Anthropic activity markers: archaeology and ethnoarchaeology

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

People tend to recurrently use specific areas of their living space, producing an accumulation of evidences (chemical and/or physical) that represent the result of the activity performed. The possibility to identify and connect these evidences to the activity that generated the record is pivotal to our understanding of past human behaviour. Ethnoarchaeology and experimental archaeology drive the inferential reasoning that creates the models connecting the distribution/concentration of proxies with specific activities. We define these models as 'anthropic activity markers' and propose a transdisciplinary approach to reduce problems of equifinality whereby the same pattern might be caused by several activities. In particular, the analysis of the spatial distribution of the fingerprints under study is considered fundamental for the definition of anthropic activity markers.This session aims to gather contributions from scholars in different fields, willing to challenge this issue from different points of view and at different scales (landscape and domestic or productive structures), going from a macro to a micro scale, from “space”, to “place”. We invite contributions that include different approaches, such as remote sensing, archaeological prospection, botanic analyses, chemical analyses, archaeozoology, microdebitage, and micromorphology. Archaeological and ethnoarchaeological contexts are welcome to show the potentiality of the approach.

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Documents
  • Activity Area Analysis of Elite and Commoner Spaces in the Ancient Maya City of Actuncan, Belize (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lisa LeCount. Kara A. Fulton. David W. Mixter. E. Christian Wells. Thomas R. Jamison.

    This report describes the results of a geochemical analysis of nearly 1,000 samples from earthen and plaster surfaces at Actuncan, a prehispanic Maya city in western Belize. Studies of the social, political, and economic relationships between elites and commoners demonstrate that the lived experiences of both groups were dramatically different. However, we know little about how social roles and relationships impacted the organization and daily use of domestic and public spaces. Multivariate...

  • Chemical residues as anthropic activity markers. Food production and consumption (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alessandra Pecci. Luis Alberto Barba. Agustin Ortiz.

    When activities are carried on, the substances used and/or produced during the activities are poured onto the on floors and absorbed by them. Specific analyses can be performed to identify the chemical residues absorbed in porous materials, like plastered and earthen floors. As these residues are strictly related to the activities carried on, and reflect their spatial distribution, they can be considered "anthropic activity markers". A methodological approach concerning the understanding of the...

  • Combining residue analysis of floors and ceramics to identify activity areas and the use of space (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alessandra Pecci. Fernanda Inserra.

    Residue analyses have been applied for more than 40 years to the study of ceramics and floors (Barba, Bello 1978; Condamin et al. 1976). This has allowed to better understand ceramic contents, on the one side, and the traces left by human activities on floors, on the other. Both these disciplines provide important information on human activity markers, focusing on the use of ceramics in the first case and the use of space and the function of structures in the second. However, a deeper...

  • Detecting the functions of patios in a Classic Maya regal palace at La Corona, Guatemala. (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Maxime Lamoureux St-Hilaire. Marcello A. Canuto. Tomás Barrientos. Clarissa Cagnato.

    Classic Maya regal palaces were political institutions with many functions, ranging from domestic and ceremonial to administrative. This paper presents the results of the multi-facetted study of three adjoining patios of the palace at the Classic Maya Center of La Corona, Guatemala. Research suggests that these patios, dating to final phases of occupation in the Late Classic (8th and 9th centuries AD), were open spaces dedicated to activities relating to the preparation of food, the manufacture...

  • An ethnoarchaeological study on anthropic markers from a shell-midden in Tierra del Fuego: Lanashuaia II (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Debora Zurro. Myrian Alvarez. Ivan Briz. Joan Negre. Jorge Caro.

    Hunter-gatherer sites constitute often challenging research contexts within the discipline of archaeology; identifying and even defining whom Tierra del Fuego constitute an optimum arena for studying anthropic markers in hunter-gatherers sites for two reasons: a) good preservation of archaeological remains; b) a rich ethnographic record about hunter-fisher-gatherer societies who inhabited this region. The aim of this work is to present the first results of an intrasite spatial analysis, based on...

  • Exploring the Changing Roles of Maya E-groups: Geochemical Analysis of E-group Plaster Floors at Actuncan, Belize (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Borislava Simova. E. Christian Wells. Lisa LeCount.

    E-Groups were among the first monumental spaces constructed in Middle Preclassic Maya centers and served as important venues for negotiating social interactions and political integration of newly settled peoples. Starting in the Late Preclassic period, their roles began to shift. At some sites, such as Tikal and Uaxactun, votive offerings signifying communal ritual were replaced with dedicatory stelas or royal interments marking exclusionary practices and political appropriation of these spaces....

  • Extraction of Soil Biomarkers from the Sacred Cacao Groves of the Maya (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Richard Terry. Bryce M. Brown. Aline Magnoni. Tanya Carino.

    In Post Classic and Colonial times, cacao was an important crop to the Maya. Landa and others reported sacred groves of trees in the Yucatan region, and among these groves they saw cacao growing. When the Spanish arrived in Mexico, cacao seeds were even used as a form of currency near Chichen Itza. Cacao typically grows in hot, humid climates. The Yucatan region is too dry and humidity is too low during the winter months to sustain cacao, but it has been found to grow in the humid microclimates...

  • Integrated Anthrosol Prospection at Betty’s Hope Historic Sugarcane Plantation, Antigua, British West Indies (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only E. Christian Wells. Christopher K. Waters. Georgia L. Fox.

    Multi-elemental geochemical prospection of soils and sediments has become a highly useful technique for understanding past activity areas and the behaviors that produced them. However, this technique has limited interpretive potential, because it can only identify possible locations of different classes of activities. More importantly, there has been little research to evaluate the processes and elemental loadings that characterize different types of spaces. By studying known contexts and...

  • Knowing My House: An Indigenous Theory and Practice of Being (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kathryn Arthur.

    The Gamo, who live in the highlands on the edge of the southern Ethiopian rift valley, are known for their unique and beautiful household architecture. Tourists ogle their oval basket-like grass houses and peer inside for mere minutes hoping to observe some secret moment or practice previously unknown to them. Similarly many archaeologists long to feel beneath their trowels a widespread hard surface indicative of a house floor. We remove the tangible aspects of the home, bit by bit, hoping to...

  • Mercury pollution and the ancient Maya: where, why and how. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Duncan Cook. Timothy Beach. Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach. Thomas Guderjan.

    Multi-element inorganic geochemical studies across the Maya lowlands have revealed elevated levels of mercury (Hg) in soils and sediments that date mainly from the Classic period (c. 250-900 AD). Mercury pollution has now been recorded at a range of archaeological sites despite the absence of metallurgy until the Postclassic Period (after 1000 AD), or any other industry capable of significant heavy metal pollution of the environment. This paper presents the first detailed analysis of the extent...

  • Microarchaeology applied to foumier deposits: the use of phytoliths, spherulites and ash pseudomorphs as a tool for reconstruct livestock practices. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mónica Alonso Eguíluz. Rosa María Albert. Javier Fernández Eraso.

    Fumier deposits are important sources of information to better understand past livestock practices. The Neolithic site of Los Husos II (Álava, Spain), in the upper Ebro Basin, is the oldest Basque Country site where livestock practices were detected dating to 6990-6760 cal B.P. Hence, the site offers a unique opportunity to study the adaptation of early livestock practices and their expansion to the western Pyreness, as the Ebro Basin is the main route by which the new economic system...

  • Micromorphological study of concotto surfaces protected by the Avellino Eruption in 3,780 BP at the Afragola village in Southern Italy (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Tiziana Matarazzo.

    The term concotto refers to fragments or patches of hard heated clay that derive from living surfaces, walls and ovens. Concotto fragments are found throughout the Italian peninsula and date from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. Current studies express contradictory opinions about whether or not the concottos found on living surfaces represent intentionally constructed surfaces or the secondary products of the contact between hot embers and sediments. This study uses micromorphological analysis...

  • Modelling Anthropic Activity Markers: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Study of Plant-Related Domestic Activities (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Carla Lancelotti. Abel Ruiz Giralt. Jonas Alcaina Mateos. Juan José García-Granero. Alessandra Pecci.

    The concept of Anthropic Activity Markers as ethnography-derived models to interpret archaeological activities has seen a remarkable development in recent years. In this talk we present the results of MoMArq (Modelización de Marcadores de Actividades Antrópicas: de lo etnográfico a o arqueológico), a multidisciplinary project that combined cross-cultural studies with analyses of phytoliths, starch, multi-element geochemistry and spot-tests to analyse domestic plant-related activities in the...

  • Nested Proxies: Multi-scalar Approaches to Interpreting Human-Landscape Interactions (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ryan Szymanski.

    Interpretive challenges involving issues of equifinality and causation can chronically hamper environmental reconstruction efforts, as numerous physical, environmental, or anthropogenic processes may potentially be responsible for creating observed raw data patterns. Nested multi-proxy and multi-scalar analyses offer potential means of approaching these difficult conceptual issues which can plague interpretations reliant on single lines of proxy evidence. A dataset comprised of multiple...

  • New Perspectives on the use of Yucca in the arid Southwest: archaeobotany and experiment (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Peter Kovacik.

    Macrofloral analysis conducted on sites concentrated in the northwestern Permian Basin (southeastern New Mexico) recovered evidence of charred yucca (Yucca sp.) leaf bases in numerous features. Ethnographically various yucca plant parts are mainly associated with fiber and food processing. The presence of these remains in solitary hearth features distributed on the arid landscape of southeastern New Mexico suggests use of these plants simply as tinder. Yucca plants represent a natural and easily...

  • On Swiddening and Pigs: The Management of Micronesian Agroforests (2016)
    DOCUMENT Full-Text Maureece Levin. Molly Shelton. William Ayres.

    Agroforestry, or the growing of tree crops, is a long-standing and key food production practice throughout much of the world. As with all systems of food production, the way that humans manage agroforests has a profound impact on their composition as well as their sustainability. For over 2,000 years, eastern Micronesians have relied largely on tree crop production, vegeculture, and fishing for subsistence. In this study, we focus on late prehistoric manipulation of floral environments on the...

  • Past human activities: ethnographic and geostatistical models from North Gujarat (India) (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marco Madella. Carla Lancelotti. Alessandra Pecci. Javier Ruiz-Perez. Fernanda Inserra.

    The main aim of archaeological research is the reconstruction of past human activities. So far this has been achieved mostly through the study of material culture. However, activities related to food production and consumption represent an important part of human life and leave microscopic and chemical traces. The use of ethnography and geostatistical approaches can help in unlock the patters and identify activity areas in a controlled environment. We present here results from a...

  • The People Who Harvest Together, Live Together. Ethnoarchaeological considerations on a Late Chalcolithic archaeobotanical assemblage from Çadır Höyük, Turkey (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Madelynn Von Baeyer.

    This paper presents archaeobotanical data from the Late Chalcolithic (LC) archaeobotanical assemblage at Çadır Höyük, a mounded site on the north central Anatolian plateau with almost continuous occupation from the Middle Chalcolithic through the Byzantine period. The analysis will focus on both descriptive and quantitative data from samples dating to around 3600 B.C.E. from a communal cooking area at Çadır. It will examine how archaeobotanical analysis can be used as a line of evidence to...

  • Reading memories of past practices in the landscapes of poverty domination: an ethnoarchaeological study in Morelos, Mexico (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sandra Lopez Varela.

    In eradicating poverty through infrastructure building and welfare policies in the State of Morelos, the commodification of the landscape is causing people to forget the social practices of distant pasts. Memory is intimately linked with the landscape, as it creates a sense of place that legitimizes the many identities and social worlds that have existed through time. By exploring current human practices in the landscape, this study illustrates how habit memory translates and maps fragmented...

  • Residue Analysis of Plastered Floors and Function of the Rooms at Teopancazco, Teotihuacan (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Luis Barba. Linda Manzanilla. Agustin Ortiz. Alessandra Pecci.

    Teopancazco is a neighborhood center at Teotihuacan. It was excavated in the framework of the project Teopancazco "Teotihuacan. Elite y Gobierno" directed by Linda R. Manzanilla between 1997 and 2005). Samples from the plastered floors of the compound have been analysed at the Laboratorio de Prospección Arqueológica of the UNAM (Mexico) in order to understand the chemical enrichments of floors and the spatial distribution of activities. We show here the results of the analyses of the Xolalpan...

  • Root, Fruit and Dirt: using ethnoarchaeology and archaebotany for constructing reference collections of plants in activity areas in Eastern Amazon (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Leandro Cascon. Rui Murrieta.

    In the Brazilian State of Pará, Eastern Amazon, indigenous Asurini populations living in the middle course of the Xingú River currently face the challenge of maintaining traditional lifeways in a situation of great ecological and social change, due to the construction of Belo Monte, one of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams. Amongst their practices, the cultivation of diverse varieties of manihot, sweet-potato, beans, maize and other crops is an important aspect of Asurini culture, and one...

  • Seeds for the gods: chía (Salvia hispanica) in Teotihuacan ritual offerings (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Diana Martinez-Yrizar. Carmen Cristina Adriano-Morán.

    Over the last decades, as a result of archaeological research inside of the Sun and the Moon pyramids in Teotihuacan, significant concentrations of chía (Salvia hispanica) seeds have been recovered in association with ritual contexts. This is particularly true in Offering 2, pit 59 of the Sun Pyramid and in Burial 6 of the Moon Pyramid. The archaeological artifacts were similar in both contexts, for example Tlaloc vessels, projectile points, pyrite disks and faunal remains, among others. In this...

  • Spatial Analysis of Domestic Structures (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Linda Scott Cummings.

    Cooking, food processing, and consumption all contribute anthropic activity markers traceable using archaeobotanic analyses and chemical signatures. Grid square sampling illuminates patterns for comparison with distribution of artifacts and architectural elements, revealing patterned activities that identify food storage in vessels, grinding, and cooking. Multiple lines of evidence, each providing only a portion of the record, contribute to better understanding economic activity and provide...

  • Starch Grain Analysis of Bedrock Mortars in California: Implications to Our Understanding of California Prehistory (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Justin Wisely.

    Starch grain analysis is a growing field in California archaeology, with the potential to significantly add to our understanding of prehistoric peoples. Using a non-destructive extraction method for field sampling bedrock mortars, I was able to extract microscopic plant residues from the mortar surface for analysis. The subsequent identifications were made using my ethnographically-informed comparative collection of modern native plants. The results of this research indicate that the function of...

  • Supper’s ready. Preparing and cooking food in Italian Protohistory (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Anna Depalmas. Francesco di Gennaro.

    The paper focuses on some aspects of food production and preparation of meals in the poorly equipped context of the protohistoric village in Italian territory. Some arrangements that have already been observed or reconstructed on archaeological basis, specifically when connected to particular found tools are discussed. With specific reference to the Italian protohistory, research on these items has been sometimes supported by ethnographic comparisons. In this search some already stated...

  • Untangling Activity Areas in Open Spaces: Ethnography at Jandhala, North Gujarat, India (part II (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Carla Lancelotti. Jonas Alcaina Mateos. Javier Ruiz perez. Alessandra Pecci. Marco Madella.

    Jandhala is a small village in the rural countryside of North Gujarat (India) where many of the activities related to food processing are still non-mechanized. One compound within the village has been investigated ethnographically to test a novel methodology to unravel activity areas. In this paper we present the results of investigations in the courtyard of the compound. Over 170 samples were collected, in a regular grid of 2x2 meters, and analyzed for multi-element geochemistry. We compare our...

  • Using geochemistry, phytoliths and ethnographic analogy to interpret Neolithic settlements in southwest Asia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Emma Jenkins. Sarah Elliott. Samantha Allcock. Carol Palmer. John Grattan.

    Our understanding of Neolithic sites in southwest Asia is often impeded by the lack of preservation of biological evidence. As a result, they often consist of a series of structures, the construction and function of which, remains elusive. In order to address this problem we conducted a study which used phytoliths and geochemistry from an ethnographic site in Jordan, Al Ma’tan, to determine if certain building construction techniques and anthropogenic activities leave specific phytolith and...

  • Where are the lives? Characterising settlements from small artefactual debris (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rachel Ballantyne.

    This paper is inspired by consideration of how charred plant macrofossil assemblages relate to past human lives, as one component of the small artefactual debris on settlements. Cultural decisions regarding activity location, rhythm and ‘waste’ deposition mean there can be wide variation in the archaeological remains of an otherwise identical plant processing activity; this issue is common in archaeology as many classes of material, including plant assemblages, are understood with models from...