Europanthropus heidelbergensis

ANTH 235:
(and the principal means by which archaeologists address them…)
1. What is left? (formation processes and the variety of the
2. Where? (spatial concerns dealt with through survey and
3. When? (“absolute” and relative time; chronology and
dating methods)
4. How were societies organized? (social archaeology)
5. What was the environment? (environmental
6. What did they eat? (reconstructions of subsistence and
7. How did they make and use tools? (technology and
8. What contacts did they have? (reconstructions of trade
and exchange)
9. What did they think? (cognitive archaeology)
10.Who were they and what were they like? (recognizing
the individual in prehistory)
11. Why did things change? (explanation in archaeology)
12. Whose past is it? (archaeology and the public)
technological determinism
C. J. Thomsen & J. J. A. Worsaae, The Three Age System
Christian Jurgensen Thomsen (1788-1865)
Sidebar: Thomsen, Worsaae, and the Three Age System
How do we sort artifacts? This was the problem facing Christian Jurgensen
Thomsen (1788-1865) when he was appointed Curator of the Danish National
Museum in København in 1816. His array of prehistoric objects could not be
placed in any sort of order based on age. Thomsen devised an ingenious solution.
He recognized that some of the museum’s collection had come from sites where the
only finds were made from stone; some came from sites where bronze was also
used, while others came from sites where iron, stone and bronze were used. He
suggested that those sites with only stone tools were the oldest, labeling this the
Stone Age, those with bronze and stone tools belonged to a Bronze Age, while
those with iron belonged to an Iron Age. In some ways, this followed the idea put
forward in Hesiod’s Works and Days (ca. 700 BCE); that Creation had been
followed by a Golden Age, an Age of Silver, an Age of Bronze, a Heroic Age and
an Age of Iron. However, whereas Hesiod’s model was one of decline from a time
of perfection (the Age of Gold) to his present, sinful and wicked Age of Iron,
Thomsen’s model was an evolutionary one of increasing technological complexity
and sophistication, from stone through bronze to iron.
Thomsen’s solution, which he called Museum-ordning (‘museum ordering;’ better
known today as the Three Age System), was simple yet elegant, but he did not
publish his ideas until 1836 in his guidebook to the Danish National Museum,
Ledetraad til Nordisk Oldkyndighed (Guide to Northern Antiquities). He
subsequently encouraged his assistant, Jens Jacob Asmussen Worsaae (1821-1885)
to investigate new sites to test these ideas. In excavation after excavation, Worsaae
found that the sequence proposed by Thomsen was correct and in none was it ever
Finally, archaeologists had the means to place finds in a relative chronological
sequence. If they did not know how long each of the Three Ages had lasted, that
was something that could be sorted out later. Eventually, it became possible to
recognize that the Three Ages could be subdivided – the Stone Age in particular
could be split into an Old Stone Age (the Paleolithic), when people lived by
foraging and hunting animals, many of which are today extinct, and a New Stone
Age (the Neolithic), when people relied on domestic animals and crops similar to
those farmed today in pre-industrial village settings.
Technology is an additive process…
Artifacts are important cultural markers, a paralanguage
for humans (i.e., a non-verbal element of communication)
Archaeologists employ several integrated approaches to
understanding the changing role of technology in human
1. purely archaeological (artifacts, features, sites, etc.)
2. scientific analysis of objects (materials science)
3. ethnographic or ethnoarchaeological
4. experimental
Often, the first question to be addressed is:
“Is this object an artifact at all?”
Context (determined by provenience) is often more
important than individual artifacts in establishing the
agency (human or natural) responsible for the objects under
 unaltered materials: stone, bone, wood, antler, shell,
plant & animal fibers (including leather)
 synthetic materials: metals, ceramics, glass and
faience (faience is a “pre-glass” made by coating a
core of powdered quartz with a vitreous alkaline glaze)
 pyrotechnology: pottery (firing), glass (casting,
blowing), metals (smelting, alloying, casting,
annealing, plating)
Involves analysis of a full range of activities including:
 mining and quarrying of the raw material itself
 transport (Stonehenge trilithons; Easter Island
stone heads or moai)
 stone-working and fitting (Inca walls at Cuzco,
 tool manufacture (microwear analysis, refitting,
and replication)
 tool use (microwear analysis, experimental
Here, the relevant questions include:
 Where and how was the constituent clay
extracted or obtained?
 How was the clay tempered?
 How were pots made?
(wheel-thrown or hand-made, molded, etc.)
 How were pots fired?
(type of kiln, temperatures, duration of firing)
 How were pots used?
(storage, transport, ceremony, etc.)
archaeological typology – the classification of artifacts into
discrete categories
taxonomy – Carl von Linné (a.k.a. Carolus Linneaus), 18th
century Swedish botanist & physician
1735 – first edition of Systema Naturae: Creationis
Telluris est Gloria Dei ex Opere Naturae per
Hominem Solum [The System of Nature: The Earth’s
Creation is the Glory of God as Seen from the Works
of Nature by Man Alone]
Carl von Linné (1707-1778) depicted as a Sámi shaman
typological approach – pioneered by Oscar Montelius, a
later-19th century Swedish archaeologist. His book
describing this methodology (called Die Methode,
Stockholm, 1903) is a classic of archaeological literature.
Gustav Oscar Augustin Montelius (1843-1921)
[BTW, the Swedish playwright August Strindberg, a contemporary of Montelius,
held his work in low regard and satirized archaeology and Montelius’ typological
work in particular, in his De lycksaliges ö (published in Svenska öden och äfventyr,
1882). Strindberg compares Montelius and his colleagues to button collectors who
categorize buttons according to their use, number of holes, etc., founding the
science of knappologi (“buttonology”). The typologists then go on to demand
professorial chairs for themselves, considering the science highly important!]
What is the purpose of typology? The same as
taxonomy: to impose meaningful order on an otherwise
hopelessly confusing and often random-appearing
collection of objects.
The subjects of classification may be animals or clay pots
or stone tools – it doesn’t matter – the principles are the
Biological Example: The Mauer Mandible (see taxonomic history at end
of today’s notes). The same object (a half-million year-old fossil human
jawbone, in this case) can be classified taxonomically in many
different ways, depending upon what criteria the analyst employs.
The same is true for the typological classification of archaeological
Mandible of the fossil human, Homo heidelbergensis (the Mauer hominin),
from Germany, circa 500,000 years old
Archaeological Example: Chinese Shang Dynasty bronze
ritual wine-pouring vessels (called jǘe 爵), circa 1500 BCE
attribute – a minimal characteristic of an artifact such that
it cannot be further subdivided – includes form, style,
decoration, color, raw material, etc.
type – a unique configuration of attributes
 typology provides a system of communication for
archaeologists in their discussion of the role of
technology in human culture
 different typological approaches can be designed to
solve various archaeological problems: functional vs.
descriptive typologies
 like taxonomy in the biological world, typology does
not itself yield Truth or the only unambiguous way of
classifying artifacts
Since its discovery near Heidelberg, Germany in 1907, the
ca. 500,000 year-old Mauer mandible has been classified as:
Homo heidelbergensis (Schoentensack, 1908)
Palaeanthropus heidelbergensis
Pseudhomo heidelbergensis
Protanthropus heidelbergensis
Praehomo heidelbergensis
Praehomo europaeus
Anthropus heidelbergensis
Maueranthropus heidelbergensis
Europanthropus heidelbergensis
Euranthropus species indeterminate
Homo erectus subspecies indeterminate
Homo erectus heidelbergensis
Homo sapiens subspecies indeterminate
Homo sapiens heidelbergensis
Homo heidelbergensis (Rightmire, 1990)
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