This course examines current archaeological approaches to the reconstruction and explanation of the ways in which humans at once shaped and adapted to past landscapes. It highlights the roles that tightly linked ecological and social dynamics play in conditioning trajectories of change in past land use, and the ways in which archaeological evidence can advance our understanding of those processes. It emphasizes current theoretical perspectives, as well as GIS and statistical methods for the analysis of diverse data including artifact scatters, topography, and pollen spectra. The course is structured around two projects in which students will have an opportunity to make sense of real archaeological data from ongoing research into past landscape dynamics at Monticello.
We will begin with a very brief overview of current approaches to landscape archaeology, and then quickly turn to methods for studying settlement patterns, spatial variaton in agricultural land use, and change in agricultural strategies and their ecological consequences. For each topic, we'll look at recent examples from the archaeological literature, consider the appropriate methods for our data from Monticello, and see what we can learn from our applications.
The scientific goal is to advance our understanding of the coupled ecological and social proceses associated with the initial settlement of Piedmont Virginia by Europeans and Africans in the early-eighteenth century and with subsequent agricultural diversification and intensifcation associated with the transition from tobacco to wheat as the export staple.
The pedagological goal is to help you build some practical skills in using archaeological models and some simple statistical and GIS methods to make credible inferences about archaeological data and to write clearly and convincingly about the results.
Here's a quick overview of the two projects:
- Our first project focuses on spatial patterning in the distribution of artifacts across the Monticello Mountain landscape, as recently revealed by systematic shovel-test-pit survey. We will identify high-density patches, date them, infer the kinds of activities they represent, and puzzle out what changes in the spatial relationships among the patches and their larger spatial contexts tell use about the lives of the enslaved laborers who left the scatters behind.
- The second project expands the focus on spatial pattering to include agricultural fields, as well as artifact patches. We'll examine the extent to which fields (as documented in Jefferson's own surveys of his planation) were strategically situated to maximize agricultural productivity and we'll begin an examination the ecological consequences. We will also examine the ecological dynamics that resulted form initial settlement and the later tobacco-to-wheat transition. The key evidence here comes from stratified deposits that contain sediment eroded from agricultural fields. We'll study change in pollen and sediment chemistry.
Course Schedule and Reading List
The reading list for the course is available
All required reading will be available on
Collab and/or on reserve at the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library at the A-School. The books on reserve include:
Bruno, David and Julian Thomas (editors) 2008
- Handbook of Landscape Archaeology.Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA.
Dincauze, D. F. 2000
- Environmental Archaeology.Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Conolly, James and Mark Lake. 2006
- Geographical Information Systems in Archaeology.Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Wheatley, David and Mark Gillings. 2002
- Spatial Technology and Archaeology : The Archaeological Applications of GIS. Taylor and Francis, London.
- Curtin, Phillip D., Grace S. Brush, George W. Fisher (editors). 2001.
- Discovering the Chesapeake: The History of an Ecosystem. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
- Class attendance is a requirement. Completing the projects requires that you master analytical and computing skills that you can only learn as class.
- To help you acquire those skills, I'll be available most Sunday afternoons from 4:00-5:30 at the Scholar's Lab at Alderman. If you need help with something, let me know and I'll make sure we cover it in one of these sessions.
Written work for the course includes the class projects. The project write ups should be about 10 pages of text in length. In completing the projects, you are welcome to help one another think through the arguments, models, and methods we are using and understand how they are implemented on the computer. However, I expect each of you to do every analytical step and to write up the results. Using intermediate or final results in a project that you did not obtain yourself will be considered an honor violation.
Project papers should include 8-10 pages of text. The text should reference, at appropriate points, statistical graphics, maps, and plans in support of your arguments. These figures should be numbered sequentially, with the figure numbers placed in the text. The numbered figures themsleves should appear at the end of the text. Each figure should have a caption, so that the reader knows exactly what it portrays and your take on its larger significance.
You should cite all sources on which you have drawn in completing the project. Your citations should follow the American Antiquity style guide, as outlined in section 3.4 here.
Each student will give a short, illustrated (e.g. Powerpoint) talk on one of the three projects to the class. The talk should be 15-20 minutes in length. We will need to make sure that students are distributed across the two projects evenly.If all else fails, we will resort of randomization!
- There will also be occasional short homework assignments (in addition to the reading). These are designed to ensure that you are mastering the analytical and technical skills that you will need to complete the projects successfully.
I also expect you to hand in assignments on time. I will deduct one letter grade for each day any assignment is late. Plan your work accordingly! In order to do well on the projects you will need to have mastered the reading and the concepts we have covered in class before you start work. Do not expect to be able to catch up on the reading and analytical skills and then do the analysis and write up for a project all in the week before it is due.
Two written class projects: 60%; one project presentation: 10%; Homework: 15%; Participation in class: 15%.
Students in this class are expected to adhere to the College's and University's honor policies. I reserve the right to determine grades, independent of the outcome of any honor investigation.
Some Useful Software Tools
Scatterplot Labels for Excel
An Excel Add-In that allows you to label scatterplots (something that Lotus-123 could do in 1982, but Excel cannot, 30 years later).
If you have administrator privileges on your machine, click the link and download to a folder on your hard drive. Double click the self-extracting archive. Checkout readme.doc for further instructions. If you do not have administrator privileges, click here to download a macro file called XYChartLabeler.xlam, which you can load into Excel manually.
- Frequency-Seriation Diagrams Make sure you get FrequencySeriation.xls (v3.0)
An Excel spreadsheet with VBA code draws frequency-seriation diagrams a la Jim Ford.