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BANC-134: Fundamentals of Archaeological Anthropology

BANC-134: Fundamentals of Archaeological Anthropology

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Assignment Code: BANC-134/ASST/TMA/Jan 2022-July 2023

Course Code: BANC-134

Assignment Name: Fundamentals of Archaeological Anthropology

Year: 2022-2023

Verification Status: Verified by Professor


Total Marks: 100


There are three Assignments. All questions are compulsory.

Assignment I


Answer the following questions in about 500 words each. 20x2= 40


Q1. What is Archaeological Anthropology? Briefly discuss its scope

Ans) Archaeological anthropology is variously referred to as "the anthropology of the dead," "the ethnography of extinct societies," "study of extinct cultures," "past tense of cultural anthropology," or simply the study of human history based on ancient material objects discovered through methodical exploration and excavation that are then categorised, examined, described, and interpreted using a variety of scientific methods and theories.


"A specific form of anthropology that employs material remains to investigate extinct human societies," according to Brian Fagon, is what archaeology is. Archaeology, however, is described by the Oxford English Dictionary as the "study of human history and prehistory via the excavation of sites and analysis of physical remains." The ultimate objective of this specialism is to generalise about all people in all eras and places. Its primary goals are timeless and spaceless. There are three main objectives that are quite specific:

  1. The creation of cultural timelines.

  2. Restoration of extinct life forms.

  3. The look for biological and cultural mechanisms.


Scope of Archaeological Anthropology


The term "prehistory" describes the lifestyle of the earliest farming settlements and hunter-gatherer groups. Evidence concerning human cultures that gave rise to civilizations and urbanizations is provided by the subject. Prehistory includes the study of groups that still practise hunter-gathering, pastoralism, or primitive agriculture in addition to the early human life before the invention of writing. Studying these modern communities can shed light on the way of life and cultural structures of analogous prehistoric societies.

Man's use of culture to ensure its continued existence on earth. Extra-somatic behaviour of man is defined as behaviour that is not a part of his body and is made up of components that were obtained from the environment. It is composed of both material and immaterial elements. The tangible portions of a culture are its physical components, whereas its intangible components are its behavioural elements including customs, beliefs, and ideals.


Scientists have developed techniques for reconstructing the lives and creations of early humans. On Earth, culture can be found in many different places and fluctuates according on the surrounding environment. Environment differs depending on where you are in the world. The geographic location of a culture is crucial for archaeologists. The environment evolved over time.


The Quaternary, which encompasses two periods, the Pleistocene (the earliest) and the Holocene (the most recent), began around 10,000 years ago and is still going strong. Stone tools and artefacts are the smallest category of material culture. Any item that a man takes from his environment and uses, whether unchanged or transformed, is referred to as an artefact. Tools are artefacts that man has modified, fashioned, and used.


Tools provide the prehistoric archaeologist with a hint as to the reason they were made, as well as insight on the necessity and skill of the tool builder. We are unable to distinguish ourselves from our past because a culture's progress is dependent on its traditions. It shows how a culture and civilization have evolved over time. Aim and objective must be specified since different modes of exploration are appropriate for different problems that prehistory is trying to answer. The primary goal is to integrate prehistoric findings into a global historical context. Prehistoric archaeology's main goals are as follows:

  1. History of culture reconstruction.

  2. Recovery of methods from previous lives.

  3. Cultural process research.

  4. Creation of a reliable chronology.


Ethno-archaeology is included in prehistoric Archaeology. This provides for scope for study of settlement pattern.


Q2. What is Excavation? Briefly comment on different types of excavation in archaeological studies.

Ans) Excavation entails digging up subsurface materials to investigate them. But excavation must have a clear goal; else, it will be useless. Excavation should be carried out precisely, carefully, and for a specific reason—it is not the same as bulldozing the earth's surface. Excavation is carried out to determine the site's cultural sequence as well as to gather and document information about the cultural layers that lie under the soil's surface.


Two different kinds of digging exist. One is horizontal, whereas the other is vertical. The multiple cultural stages that are stacked one on top of the other are identified by vertical digging. In order to retain tight control over the stratigraphy, Digging horizontally reveals the connections between the many cultural artefacts found on the same level. The excavator must draw a map of the region and take a snapshot of the excavation site before beginning any actual digging.


The first step is to create a grid. Depending on the goal of the excavation, a grid may be laid. It also relies on the excavator's time, financial situation, and other resources. Pegs are used to demarcate grids, while stretched threads are used to demarcate square units. At one corner of the trench, tools like a shovel, bucket, and sieve are visible. The sieve is situated close to the dirt pile as well.


Different Types of Excavation in Archaeological Studies


Test Pit or Trial Trench: Sondage, which means "sound pit," is another name for this. These trenches were created to investigate the subsurface. This resembles random sampling. Regarding the depth of the trench, there are no absolute standards. Before engaging in major excavation, test digging is done first. The location for the experimental trench is chosen using a computer, a survey, human intuition, chance, or logical reasoning. A test pit or rectangle trench may be dug along a site's steep slope. Trial excavation yields information on the kind and location of the site's cultural relics. It identifies active regions, particularly those with rich reserves. Trench trials are crucial for stratigraphy. It offers a lengthy, vertical profile of the location.


Digging vertically till one reaches the level of cultural sterility is a good practise. Wheeler claimed that in order to reach the base of his digging at Arikamedu in Puducherry, he had to dig the trial trench 11 feet below sea level. He had to use a water pump to descend 10 feet below the water table at Mohenjo-Daro. Test pits not only monitor cultural levels but also guard against unnecessary financial waste from excavating in the wrong area. From the top of a mound to its base, where it cuts through fertile soil, step trenches are occasionally built. To distinguish between early and late materials, this type of trench is constructed. The bottom layer contains later materials. On the entire site, test trenches are dug for sampling depths.


Excavation of Large Areas: Lateral trench extension could be done if the vertical notion is understood, and vertical succession is established. Large areas have been dug in order to reveal the variety of activities that took place there. When a settlement site is excavated, the excavator tries to reveal as many habitation levels as they can, as well as any previous activity that may have taken place there. For excavating huge regions, there are also no hard and fast rules. It depends on the excavator's goals and the nature of the excavation site.

Assignment II


Answer the following questions in about 250 words each. 10 x3=30


Q1. What is the Dating method? Briefly describe any two methods of absolute dating.

Ans) Relative dating is a method for figuring out the chronological order of historical occurrences or items without really knowing their exact age. Absolute dating techniques give the exact age in years of a fossil, artefact, or rock. Absolute dating techniques, in contrast to relative dating methods, which merely provide a sequence of occurrences, provide a numerical age with reference to a calendrical system. The physical or chemical characteristics of the fossils, materials used in artefacts, or rocks themselves are frequently the foundation for absolute dating techniques.


Two Methods of Absolute Dating


Palaeomagneting Dating: The magnetic north pole moves because to variations in the earth's magnetic field throughout time. The ferro-magnetic particles pick up the current magnetic field and orient themselves in its direction at the time of deposition. The process entails measuring the palaeomagnetic field direction of the rock layers in a stratigraphic column and comparing the pattern to a stratigraphic section's palaeomagnetic reversal pattern whose time linkages are clearer. To match an undated column with a well-dated column, typically one definite date is needed.


Thermoluminescence Dating: Thermoluminescence dating is predicated on the idea that the alpha particle radiation from naturally occurring radioactive elements, like U238 and Th232, present in clay and rocks as trace elements releases electrons that settle at a higher energy level in crystal lattice defects of minerals that can be released from their binding by applying energy in the form of abrupt controlled heating. This results in the release of electrons, which is visible as thermal luminescence or measurable as visible light. The more trapped electrons there are and the more thermal luminescence there is in an older specimen. The ability to date archaeological artefacts like burnt pottery is incredibly helpful.


Q2. Briefly describe stone tool types of Lower Palaeolithic culture with suitable examples

Ans) The stone tool types of Lower Palaeolithic culture are:


Block-on-Block or Anvil Technique: Using this method, a core or block of stone that will be turned into a tool is hammered against a fixed anvil or another sizable block on the ground. This is accomplished by striking the stone block forcefully against the anvil while holding it in one or both hands. Naturally, the flakes removed with this technique will be enormous and large. The positive bulb of percussion, an elevated region on the flakes, is very noticeable. On the core, a large depression that corresponds to the percussion bulb can be seen. No secondary working or retouching is feasible since the block that serves as both a core and a hammer is so enormous. Additionally, huge equipment like choppers and other chopping instruments would be produced using this method.


Stone Hammer or Direct Percussion: On one hand, a core of the proper size is gripped, while on the other, a stone that serves as the hammer is held. The tool is then shaped by repeatedly striking the hammer at strategic locations. Bifacial flaking would result from alternate flaking on both surfaces. Additionally, a zigzag cutting edge or profile line is seen due to the alternating removal of flake layers. This technique exhibits a noticeable bulb of percussion. The Abbevillian handaxes were made with this method. Direct Percussion is another name for this method because it uses a stone hammer to deliver direct impacts.


Cylinder Hammer or Hollow Hammer Technique: In this method, a bone or wooden hammer is utilised instead of a stone hammer. It is known as the "cylinder hammer" or "hollow hammer" technique for this reason. On the core, shallow and lengthy flake marks can be noticed. Using this method, the stunning Acheulian handaxes were created. Large scrapers and specific types of cleavers from the Lower Palaeolithic were also made in some locations using the Clactonian technique.


Q3. Briefly comment on the stone tool making techniques of Upper Palaeolithic culture

Ans) The stone tool making techniques of Upper Palaeolithic culture are:


First, a core that is more or less cylindrical or elongated is selected. This core's long end is cut off to create the striking platform. The core is then firmly held, potentially on the ground, and flakes are extracted using a stone hammer in lengthy grooves. Eventually, a blow is delivered at the striking platform to remove a long, elongated flake that resembles a modern blade. This is done repeatedly. These stone blades are extremely sharp and also work well for thin slicing.


The following are a blade flake's primary characteristics:

  1. The flakes are nearly parallel-sided, elongated, and thin.

  2. The flake scars are parallel-sided and also long.

  3. The axis of the flake scar forms a 90° angle with the striking platform.


When removing the flakes from the cylindrical core, a punch may occasionally be used instead of a stone hammer for direct percussion.


The blade technology occasionally combines other techniques to create the following tools:

  1. Punching Technique: In order to regulate the flaking, this method uses a punch or another intermediary material. As a result, the punch is used as an intermediate material between the core and the hammer. This might be made of stone, bone, or wood.

  2. Backing or Blunting Technique: After being produced via the blade process, blades are occasionally blunted or backed along one edge to make them easier for the tool holder to grasp. This is accomplished by retouching a certain area and blunting a boundary.

Assignment – III


Answer the following questions in about 150 words each. 5x6=30


Q1. Archaeological site

Ans) An archaeological site is a location where remains from human activity in the past have been preserved. Sites can include those with few or no apparent remnants above ground as well as ones with standing buildings and other structures. A site can range in size from a few centimetres, where an arrowhead or potsherd is found, to many kilometres, where Harappa or Mohenjo-Daro are located. In addition, depending on the time period researched and the archaeologist's theoretical approach, the definition and geographic scope of a "site" might change significantly.


The location may be either primary—where humans have placed their own remains—or secondary—where other people or natural forces have placed additional remains. Elements from the site might be relocated and re-deposited if there is any additional human ground disturbance. For instance, a primary deposit on a river terrace has been moved to a secondary location after being bulldozed into another area of the terrace.


Q2. Quaternary period

Ans) The youngest time in Earth's geological history is the Quaternary Period of the Cenozoic Era. The Pleistocene and the Holocene are its two epochs. The Pleistocene Epoch stands out in Earth's history because it experienced glaciations, commonly known as extremely cold periods. One of the most notable aspects of the Pleistocene was the gradual drop in earth's temperature that led to the Ice Age. It was actually a series of extremely cold times interspersed with warmer phases rather than a continuous ice age.


While the warmer phase is known as the interglacial phase, the cold phase is typically referred to as a glacial phase. Ice sheets from Antarctica, Greenland, and higher mountain elevations all increased during the Pleistocene epoch. When it was the coldest, conditions were glacial as far south as 39° latitude north. The arctic cold of the polar area and ice sheets were then experienced by countries that now have a temperate climate.


Q3. Neolithic culture

Ans) Significant changes in human history occurred during the Neolithic period, which came after the Mesolithic. During this time, new practises such as agriculture, animal domestication, pottery production, and grinding and polishing were all developed. The Near East, South-East Asia, and Mesoamerica are three regions in the world where plants were domesticated. Agriculture and domestication had a significant impact. Communities gradually became more established, and living became more secure as a result of a consistent food supply.


The development of specialisation and the division of labour, such as in weaving and pottery, were all well-regulated aspects of community life. In the latter stages of Neolithic society, the concept of property also emerged, leading to a system of ownership of land, animals, tools, and other items, which ultimately causes tensions, disputes, and wars. Domestication of animals accelerated agricultural advancements even more. It is obvious that there are many cultural characteristics when it comes to the Neolithic in India. Once more, in terms of the chronological period, India appeared to have had a very variable Neolithic civilisation, ranging from the 7000 BCE Mehrgarh culture to the 1000 BCE Assam culture.


Q4. Iron Age

Ans) Iron technology first appeared during the iron era. The use of iron items as tools and weapons is prevalent at this point in a people's evolution. In some earlier societies, the adoption of this material occurred at the same time as other changes, which frequently included different farming methods, philosophical perspectives, and aesthetic preferences, though this was not always the case. The Three-Age approach for categorising prehistoric societies uses the Iron Age as its final major epoch.


Depending on the location, it has a different date and context. According to tradition, the Iron Age in the ancient Near East, Greece, and India started in the 12th century BCE. It began considerably later in other areas. The earliest Iron Age cultures in Northern India were Northern Black Polish and Painted Grey Ware; in other locations, the Iron Age is said to have started with Black and Red Ware, a pre-Painted Grey Ware. Megalithic cultures in South India have distinctive features of iron technology.


Q5. Dmanisi

Ans) Dmanisi is a very old archaeologically significant site. It is situated in the Caucasus region of the Republic of Georgia, about 85 kilometres southwest of the contemporary town of Tbilisi, close to the meeting point of the Rivers Mashavera and Pinezouri. The location of the site is at an elevation of roughly 80 metres above the meeting point of the Mashavera and Pinezaouri River basins. Although the site has produced early cultural artefacts from the area, it is best known for the finding of Homo erectus remains, who are thought to be among the earliest migrants from Africa into Europe.


The first mandible of an early hominid was discovered in 1991, although cultural relics were first discovered in 1983. Along with artefacts and animal remains, five skulls, four mandibles, post-cranial bones, and numerous loose teeth were discovered in a precise stratigraphic context. The majority of them were found in strata IV to VI. According to geology, the higher Villafranchian period. The human remains indicate some characters that are similar to Homo habilis and others that belong to the group of Homo ergaster. The only site in Europe with such an early date is Dmanisi.


Q6. Handaxe

Ans) Stone tools from the Lower (early) and Middle Palaeolithic Stone Age include the hand axe. It was held in the hand, not with a handle like a modern axe, and was bifacial, similar on both sides. It was grasped firmly in the hand and possibly wrapped in leather. The longest-used instrument in human history, this type of axe is typical of the Acheulean and Mousterian cultures. There is no doubt that hand axes have been in use for at least 1.5 million years.


They were one of the most significant tools created by previous species of humans, including Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis. An even older Oldowan culture with simple stone tools in Africa predated the hand axe cultures. We now know that Australopithecines most likely produced the earliest stone tools. They date back to roughly 3.3 million years ago and were discovered in the Great Rift Valley of Africa.

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