Table of Contents
Anthropology employs various techniques in the study of human development, including the collection and analysis of different artifacts, ecofacts, and features produced by humans throughout history. First, it is important to identify their age, which is distinguished through relative and absolute dating. Their chemical make-up can provide valuable information regarding the Earth climate in the past; therefore, trace element analysis is employed. Moreover, taphonomy can foster archaeologists’ understanding of why certain objects appeared in particular places. It can reflect people’s lifestyles and traditions back in those times. Such artifacts, ecofacts, and features are usually found in various archaeological sites that further deepens archaeologists’ understanding of the past ways of life.
It is not easy to detect a suitable archaeological site, as one needs to employ subsurface sampling and even resort to test pits in order to be sure that the place is of any interest for archaeologists. Sometimes, like in case of Olduvai Gorge, natural erosion facilitates archaeological discoveries, but, in most cases, it is an archaeologist’s job to find an excavation site. There are two categories of archaeological sites: primary and secondary refuses. The former remained intact after the original settlers left it, whereas the latter was used by different people in the past years. While interpreting the site, it is extremely important for archeologists not just to dig out artifacts and ecofacts but also to preserve spatial relationships between them. It can help them analyze not only the object’s chemical make-up but also its usage and role in the community. Archaeologists usually employ mapping, stratigraphy, and seriation to study the site in more detail.
Archaeologists employ versatile analytical techniques when examining artifacts, ecofacts and features. First, archaeologists can try to replicate the ancient artifacts, thus reconstructing their morphology and recreating the process of their creation. Second, the osteological analysis enables archaeologists to research the evolution of species through various ecofacts and features of sexual dimorphism. Third, there are also more scientifically advanced ways, such as luminescence or radiocarbon dating, which provide information regarding the age of the certain eco- or artifacts. They can also establish the age of the artifacts due to the process of stratification (“Background on Archaeological Methods”). Thus, the archaeologists can collect valuable and precise information that sheds light on the human history and evolution.
The Upper Paleolithic period is considered to be one of the most important periods of revolution in the prehistoric human development. It ended 10,0000 years ago bringing not only a new type of hominid – Cro-Magnon but also new lifestyles and traditions. This period led to the breakthrough in societal interactions and the formation of identity. The Upper Paleolithic period truly boosted creativity and ingenuity of the hominids. The strength was not so important any more but rather brain power and new tools led to the formation of new traditions and lifestyles.
Cro-Magnons, unlike Neanderthals, had a propensity for art, and the cave in Lascaux, France, can serve as an example. Moreover, they were the first to make personal ornaments that signified the formation of self-identity. Their newly found understanding of beauty revealed itself in clothes and ceramics that they pioneered to make. They even started to use new materials in their creations. For instance, Cro-Magnons used bones to create bone needles and other instruments, which was unheard of in the Middle Paleolithic period. The Neanderthals, for instance, only knew how to make stone tools.
Cro-Magnons were not as physically strong and agile as the Neanderthals. However, they found a way to domesticate animals although continuing to hunt just like their ancestors did. Additionally, their hunting techniques greatly evolved after they managed to create a bow and an arrow (Feder). Therefore, they used their cognition to adapt to the hostile environment and create comfortable living conditions. What is remarkable is that Cro-Magnons were the first to move to water and make use of the sea life. They made fish hooks and even managed to create some primitive boat technology. Their coastal economies were thriving, which led to the formation of new encampments and new diets. Thus, in the Upper Paleolithic period, people further developed their adaptations and became more similar to the modern homo sapiens.