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Estimating Age at Death of Archaeological Remains: A Comparison of Transition Analysis and Traditional Estimation Methods

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Objectives: The objective of this research is to develop a better understanding of the ways in which Transition Analysis estimates differ from traditional estimates in terms of age-at-death point estimation and inter-observer error. Materials and methods: In order to achieve

Objectives: The objective of this research is to develop a better understanding of the ways in which Transition Analysis estimates differ from traditional estimates in terms of age-at-death point estimation and inter-observer error. Materials and methods: In order to achieve the objectives of the research, 71 adult individuals from an archaeological site in northern Sudan were subjected to Transition Analysis age estimation by the author, a beginner-level osteologist. These estimates were compared to previously produced traditional multifactorial age estimates for these individuals, as well as a small sample of Transition Analysis estimates produced by an intermediate-level investigator. Results: Transition Analysis estimates do not have a high correlation with traditional estimates of age at death, especially when those estimates fall within middle or old adult age ranges. The misalignment of beginner- and intermediate-level Transition Analysis age estimations calls into question intra-method as well as inter-method replicability of age estimations. Discussion: Although the poor overall correlation of Transition Analysis estimates and traditional estimates in this study might be blamed on the relatively low experience level of the analyst, the results cast doubt on the replicability of Transition Analysis estimations, echoing the Bethard's (2005) results on a known-age sample. The results also question the validity of refined age estimates produced for individuals previously estimated to be in the 50+ age range by traditional methods and suggest that Transition Analysis tends to produce younger estimates than its traditional counterparts. Key words: age estimation, Transition Analysis, human osteology, observer error

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2017-05

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The archaeology of local human response to an environmental transformation

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This research addresses human adaptive decisions made at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition - the transition from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the climate regime in which humankind now lives - in the Mediterranean region of southeast Spain. Although on a

This research addresses human adaptive decisions made at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition - the transition from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the climate regime in which humankind now lives - in the Mediterranean region of southeast Spain. Although on a geological time scale the Pleistocene-Holocene transition is the latest in a series of widespread environmental transformations due to glacial-interglacial cycles, it is the only one for which we have a record of the response by modern humans. Mediterranean Spain lay outside the refugium areas of late Pleistocene Europe, in which advancing ice sheets limited the land available for subsistence and caused relative demographic packing of hunter-gatherers. Therefore, the archaeological records of Mediterranean Spain contain more generally applicable states of the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, making it a natural laboratory for research on human adaptation to an environmental transformation. Foragers in Mediterranean Spain appear to have primarily adapted to macroclimatic change by extending their social networks to access new subsistence resources and by changing the mix of traditional relationships. Comparing faunal records from two cave sites near the Mediterranean coast with Geographic Information System (GIS) reconstructions of the coastal littoral plain from the LGM to the Holocene indicates the loss of the large ungulate species (mainly Bos primigenius and Equus) at one site coincided with the associated littoral disappearing due to sea level rise in the late Upper Paleolithic. Farther north, where portions of the associated littoral remained due to a larger initial mass and a more favorable topography, the species represented in the faunal record were constant through time. Social boundary defense definitions of territory require arranging social relationships in order to access even this lightly populated new hunting area on the interior plain. That the values of the least-cost-paths fit the parameters of two models equating varying degrees of social alliance with direct travel distances also helps support the hypothesis that foragers in Mediterranean Spain adapted to the consequences of macroclimatic change by extending their social networks to gain access to new subsistence resources Keeping these relationships stable and reliable was a mitigating factor in the mobility patterns of foragers during this period from direct travel to more distant down-the-line exchange. Information about changing conditions and new circumstances flowed along these same networks of social relationships. The consequences of climate-induced environmental changes are already a concern in the world, and human decisions in regard to future conditions are built upon past precedents. As the response to environmental risk centers on increasing the resilience of vulnerable smallholders, archaeology has an opportunity to apply its long-term perspective in the search for answers

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2013

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Hohokam core area sociocultural dynamics: cooperation and conflict along the middle Gila River in southern Arizona during the Classic and Historic periods

Description

Patterns of social conflict and cooperation among irrigation communities in southern Arizona from the Classic Hohokam through the Historic period (c. 1150 to c. 1900 CE) are analyzed. Archaeological survey of the Gila River Indian Community has yielded data that

Patterns of social conflict and cooperation among irrigation communities in southern Arizona from the Classic Hohokam through the Historic period (c. 1150 to c. 1900 CE) are analyzed. Archaeological survey of the Gila River Indian Community has yielded data that allow study of populations within the Hohokam core area (the lower Salt and middle Gila valleys). An etic design approach is adopted that analyzes tasks artifacts were intended to perform. This research is predicated on three hypotheses. It is suggested that (1) projectile point mass and performance exhibit directional change over time, and weight can therefore be used as a proxy for relative age within types, (2) stone points were designed differently for hunting and warfare, and (3) obsidian data can be employed to analyze socioeconomic interactions. This research identifies variation in the distribution of points that provides evidence for aspects of warfare, hunting, and the social mechanisms involved in procuring raw materials. Ethnographic observations and archaeological data suggest that flaked-stone points were designed (1) for hunting ungulates, or (2) for use against people. The distribution of points through time and space consequently provides evidence for conflict, and those aspects of subsistence in which they played a role. Points were commonly made from obsidian, a volcanic glass with properties that allow sources to be identified with precision. Patterns in obsidian procurement can therefore be employed to address socioeconomic interactions. By the 18th century, horticulturalists were present in only a few southern Arizona locations. Irrigation communities were more widely distributed during the Classic Period; the causes of the collapse of these communities and relationships between prehistoric and historic indigenes have been debated for centuries. Data presented here suggest that while changes in material culture occurred, multiple lines of evidence for cultural continuity from the prehistoric to Historic periods are present. The O'Odham creation story suggests that the population fluctuated over time, and archaeological evidence supports this observation. It appears that alterations in cultural practices and migrations occurred during intervals of low population density, and these fluctuations forced changes in political, economic, and social relationships along the middle Gila River

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2010

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Mechanisms and models of agropastoral spread during the Neolithic in the west Mediterranean: the Cardial Spread Model

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This dissertation examines the various factors and processes that have been proposed as explanations for the spread of agriculture in the west Mediterranean. The expansion of the Neolithic in the west Mediterranean (the Impresso-Cardial Neolithic) is characterized by a rapid

This dissertation examines the various factors and processes that have been proposed as explanations for the spread of agriculture in the west Mediterranean. The expansion of the Neolithic in the west Mediterranean (the Impresso-Cardial Neolithic) is characterized by a rapid spread of agricultural subsistence and material culture from the southern portion of the Italian peninsula to the western coast of the Iberian peninsula. To address this unique case, four conceptual models of Neolithic spread have been proposed: the Wave of Advance, the Capillary Spread Model, the Maritime Pioneer Colonization Model and the Dual Model. An agent-based model, the Cardial Spread Model, was built to simulate each conceptual spread model in a spatially explicit environment for comparison with evidence from the archaeological record. Chronological information detailing the arrival of the Neolithic was used to create a map of the initial arrival of the Neolithic (a chronosurface) throughout the study area. The results of each conceptual spread model were then compared to the chronosurface in order to evaluate the relative performance of each conceptual model of spread. These experiments suggest that both the Dual and Maritime Pioneer Colonization models best fit the available chronological and spatial distribution of the Impresso-Cardial Neolithic.

For the purpose of informing agent movement and improving the fit of the conceptual spread models, a variety of paleoenvironmental maps were tested within the Cardial Spread Model. The outcome of these experiments suggests that topographic slope was an important factor in settlement location and that rivers were important vectors of transportation for early Neolithic migration. This research demonstrates the application of techniques rare to archaeological analysis, agent-based modeling and the inclusion of paleoenvironmental information, and provides a valuable tool that future researchers can utilize to further evaluate and fabricate new models of Neolithic expansion.

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Date Created
2016

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Landscape variability in tool-use and edge damage formation in South African Middle Stone Age lithic sssemblages

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This study explores how early modern humans used stone tool technology to adapt to changing climates and coastlines in the Middle Stone Age of South Africa. The MSA is associated with the earliest fossil evidence for modern humans and complex

This study explores how early modern humans used stone tool technology to adapt to changing climates and coastlines in the Middle Stone Age of South Africa. The MSA is associated with the earliest fossil evidence for modern humans and complex cultural behaviors during a time period of dramatic climate change. Human culture allows for the creation, use, and transmission of technological knowledge that can evolve with changing environmental conditions. Understanding the interactions between technology and the environment is essential to illuminating the role of culture during the origin of our species. This study is focused on understanding ancient tool use from the study of lithic edge damage patterns at archaeological assemblages in southern Africa by using image-based quantitative methods for analyzing stone tools. An extensive experimental program using replicated stone tools provides the comparative linkages between the archaeological artifacts and the tasks for which they were used. MSA foragers structured their tool use and discard behaviors on the landscape in several ways – by using and discarding hunting tools more frequently in the field rather than in caves/rockshelters, but similarly in coastal and interior contexts. This study provides evidence that during a significant microlithic technological shift seen in southern Africa at ~75,000 years ago, new technologies were developed alongside rather than replacing existing technologies. These results are compared with aspects of the European archaeological record at this time to identify features of early human technological behavior that may be unique to the evolutionary history of our species.

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2016

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Anthropogenic fire and the development of Neolithic agricultural landscapes: connecting archaeology, paleoecology, and fire science to evaluate human impacts on fire regimes

Description

The recent emergence of global ‘megafires’ has made it imperative to better understand the role of humans in altering the size, distribution, and seasonality of fires. The dynamic relationship between humans and fire is not a recent phenomenon; rather, fire

The recent emergence of global ‘megafires’ has made it imperative to better understand the role of humans in altering the size, distribution, and seasonality of fires. The dynamic relationship between humans and fire is not a recent phenomenon; rather, fire has deep roots in our biological and cultural evolution. Because of its long-term perspective, archaeology is uniquely positioned to investigate the social and ecological drivers behind anthropogenic fire. However, the field faces challenges in creating solution-oriented research for managing fire in the future. In this dissertation, I originate new methods and approaches to archaeological data that enable us to interpret humans’ long-term influences on fire regimes. I weave together human niche construction theory and ecological resilience, creating connections between archaeology, paleoecology, and fire ecology. Three, stand-alone studies illustrate the usefulness of these methods and theories for charting changes in land-use, fire-regimes, and vegetation communities during the Neolithic Transition (7600 - 3800 cal. BP) in eastern Spain. In the first study (Ch. II), I analyze archaeological survey data using Bayesian methods to extract land-use intensities from mixed surface assemblages from a case study in the Canal de Navarrés. The second study (Ch. III) builds on the archaeological data collected computational model of landscape fire, charcoal dispersion, and deposition to test how multiple models of natural and anthropogenic fire activity contributed to the formation a single sedimentary charcoal dataset from the Canal de Navarrés. Finally, the third study (Ch. IV) incorporates the modeling and data generated in the previous chapters into sampling and analysis of sedimentary charcoal data from alluvial contexts in three study areas throughout eastern Spain. Results indicate that anthropogenic fire played a significant role in the creation of agricultural landscapes during the Neolithic period, but sustained, low-intensity burning after the late Neolithic period maintained the human created niche for millennia beyond the arrival of agro-pastoral land-use. With global fire activity on the rise, it is vital to incorporate perspectives on the origins, development, and maintenance of human-fire relationships to effectively manage fire in today’s coupled social-ecological landscapes.

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2019

A formal modeling approach to understanding stone tool raw material selection in the African Middle Stone Age: a case study from Pinnacle Point, South Africa

Description

The South African Middle Stone Age (MSA), spanning the Middle to Late Pleistocene (Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 8-3) witnessed major climatic and environmental change and dramatic change in forager technological organization including lithic raw material selection. Homo sapiens emerged during

The South African Middle Stone Age (MSA), spanning the Middle to Late Pleistocene (Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 8-3) witnessed major climatic and environmental change and dramatic change in forager technological organization including lithic raw material selection. Homo sapiens emerged during the MSA and had to make decisions about how to organize technology to cope with environmental stressors, including lithic raw material selection, which can effect tool production and application, and mobility.

This project studied the role and importance of lithic raw materials in the technological organization of foragers by focusing on why lithic raw material selection sometimes changed when the behavioral and environmental context changed. The study used the Pinnacle Point (PP) MSA record (MIS6-3) in the Mossel Bay region, South Africa as the test case. In this region, quartzite and silcrete with dramatically different properties were the two most frequently exploited raw materials, and their relative abundances change significantly through time. Several explanations intertwined with major research questions over the origins of modern humans have been proposed for this change.

Two alternative lithic raw material procurement models were considered. The first, a computational model termed the Opportunistic Acquisition Model, posits that archaeological lithic raw material frequencies are due to opportunistic encounters during random walk. The second, an analytical model termed the Active-Choice Model drawn from the principles of Optimal Foraging Theory, posits that given a choice, individuals will choose the most cost effective means of producing durable cutting tools in their environment and will strategically select those raw materials.

An evaluation of the competing models found that lithic raw material selection was a strategic behavior in the PP record. In MIS6 and MIS5, the selection of quartzite was driven by travel and search cost, while during the MIS4, the joint selection of quartzite and silcrete was facilitated by a mobility strategy that focused on longer or more frequent stays at PP coupled with place provisioning. Further, the result suggests that specific raw materials and technology were relied on to obtain food resources and perform processing tasks suggesting knowledge about raw material properties and suitability for tasks.

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2017

Toward a Theory of Social Stability: Investigating Relationships Among the Valencian Bronze Age Peoples of Mediterranean Iberia

Description

What causes social systems to resist change? Studies of the emergence of social complexity in archaeology have focused primarily on drivers of change with much less emphasis on drivers of stability. Social stability, or the persistence of social systems, is

What causes social systems to resist change? Studies of the emergence of social complexity in archaeology have focused primarily on drivers of change with much less emphasis on drivers of stability. Social stability, or the persistence of social systems, is an essential feature without which human society is not possible. By combining quantitative modeling (Exponential Random Graph Modeling) and the comparative archaeological record where the social system is represented by networks of relations between settlements, this research tests several hypotheses about social and geographic drivers of social stability with an explicit focus on a better understanding of contexts and processes that resist change. The Valencian Bronze Age in eastern Spain along the Mediterranean, where prior research appears to indicate little, regional social change for 700 years, serves as a case study.

The results suggest that social stability depends on a society’s ability to integrate change and promote interdependency. In part, this ability is constrained or promoted by social structure and the different, relationship dependencies among individuals that lead to a particular social structure. Four elements are important to constraining or promoting social stability—structural cohesion, transitivity and social dependency, geographic isolation, and types of exchange. Through the framework provided in this research, an archaeologist can recognize patterns in the archaeological data that reflect and promote social stability, or lead to collapse.

Results based on comparisons between the social networks of the Northern and Southern regions of the Valencian Bronze Age show that the Southern Region’s social structure was less stable through time. The Southern Region’s social structure consisted of competing cores of exchange. This type of competition often leads to power imbalances, conflict, and instability. Strong dependencies on the neighboring Argaric during the Early and Middle Bronze Ages and contributed to the Southern Region’s inability to maintain social stability after the Argaric collapsed. Furthermore, the Southern Region participated in the exchange of more complex technology—bronze. Complex technologies produce networks with hub and spoke structures highly vulnerable to collapse after the destruction of a hub. The Northern Region’s social structure remained structurally cohesive through time, promoting social stability.

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2020