Friday, April 17, 2015

Stages and Periods in Archaeology-Part II

Continuing from the last post regarding the stages and periods of archaeology development upon which the scientist lays out his finds and interpretations, and the effect that has on the rest of us who try to integrate science achievement with the truths of our divine heritage and knowledge. 
    Archaeology, of course, is the study of the past largely through material remains, but also through history and written or textual remains such as diaries, legal documents, and maps. The Obviously, the Book of Mormon could certainly be considered one of the latter, which fits into historical archaeology, such as the Chilam Balam, Popoh Vuhl, and the Mayan pik hu’un (codices) found in Mesoamerica, which play an important role in archaeology of that area.
Normally historians examine written material such as these, however, when it comes to the Book of Mormon, other than for Latter-day Saints, historians disregard the record as having any value whatever in their fields of research. Yet, the more we understand about archaeology and its workings, the closer we come to recognizing how the Book of Mormon fits into past and current discoveries of the ancient Americas.
    As for the actual remains, they are used to determine three primary objectives of archaeology of the site: 1) determine the age or chronology, 2) culture and lifeways of the people (food, clothing, housing, material culture, technology and objects that were used during the period, and 3) explain the causes and consequences of changing human culture.
    There are three stages of interpretation for the archaeologist while examining the past: 1) reveal and describe the form of the physical evidence (collection of information from the site, followed by an assessment of the remains found), 2) analyze remains to determine their past purpose and function within the overall context of a site (determine the importance of the position of the artifacts within a site), 3) determine, interpret, and understand why the cultures changed through time.
The uncovered archaeological remains can be classified into three distinct categories: 1) Artifacts or movable objects fashioned by humans, such as ceramics or projectile points (arrowheads); 2) Features or non-portable objects, such as hearths or grave sites; and 3) Ecofacts or natural remains not directly impacted or altered by humans, such as pollen and animal bones. 
    As stated in the last post, in Archaeology, stages and periods are different kinds of units used to organize archaeological evidence so that it can be interpreted in terms of cultural change.
    Stages are units of cultural similarity; Periods are units of time (contemporaneity; one thing being contemporary with another).
    However, within a single small area, cultural units, which are closely similar are usually also nearly contemporary, so that stages are equivalent to periods. Yet, when the problem is one of matching local sequences over a large area, stages established on the basis of uniform criteria can be expected to give a different matching from periods, because of the effects of diffusion; the latter being the case of refining of cultural chronologies that rely fundamentally on notions of diffusion of goods and ideas between groups of people, or the spread of a cultural pattern from one culture to another.
Diffusion, therefore, is based on the belief that independent invention was the property of only a select few in prehistory and that the transmission of ideas occurred through contact, and are defined as “the process in which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among members of a social system; emphasizing the importance of novel concepts or technology.” It is based almost entirely upon interaction, that is, contact among individuals and social groups and the mechanism by which cultural traits diffuse both through internal and external contacts, called interaction spheres.
    The process is known in archaeology by numerous “names” or “labels,” such as epidemic, or contagious, or spatial, or hierarchical diffusion, the latter as in an innovation spreading between large centers first and then out to smaller towns and villages. Problems arise in this determination when the agents of change do not spread innovation to centers first, or when they do not proceed through official (political) channels.
    The point is, the determination of such is very subjective on the part of the archaeologist who interprets his findings based on certain established criteria that has been accepted in the scientific arena as being the foundation for such connections.
    In the early days of archaeology, before the 20th century, transoceanic diffusion (how settlements and artifacts came to appear in the Americas) was the accepted base of all findings. However, since Cyrus Thomas’ work in 1894, such thinking was considered racist (American Indians were not capable of building the mounds, etc.) and it was no longer necessary or proper to invoke transoceanic diffusion to explain American Indian cultural patters, which no longer were attributed to transoceanic means.
Different schools of thought appeared: Sir Elliot Grafton Smith (left) attributed all development from a beginning in Egypt; while the Viennese school of anthropology believed that Asia was the source of all innovation; however, regardless of which culture was identified as mother of all others, anthropology of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was of the view that diffusion, migration, and invasion were the main processes that affected change in prehistory.
    While some thought diffusion was solely a migratory process; others felt that innovation was the result of gradual spread of ideas rather than exclusively migratory. There were those who felt the migration of humanity from the Eastern to the Western Hemispheres occurred over a Beringia Land Bridge between Siberia and Alaska, others felt South America was populated by eastward movement across the Pacific from India and Indonesia. Others leaned toward internal migrations within a country, like the Germans, while others, especially the English, accepted development from successive waves of external migrations. The point is, no one had a clear view and archaeology/anthropology did not have a singular view of their beliefs.
    In regard to “Stages,” which can be used to relate local archaeological sequences to one another, and are sometimes called “simple stages” (defined by the presence or absence of a single feature), and “complex stages” respectively.
Therefore, the difference in judgment of a Pre-Ceramic or Ceramic culture is determined from finding or not finding pottery shards at a site. Thus, this single feature determines the classification, and determines the age in which a settlement is placed (3500 to 1800 B.C., or 1800 B.C. to 1500 A.D.), which is a considerable difference for a single feature to determine. Of course, it is not that simple, but the idea of how judgment plays such a significant role in dating should be clearly understood. Nor can it be said that radiocarbon dating will overshadow such a judgment determination, since every lab requires an identification of the dating period the archaeologist is looking for in the dating process. Thus, when stating pre-ceramic, the lab knows that dates should fall between 3500 and 1800 B.C.—perhaps that is why about 50% of all radiocarbon dates are discarded by the labs in reaching the final dates they provide from testing. We are not suggesting falsifying here, only that tests are conducted in manners that take into consideration those the field investigation arbitrarily concludes.
    All of this is meant to show that while we accept archaeology and anthropology (geology, evolutionary science, etc.) today without question, buying into their dates, epochs, eras, stages and periods as having meaningful and inarguable accuracy, they are little more than hypothesis of the past, developed over time, without particular insightful knowledge, and certainly with a singular view.
    This singular view has created a false knowledge today of our past, our heritage, and the time frames in which prehistory occurred. It is important that we, in searching for the truth in the scriptural record, clearly understand the fallacious beliefs that have spawned an all-invasive false knowledge about that past and the events we sometimes attempt to fit into it. When the Olmec lived is basically unknown by calendar date, as when the Valdivians, Caral, Wari and others lived in Andean Peru. What we can conclude is that they lived within a certain frame of reference, and that the Book of Mormon tells us exactly when that period existed. Archaeology merely helps us place certain groups within that greater understanding and within a relationship to one another. The scriptural record tells us who they were.

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