Environmental Archaeology - Flashcards

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  1. Environmental archaeology
    A field of interdisciplinary research - archaeology and natural science - is directed at the reconstruction of human use of plants and animals, and how past societies adapted to changing environmental conditions.

    (Chapter 6 p. 231)
  2. Ice cores
    Borings taken from the Arctic and Antarctic polar ice caps, containing layers of compacted ice useful for reconstructing paleoenvironments and as a method of absolute dating.

    (Chapter 6 p. 232)
  3. Climatic cycles
    The earth's climate moves in cycles, from the annual seasons to the long-term growth and decline of the great ice-sheets.

    (Chapter 6 p. 234)
  4. El Nino
    El Nino events (known as ENSO, or El Nino / Southern Oscillation) are rapid shifts in climate that begin on South America's Pacific coast in December. They show that even a relatively subtle redistribution in sea surface temperature in the tropics can influence the climate globally.

    (Chapter 6 p. 234)
  5. Echo-sounding
    An acoustic underwater survey technique, used to trace the topography of submerged coastal plains and other buried land surfaces (see also seismic reflection profiler).

    (Chapter 6 p. 236)
  6. Raised beaches
    These are remnants of former coastlines, usually the result of processes such as isostatic uplift or tectonic movements.

    (Chapter 6 p. 237)
  7. Tectonic movement
    Displacements in the plates that make up the earth's crust, often responsible for the occurrence of raised beaches.

    (Chapter 6 p. 237)
    A project aimed at producing paleoclimatic maps showing sea-surface temperatures in different parts of the globe, at various periods.

    (Chapter 6 p. 238)
  9. Isostatic uplift
    A rise in the level of the land relative to the sea caused by the relaxation of Ice Age conditions. It occurs when the weight of ice is removed as temperatures rise, and the landscape is raised up to form raised beaches.

    (Chapter 6 p. 236)
  10. Piston corer
    A device for extracting columns of sediment from the ocean floor. Dates for the different layers are obtained by radiocarbon , archaeomagnetic , or uranium series methods.

    (Chapter 6 p. 233)
  11. Geomorphology
    A subdiscipline of geology, concerned with the study of the form and development of the landscape, it includes such specializations as sedimentology.

    (Chapter 6 p. 240)
  12. Loess sediments
    Deposits formed of a yellowish dust of silt-sized particles blown by the wind and redeposited on land newly deglaciated, or on sheltered areas.

    (Chapter 6 p. 243)
  13. Sedimentology
    A subset of geomorphology concerned with the investigation of the structure and texture of sediments i.e. the global term for material deposited on the earth's surface.

    (Chapter 6 p. 240)
  14. Buried land surfaces
    Entire land surfaces can sometimes be preserved intact beneath certain kinds of sediment, such as volcanic ash and peat.

    (Chapter 6 p. 244)
  15. Tree rings and climate
    Tree-rings have a growth that varies with the climate, being strong in the spring and then declining to nothing in the winter; the more moisture available, the wider the annual ring. These variations in ring width have formed the basis of the dating technique known as dendrochronology.

    (Chapter 6 p. 244)
  16. Pollen analysis
    Pollen analysis, or palynology, can be applied to a wide range of sites and provides information on chronology as well as environment. Pollen analysis provides the archaeologist with some idea of fluctuations in vegetation through time, whatever their causes may be, which can be compared with results from other methods.

    (Chapter 6 p. 246-47)
  17. Diatom analysis
    A method of environmental reconstruction based on plant microfossils that reveals the floristic composition of extinct aquatic communities, as well as the water's salinity, alkalinity, and nutrient status.

    (Chapter 6 p. 249)
  18. Phytoliths
    Minute particles of silica derived from the cells of plants, able to survive after the organism has decomposed or been burned. They are common in ash layers, pottery, and even on stone tools and teeth.

    (Chapter 6 p. 249)
  19. Fossil cuticles
    Outermost protective layer of the skin of leaves or blades of grass, made of cutin, a material that survives in the archaeological record often in feces. Cuticular analysis is a useful adjunct to palynology in environmental reconstruction.

    (Chapter 6 p. 248)
  20. Flotation
    A method of screening (sieving) excavated matrix in water so as to separate and recover small ecofacts and artifacts.

    (Chapter 6 p. 251)
  21. Rock varnishes
    Natural accretions of manganese and iron oxides, together with clay minerals and organic matter, which can provide valuable environmental evidence. Their study, when combined with radiocarbon methods, can provide a minimum age for some landforms, and even some types of stone tool which also accumulate varnish.

    (Chapter 6 p. 250)
  22. Paleoentomology
    The study of insects from archaeological contexts. The survival of insect exoskeletons, which are quite resistant to decomposition, is important in the reconstruction of paleoenvironments.

    (Chapter 6 p. 255)
  23. Site Catchment Analysis
    A type of off-site analysis which concentrates on the total area from which a site's contents have been derived; at its simplest, a site's catchment can be thought of as a full inventory of artifactual and non-artifactual remains and their sources.

    (Chapter 6 pp. 264-65)
  24. Site Exploitation Territory
    Often confused with site catchment analysis , this is a method of achieving a fairly standardized assessment of the area habitually used by a site's occupants.

    (Chapter 6 pp. 264-65)
  25. Human impact on island environments
    The introduction by settlers of new species of plants and animals into island environments has had a devastating effect. However, other factors also played a part: massive deforestation impacted on local vegetation and bird-life, and the clearing of vegetation from hillsides to make gardens often led to greater erosion.

    (Chapter 6 pp. 272)
Card Set
Environmental Archaeology - Flashcards
From Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice (4th edition), 2006, Renfrew and Bahn, Thames & Hudson
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