2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 150-2
Presentation Time: 1:50 PM


FADEM, Cynthia M., Department of Geology, Earlham College, 801 National Rd W, Campus Drawer #132, Richmond, IN 47374, fademcy@earlham.edu

Earth science in the service of archaeology takes many forms, with diversity in both the geological and archaeological domains - from soil and sediment paleoenvironmental analysis to geochemical artifact analysis. Though the specific disciplinary methods, scales of inquiry, and materials may differ, such studies always seek to characterize the relationship between cultures and their various matrices in an effort to understand the evolution of human-natural systems. These matrices take three forms: (1) conditional –the conditions of the paleoenvironment and landscape of occupation or site-use, (2) interactive –the interactions between people and natural resources via acquisition and manipulation, and (3) subsequent – deciphering site and assemblage history subsequent to active use, including site formation processes and taphonomy. Reconstructing site life-histories, deciphering conditions from mitigations, and mapping raw material sources are all the particular province of archaeological geology, but in what frame of reference? These areas of study are critical to understanding human and cultural evolution, and their treatment involves intimate knowledge of one or more earth sciences, though we often treat them as separate fields of inquiry (e.g., ‘traditional’ geoarchaeology, archaeometry, taphonomy). The culture-matrix construct presented here addresses earth science-based archaeological inquiry regardless of scale or material. This theoretical framework assists in the geological evaluation and characterization of archaeological sites and assemblages by helping us consider the full spectrum of human-nature dynamics despite unavoidable disciplinary biases.