The archaeological record is made up of the materials that can be seen by the naked eye, and the materials that can only be “seen” with the help of instrumentation (the microarchaeological record). In this course we will discuss diverse aspects of the microarchaeological record, including the methods used to carry out on-site microarchaeological research (including a short field trip). We will focus on the more common material components (bones, teeth, flint, plant remains, the products of pyrotechnology including plaster and metals), as well as the sediments in which the archaeological materials are buried. We will also discuss the changes that take place over time during burial (diagenesis).
The course is designed primarily for archaeological science students at the Weizmann Institute and elsewhere, but can also be an enriching experience for students at the Weizmann Institute from any of the major disciplines.
- Introduction: what is archaeology, the archaeological record, microarchaeology, chronology and diagenesis. How to extract the signals from the noise of time.
- Microarchaeology – the Toolkit. Methods widely used (such as FTIR, optical microscopy, XRF) and some underlying processes that influence the state of preservation of the archaeological record.
- Chronology – the time dimension. Different methods for dating (especially radiocarbon dating), the timeline of major events in the archaeological record and the integrated approach to the research field of chronology.
- Important Materials in the Archaeological Record
- Bones and teeth: structure, function and preservation
- Plant remains (wood charcoal, charred seeds, pollen, phytoliths, starch, the dendrochronological record)
- Flint - the most common material used for tool making in prehistory.
- Products of pyrotechnology (fuel types, ash and charred remains, plaster, ceramics).
- Reconstructing paleochemistry using minerals, rocks and authigenic minerals.
- The biomolecular record (ancient DNA, proteins and small molecules)
- Case Studies In:
- Ancient technologies
- Ancient biomolecules
- One day field trip: operate a field lab at an archaeological excavation.