Archaeology - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Identifying 1 Mya Fire in Wonderwerk Cave with Micromorphology and Fourier-Transform Infrared Microspectroscopy

Date created: 
2016-07-22
Abstract: 

The role of fire in the evolution of humans is an important yet unanswered question in palaeoanthropology, but there is a striking lack of archaeological evidence for the presence or absence of anthropogenic fire-use by early hominins. This is partially due to the difficulty of identifying fire residues, such as wood ash. I demonstrated that Fourier Transform Infrared Microspectroscopy integrated with micromorphological analysis can distinguish microscopic amounts of pyrogenic calcite which include wood ash, from non-pyrogenic calcites. The ν3 (CO3) peak, an absorption of energy by one of the three C-O bonds, is quantifiably more narrow in pyrogenic calcites. With the protocol, I evaluated potential evidence of anthropogenic fire at 1 Mya in Wonderwerk Cave, a South African archaeological site. The results confirmed the earlier identification of ashed plant remains in Stratum 10, thus supporting the association of fire and anthropogenic activity in Wonderwerk Cave in the Earlier Stone Age.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Francesco Berna
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Human Osteoarchaeological Research on Stress and Lifeways of Bronze Age Populations in North China

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-05-31
Abstract: 

Integrating three projects, this dissertation focused on the analysis of human skeletal remains to better understand human adaptation and lifeways in Bronze Age North China. During this time, China witnessed dramatic sociocultural changes in the Central Plain caused by urbanization and represented by the large city centre in Anyang, while pre-urbanization lifeways such as nomadic subsistence practice remained unchanged in some parts of Northeast China. Human skeletal remains, often well-preserved in North China, provide unique opportunities to examine osteological evidence to evaluate human responses to these sociocultural changes. The first project analysed oral health indicators (caries, abscesses, AMTL, and pulp chamber exposure) in three Late Bronze Age (ca. 3000 – 2000 B.P.) skeletal populations (n=187) from the Central Plain and Northeast China. The results clearly showed that deteriorated oral health was observed in agriculture-based subsistence. The second project assessed impacts of early urbanization on 347 commoners of the Late Shang (ca. 3250 – 3046 B.P.) in Anyang. High frequencies were observed in all the commoners for enamel hypoplasia but significantly different frequencies were found between groups or sexes for cribra orbitalia or osteoperiostitis respectively, indicating overall high levels of stress, likely derived from early urbanization and different stress responses by different groups and sexes. The last project evaluated the prevalence of osteoarthritis in 193 adult remains of the Late Shang in Anyang (ca. 3250 – 3046 B.P.). The observed pattern showed a clear sex difference of osteoarthritis distribution, suggesting a strong gender division of labour. An extremely high frequency (at 92%) of metatarsal-phalangeal osteoarthritis caused by kneeling (repetitive hyperdorsiflexion of toes) indicated that kneeling was most likely a prescribed cultural component in daily life and activities. This speculation is consistent with the observation that kneeling as a symbol appeared in many oracle bone characters of the time. This dissertation research has provided new regional perspectives for bioarchaeological studies of subsistence practice and social dynamics of the past, and it has also demonstrated when positioned within rich archaeological contexts, human remains can provide unique insight to enhance our ability to study human environment interactions of the past.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Dongya Yang
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Exploring morphological phylogenetics of fossil hominins

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-05-26
Abstract: 

A reliable phylogeny is critical for the study of hominin evolution, yet there remains considerable debate about the relationships among hominin species. Phylogenetic analyses conducted to date differ in various analytical aspects such as the fossil samples and characters used to infer their relationships. Given the importance of a phylogeny in the study of hominin evolution, these analytical issues must be explored further. The four studies were designed to address some key issues in the phylogenetic analysis in palaeoanthropology. The first study investigated the effects of using small samples in standard phylogenetic analyses. The second study used a new method—¬tip-dated Bayesian analysis—to test various phylogenetic hypotheses pertaining to three recent debates. The third study used the tip-dated Bayesian method to evaluate the phylogenetic and temporal placement of a newly discovered species, Homo naledi, in the hominin phylogeny. The fourth study explored the impact of cranial modularity on the choice of characters used to reconstruct the phylogeny of the hominins. Results suggest that small sample sizes can often be problematic when reconstructing phylogenetic relationships of extant hominoids. However, the choice of character coding methods may mitigate the effects of small samples. Bayesian phylogenetic analyses were conducted to evaluate various hypotheses from three recent debates and some hypotheses can be strongly refuted based on current evidence. The results of the analyses suggest that there is strong evidence that Homo naledi belongs to the clade of Homo and Australopithecus sediba, but its place within this clade is currently ambiguous. Preliminary work places the fossil at approximately 1 Ma. Different cranial regions contain conflicting phylogenetic signals, but none of the regions particularly stand out as having more homoplastic characters. The hominin phylogeny is necessary to study hominin evolution, and as such, it is important to improve the methods used to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships of hominins. The use of Bayesian phylogenetic methods is promising for palaeoanthropology as it can narrow the scope of debate surrounding phylogenetic hypotheses. It allows us to highlight where ambiguities in the data and the model exist and demonstrate the limit of the interpretation of the current fossil evidence.

Document type: 
Thesis
Senior supervisor: 
Mark Collard
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Reconstructing Northern Fur Seal Population Diversity through Ancient and Modern DNA Data

Date created: 
2015-07-02
Abstract: 

Archaeological and historic evidence suggests that northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) has undergone several population and distribution changes (including commercial sealing) potentially resulting in a loss of genetic diversity and population structure. This study analyzes 36 unpublished mtDNA sequences from archaeological sites 1900-150 BP along the Pacific Northwest Coast from Moss et al. (2006) as well as published data (primarily Pinsky et al. [2010]) to investigate this species’ genetic diversity and population genetics in the past. The D-loop data shows high nucleotide and haplotype diversity, with continuity of two separate subdivisions (haplogroups) through time. Nucleotide mismatch analysis suggests population expansion in both ancient and modern data. AMOVA analysis (FST and ΦST) reveals some ‘structure’ detectable between several archaeological sites. While the data reviewed here did not reveal dramatic patterning, the AMOVA analysis does identify several significant FST values, indicating some level of ancient population ‘structure’, which deserves future study.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Dongya Yang
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Selecting an appropriate reference sample for juvenile age estimation methods in a forensic context

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-04-18
Abstract: 

The population on which forensic juvenile skeletal age estimation methods are applied has not been critically considered. Previous research suggests that child victims of homicide tend to be from socioeconomically disadvantaged contexts, and that these contexts impair growth. Thus, juvenile skeletal remains examined by forensic anthropologists may be short for age. Cadaver lengths were obtained from records of autopsies of 1256 individuals, aged birth to eighteen years at death, conducted between 2000 and 2015 in Australia, New Zealand, New Mexico, New York City, and Cuyahoga County. Growth status of the forensic population, represented by homicide victims, and general population, represented by accident victims, were compared using height for age Z-scores and independent sample t-tests. Cadaver lengths of the accident victims were evaluated against growth references using one sample t-tests to evaluate whether accident victims reflect the general population.Homicide victims are shorter for age than accident victims in samples from the United States, but not in Australia and New Zealand. Accident victims are more representative of the general population in Australia and New Zealand. Different results in Australia and New Zealand as opposed to the United States may be linked to higher socioeconomic inequality in the United States. These results suggest that physical anthropologists should critically select reference samples when devising forensic juvenile skeletal age estimation methods. Children examined in forensic investigations may be short for age, and thus methods developed on normal healthy children may yield inaccurate results.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Hugo Cardoso
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Historical Archaeology of Tourism at Port Arthur, Tasmania, 1885-1960

Date created: 
2016-01-14
Abstract: 

This study examines the construction of place for tourists at Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia, between 1885 and 1960. Port Arthur, a popular Tasmanian tourist destination today, was first established in 1830 as a secondary punishment station for British convicts and closed in 1877. Six months following its closure, the first steamship full of pleasure-seekers interested in visiting the former penal settlement arrived at Port Arthur. While some groups in Tasmania worked to shed the stain of its convict past, tourist interest in Port Arthur increased. The substantial income tourism introduced to a limited local economy resulted in tensions between hiding the convict past and profiting from it. The way Port Arthur was created and recreated for tourists changed through time and was often affected by context. Constructions of the site and its history were driven by a number of fiscal, social and cultural factors, and these were navigated by several groups. A number of actors, including hotel proprietors, tour operators, postcard producers, museum curators and guidebook authors, had varied roles and interests in the site, and these were enacted in a variety of media. To explore some of the nuances in the ways Port Arthur was constructed for tourists, material culture from several contexts around the site was examined. This includes assemblages from hotels and guesthouses at Port Arthur, advertisements for the hotels printed in newspapers and guidebooks, postcards which depicted the site, and private museum collections that interpreted the site for visitors. These collections were examined for expressions of dark tourism and romanticism, along with broader understandings of authenticity and inauthenticity in the construction of Port Arthur for tourists. Evidence from all available contexts at Port Arthur was used (where possible) to evaluate historical theories regarding the development of mass tourism in the western world. Artefact assemblages from hotels and guesthouses at Port Arthur were also used to assess existing theories about the material nature of tourism as a phenomenon, identify a material signature unique to tourist sites and better understand material manifestations of tourism.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Ross Jamieson
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

The Evolutionary Ecology of Human Lactation: Correlates of Duration of Breastfeeding

Date created: 
2016-04-01
Abstract: 

Humans breastfeed our infants for less time than expected for primates of our size. Additionally, human breastfeeding duration appears more variable than in nonhuman species. This early and flexible weaning pattern affects maternal fertility as well as infant health and survivorship, from both within- and across- species perspectives. So, understanding what factors enabled humans to wean relatively early and flexibly is an important goal for human evolutionary demography. Yet, what these factors are and how they influence breastfeeding behaviour remain unclear. To address this gap, I present a series of three papers that each tests several hypotheses regarding influences on breastfeeding duration. The first paper reports a study that uses secondary data from small-scale human societies to investigate the effects of energetic factors on among-population variation in breastfeeding duration. The second has similar aims to the first, but uses within-population field data from indigenous Maya women from Guatemala to evaluate the energetic hypotheses. The third study, again using field data from Maya women, assesses a different set of hypotheses: that socio-ecological change and sources of socially-transmitted information about how to feed infants influence duration of breastfeeding.The first study shows that, across populations, breastfeeding duration associates negatively with maternal body mass, positively with maternal height, and negatively with dietary quality of weaning foods. The second indicates that within-population variation in breastfeeding duration associates negatively with maternal height, negatively with maternal access to help with infant care, and positively with parity. The last study suggests that duration of exclusive breastfeeding associates negatively with conservativeness of the source from which mothers learn about infant feeding behaviour. It also indicates that full duration of breastfeeding associates positively with household modernization. Taken together, these results suggest two things. One is that reduced duration of breastfeeding relates to greater maternal access to energy. The second is that socio-cultural factors influence variation in duration of breastfeeding in humans. These findings are consistent with previous claims that increases in energy availability and/or the development of complex cultural systems for information transmission contributed to the evolution of short, flexible breastfeeding and high fertility in humans.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Mark Collard
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

A structural approach to Lapita ceramic design analysis: Investigation of the Eastern Lapita Province

Date created: 
2016-03-24
Abstract: 

Methodological approaches to archaeological ceramic design analysis often rely upon the subjective identification and comparison of decorative design elements and motifs. In an effort to develop more objective methods, I propose and evaluate the utility of a new structural approach that quantifies the complexity and organization of design, predominantly through the use of microscopy techniques. The approach is compared to element/motif analysis and applied to data sets of Lapita ceramics, the ceramic series that demarcates exploration and first settlement by Austronesian speaking peoples across Oceania. I am first concerned with the Eastern Lapita Province (Fiji, Lau, Tonga and Samoa), a region that is known to share motifs, but differs in motif application and layout. Applying both motif and structural analysis, I not only identify variation in results between the two methods but distinguish and isolate regional ceramic variation. This, then, leads me to question the cohesiveness of the Eastern Lapita Province as it is previously defined. Second, I extend my analysis to incorporate ceramic samples from the Western (Vanuatu) and Southern (New Caledonia) Lapita provinces. Ostensibly, I define ancestral relationships between these regions as Oceania was explored and settled by Lapita peoples. Finally, I apply this approach to Lapita ceramic assemblages across the Tongan archipelago. High precision dating of ceramic assemblages in Tonga, combined with motif and structural analysis, gives insight into the cohesiveness of a Lapita potting community and the rapid disappearance of decorative applications within a century and a half after colonization. Difference in results provided by structural versus element/motif analysis could be due to several factors, including cultural transmission mechanisms through which potters choose designs and then place them onto a pot. These mechanisms have yet to be identified through hypotheses tested with both structural and element/motif ceramic design data employing a single data set. This study presents an important step in this direction for Lapita archaeology. Elements and motifs are no doubt important for the analysis of design, but structural application can and should be used as a complementary approach in order to understand the degree to which both aspects of design signal potter interaction.

Document type: 
Thesis
Senior supervisor: 
David Burley
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Estimating Body Mass In Biological Anthropology: An Evaluation Using Three-Dimensional Computed Tomography

Date created: 
2015-01-09
Abstract: 

Estimates of body mass are essential to biological anthropology research. The primary source for such estimates is skeletal morphology, and several predictive equations have been developed for cranial and postcranial material. These equations are widely used, but a number of factors suggest that they may not be as reliable as they are generally assumed to be. In particular, reference samples are often small and analyses frequently employ indirect measurements, specimens without accompanying body mass values, or mean data. In addition, tests of the equations have rarely involved external validation with samples of known mass.This project addressed these issues through three studies, using a large sample of modern humans for which both body masses and skeletal measurements were available. The sample consisted of Swiss forensic cases whose skeletal measurements were reconstructed from whole-body computed tomography scans. The first study compared the accuracy of three sets of commonly employed cranial equations. The second assessed published postcranial equations and compared the results to previous evaluations that had used less robust test samples. Several expectations regarding the performance of the equations were also tested. The third study employed the same sample to develop and test new regression equations for estimating mass from cranial and postcranial variables. The study was designed to compare the relative utility of the cranial and postcranial equations and to test the effect of variable choice, statistical method, and evaluation criteria on estimation competence. Results suggest that body mass estimates should be used more cautiously than is usually the case. Overall, cranial equations did not estimate mass accurately. Several that have been deemed to be reliable in previous studies, did not perform well. Postcranial equations estimated mass more accurately, but not consistently. They also did not necessarily perform in accordance with statements in the literature. Deriving new equations using a known reference sample improved estimation competence compared to previous studies, but accuracy rates remained relatively low. Key assumptions about the best criteria to use for evaluating predictive competence were not supported. Further research may explain these discrepancies, but until then, estimates generated with currently published equations should be treated as “ballpark figures”.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Mark Collard
Department: 
Environment:
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Testing Gerasimov’s two-tangent nose projection method in craniofacial approximations of children

Date created: 
2015-12-03
Abstract: 

Craniofacial approximation is an artistic process in which a potential face is created over the skull of an unknown individual in order to assist with identification. It is often not performed on children due to the lack of research in this area. There are currently several methods in use to predict the nose pronasale position, the oldest and purportedly most accurate and precise of which was the two-tangent method proposed by Mikhail Gerasimov in 1955 (13, 14, 17, 23, 24, 27, 28). To determine if this method is accurate for children of different age groups, 280 (140 male, 140 female) lateral cephalograms were imported into Adobe Photoshop® 7 where the soft tissue outline is removed to estimate the position of the pronasale using Gerasimov’s two-tangent method. The soft tissue outline layer was reapplied, and the predicted pronasale was compared to the actual pronasale using a Cartesian system. ANOVA and t-tests were performed to compare the position of the actual and predicted pronasale between age groups of the same sex, between sexes, and age groups of different sexes. Results show that this method only is accurate and precise for male juveniles between the ages of 9-12. According to these findings, Gerasimov’s two-tangent method should probably not be used for facial approximations on children.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Hugo Cardoso
Dongya Yang
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.