we only had 250 points taken.

Wednesday:

We went outside to finish taking the measurements, and I took some photos of campus while this was being done, so I will share those with you. (Boy had just given me a new camera he purchased off my brother: a Canon PowerShot S95 which I know nothing about because he got it in Hong Kong and it did not come with an English booklet.) I did not take any photos of the total station but I do have some from another dig I participated in which I will share in a later post.

Before the measurements were completed, Dr. M realized it may take us a while so we held our normal discussions out on the lawn until it got dark and went inside. We talked about chapter 16 and covered these three articles (see the Library for bibliographic information):

  • Raw Material Utilization in Carroll County, Indiana: A Small-Scale Analysis of Diachronic Patterns in the Usage of Attica, Kenneth, and Wyandotte Cherts
  • Sourcing Lithic Artifacts by Instrumental Analysis
  • Macroscopic and Microscopic Analysis of Chert. A Proposal for Standardisation of Methodology and Terminology
UIndy campus

University of Indianapolis campus, looking at Smith Mall (the "quad" area). The lower half of this image is a large portion of our contour map.

UIndy campus

University of Indianapolis campus, looking at Esch Hall. The foreground is a large portion of our contour map.

UIndy campus

Fall colors hiding Martin Hall at the University of Indianapolis.

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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Tuesday: November 1, 2011

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Week 5: Field Methods & Geophysics

Monday:

Archaeologists often use a total station to record the site topography and artifact locations. A total station records X, Y, and Z coordinates by shooting a laser situated in a fixed place at a prism on a stadia rod at other locations around the site. It calculates some wicked math (probably basic trigonometry actually) and creates a digital file which can then be inputted to other programs for analysis. We went outside to see how this is done, setting up the total station tripod over a water drain for our Datum 1 point. Because most of the students were experienced with a total station from field experiences, it was a quick introduction for those of us without prior knowledge of it.

Archaeologists also employ Google Earth, using their database of aerial photos and historic imagery to locate possible locations of archaeological sites. These can be seen by discolorations of the soil, particularly along floodplains which were magnets for ancient populations.

Archaeologists also need to know how to read a topographic map, so we took some time to go over an old map of the school’s area, back when it was known as Indiana Central. Archeologists work with maps primarily at 1:24,000 scale. This means that it is 7.5 minutes latitude by 7.5 minutes longitude. Also indicated are northing and easting units. One section is a square mile, or 640 acres. You can get a small plastic card to further break down the sections, into quadrants and smaller – down to 1/8 square miles.

Wednesday:

We went over how to use Surfer 9, which is a mapping program that the total station file can be imported into, allowing creation of a contour map.

We also talked about the upcoming field trip to Lew Wallace, where geophysics would be seen in action.

Then we went into class discussion on chapter 15 and I presented on these three articles (see the Library for bibliographic information):

  • Current Practices in Archaeogeophysics: Magnetics, Resistivity, Conductivity, and Ground-Penetrating Radar
  • Situating Remote Sensing in Anthropological Archaeology
  • Palaeotopography: The Use of GIS Software with Data Derived from Resistivity Surveys and Stratigraphic Profiles to Reconstruct Sites and Past Terrains


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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Friday: September 30, 2011

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Week 4: Archaeological Soils & Correlations

Monday:

We had a lab using Adobe Illustrator to take shovel test probes provided from real archaeological field notes and reconstruct the strata. As the name implies, holes are dug with a shovel to probe the landscape so as to test for the possibility of an informative feature. The width between the probes varies depending on the site – I have no idea in my representation below if there is a meter or tens of meters between them, but I am able to do a rough estimation of what lies below the ground with the data collected in the field notes.

Shovel Test Probe lab

Statigraphy correlated from shovel test probes done at an archaeological site.

Wednesday:

Soil is different than sediments. Soil itself is weathered sediments that develop over a long period through a stable landscape. Sediments can accrue instantaneously, such as being deposited from a tsunami. Soils are only found on the surface, whereas sediments are found throughout the earth. If a soil surface becomes buried by sediments, it is no longer considered a soil, but instead a paleosol. There are five soil forming processes (also known as pedogenesis).

  • Climate
  • Organisms
  • Relief
  • Parent Material
  • Time
Soil also requires four components to be differentiated from sediments:
  • Inorganic mineral matter (derived from its parent material)
  • Organic matter (derived from the organisms)
  • Soil pore space (empty space between particles with allow water percolation and movement of organisms)
  • Soil water (some will fill the pore space, and others will be bonded to the aggregates themselves)
Soil characteristics for classification include:
  • Color (using the Munsell Soil Color Guide)
  • Texture (relative frequency of particle sizes)
  • Structure (shape of aggregates)
Soils can be described by their orders as well. We covered several:
  • Alfisol (found in upland environments, are older but with higher base and less weathering)
  • Mollisol (found in prairies and flood plains)
  • Entisol (thin layers, very young)
  • Inceptisol (slightly older than Entisol)
  • Histosol (found in marshes and swamps)
  • Oxisol (found in tropical rain forests)
  • Ultisol (like Alfisols, but older and the bases have been lost)
  • Aridosol (found in drylands and deserts)
  • Vertisol (found where clay shrinks and expands)
  • Spondosol (found in confiferous forests, highly acidic)
  • Gelisol (found in permafrost environments)
  • Andisol (volcanic soils)
Soil can be classified through taxonomy as well.  These are known as horizons. Thinking in terms or the surface on top, and going deeper, this is a typical Indiana soil broken into horizons:
  • O : If there is decay of organic material, there will be an O Horizon. Most soils lack this layer because bacteria acts quickly to dissolve it, but it remains where there is leaf litter, peat, or muck.
  • A : This is the most common top soil – it includes the highest concentration of organic matter (when O is not present) and therefore is darker and richer.
  • E : Sometimes there will be a small E Horizon. This occurs when water leaches the fines (clay sized particles), bases, and organic matter, leaving it lighter and sandy. It is most common in coniferous forests or in coastal environments.
  • B : Leaching has caused the loss of all bases, but the fines accumulate. This creates a reddish, more firm version of A due to a higher clay content.
  • C : This is the parent material layer  where the soil rests, and what is being weathered to become the soil, be it a deposit of clay or bedrock, though bedrock itself sometimes gets the designation of an R Horizon.
Tax dollars went into archiving US soils and providing a free website to learn about them (so get your money’s worth and check it out!). The Web Soil Survey allows you to type in an address, or simply zoom in over an area of choice. If you then click on the AOI button (the one with a red rectangle) at the top of the map, you can draw a box to create an area of interest. It will draw a box with diagonal lines. Then click on the Soil Map tab. It will give you a break down of the specific soils in that area. If you poke around some more, it provides all kinds of information. In addition to having fun on the internet, you can order any Soil Survey you create – for free. For instance, this is what campus looks like:
UIndy soil survey

Soil survey of UIndy. I spend most of my time in the basement of the building below the orange bullseye.

UIndy soil survey key

Soil composite of UIndy.

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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Sunday: September 25, 2011

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Week 3: Archaeological Stratigraphy

Monday:

Stratigraphy refers to the layers of deposition of sediments and soils (which are not the same thing!). All else being equal, there are five geological principals that apply to archaeological strata:

  • Superposition: The oldest layer will be the deepest layer.
  • Original Horizontality: Due to gravity, deposits are layered horizontally.
  • Lateral Continuity: Strata will continue until the materials run out or reach the edge of the depositional basin.
  • Cross-cutting Relations: In order for a deposit to be cut through by another, it must have existed first.
  • Included Fragments: The stuff the deposit is made of is older than the deposit itself (similar to cross-cutting relations).
There are also a few different approaches to defining stratigraphic layers:
  • Lithostratigraphy: Layers are defined by their visible physical properties (color and texture, for instance).
  • Pedostratigraphy: Layers are defined through the soil horizons that separate them (remember, soils are not sediments).
  • Biostratigraphy: Layers are defined by the flora/faunal fossils found in them (changing of shell types, seed types, etc.).
  • Chronostratigraphy: Layers are defined through datable objects found in them.

Depending on the research question, an archaeologist may use any one of these approaches to sort what artifacts are found.

We had a Stratigraphy & Correlations lab to understand how Shovel Test Probes can provide an idea of what the strata look like. We also had to determine, using the geological principals, how the strata became the way they were.

Wednesday:

 Microstratigraphy is a technique geoarchaeologists use to determine site use (is this feature a hearth or where the ash was dumped?), and uses over time (was the hearth used consistently for a long period or was the place chosen over and over again through time?). They take a thin section of soil and can identify different stages of weathering, which means different surfaces over time, through a microscope. To understand this further, we read chapter two and discussed three articles (see the Library for bibliographic information):

  • Microfacies Analysis Assisting Archaeological Stratigraphy
  • Discontinuity in the Stratigraphic Record: Snapshots from Franchthi Cave
  • Chronology and Stratigraphy at Dust Cave, Alabama

 

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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Saturday: September 24, 2011

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Week 2: Archaeological Sediments (continued)

Monday:

Being Labor Day, there was no class.

Wednesday:

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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Public Archaeology

Friday: September 23, 2011

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In geoarchaeology, it is required to go on at least one of three field trips. Earlier this month, I took the option to visit the History Beneath Us event at the study of Lew Wallace. Prior to this, I knew nothing about Lew Wallace, who is likely best known for being the author of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. During my time there, I visited the small museum and toured his study. His fantastical study – check it out if you are ever in the area. He seemed like a really cool dude and from a photo on display, I believe it is likely he knew Hiram Bingham (“discoverer” of Macchu Pichu, or a relative of the man). I point that out because before grad school began, I had been reading Turn Right at Machu Pichu, by Mark Adams. It collects dust now, but I digress.

Under the direction of Dr. M and his archaeologist wife Anne, I worked alongside two undergrads and with two volunteers. One of them happened to be friends with Dr. Haskell, which operates a workshop about entomology that I have always wanted to attend. The other provided me some (small) photos since I did not bring my camera. Other photos can be found at The General Lew Wallace Study and Museum Blog.

Archaeology at the Lew Wallace Study

I dig while Dr. M discusses with the undergrads.

Being the grad student of the group, I got the pleasure of digging most of the day. It was exactly what I had expected, except that instead of being completely boring, I found it to be mildly therapeutic. It helped that I was there with people very passionate about archaeology. The phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” never rings as true as when a tiny chipped piece of ceramic pops up in an archaeological site.

Archaeology at the Lew Wallace Study

Anne and Dr. M shoveling out a new unit.

While I was digging the last layer of a unit, Dr. M and Anne began widening the trench for further excavations. They dug up a lot of cool stuff – nails, mica circles, a glass bottle of some type, pottery sherds, and a metal object of some sort. The undergrads, with the help of the volunteers, screened everything through a quarter-inch screen and saved it all for later analysis.

Archaeology at the Lew Wallace Study

Dr. M, a volunteer, and I screening for artifacts like glass and charcoal.

The purpose of this particular site is to assist the Lew Wallace Museum. On the grounds of the study, Wallace had a beautiful reflecting pool built which then later was filled in due to fear that his grandchildren may suffer harm. In every photo taken of it that the museum has archived, the photographer is standing at the end so little is known about this particular portion. The Ms volunteer their time and efforts each season to answer this question and give students some archaeological experience.

Public archaeology events are always great because one of the most important things to me is sharing anthropology with others. At excavations like this, volunteers do not only get to observe archaeology in action, but to also participate. Be sure that if you hear of an event like this near you that you check it out!

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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Saturday: September 10, 2011

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Week 1: Archaeological Sediments

Monday:

We simply covered the syllabus and expectations in the class. The course objectives are to enable students with the abilities of:

  • Theoretical and methodological foundation for interpreting the physical remains of human activities
  • Use earth-science concepts to answer archaeological research questions in both the field and lab
  • Generate topographic and archaeological site maps
  • Identify earth materials like rocks, minerals, and native metals used by prehistoric peoples in Indiana
  • Locate and identify archaeological sites, interpret site formation processes, and reconstruct prehistoric human behavior
  • Participate in an on-going research project

The book assigned for class is: Practical and Theoretical Geoarchaeology. (See the Library page for bibliography information.)

There are 8 people in my class, which is cross-listed with undergrads (four to four ratio). The main separation is that we (the grads) read more articles and have essays due every week.

There is also a field trip involved to participate in the on-going research project which is scheduled later in the semester.

Wednesday:

We had a geology lab to identify minerals, and igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. This was not one of my best classes as an undergrad (colors are much too subjective for me!) so hopefully the focus quickly changes to something I am better at.

Minerals can be identified by: luster, color, hardness, cleavage, streak, and sometimes special properties. We identified: copper, halite, quartz, calcite, chert, k-feldspar, galena, hornblende, biotite, muscovite, kaolinite, pyrite, hematite, magnetite, and fluorite.

Igneous rocks can be identified by: color, texture, and the essential mineral or accessories mineral components. We identified: pink granite, basalt, obsidian, gabbro, rhyolite, and pumice.

Sedimentary rocks can be identified by: origin, texture, particle size, composite or diagnostic features, and likely sedimentary environment. We identified: shale, conglomerate, fossiliferous limestone, arkose, lithographic limestone, bituminous coal, dolostone, sedimentary breccia, siltstone, peat, travertine, rock salt, and coquina. Other possible ones we looked at were: chalk or claystone and quartz-sandstone or oolitic limestone (the lab has not yet been graded so I am not sure what I was actually examining).

Metamorphic rocks can be identified by: color, texture, grain size, and diagnostic minerals. We identified: marble, quartzite, slate, schist, and gneiss.

The grads were paired with undergrads and I worked primarily with Lori. Having just taken a geo class as a pre-req to get into this one, she taught me well!

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