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Technology Theme Activities

Technology entails more than just what people make or build to help them extract resources and perform work - it is much more than their arrowpoints, hoes, houses, or automobiles. As an important interface between culture and the environment, technology may reveal how a people evaluated and adapted to certain environmental risks and opportunities. Technology offers insights to the relative importance of various resources and their percieved value. Differences in technology used by different sub-populations may shed light not only on the work done by different people, but the social and cultural status associated with that work.

The following questions encourage you to consisder technology in this very broad anthropological sense. Completing most questions will require use of other thematic text as well as material found in the archives.

Essay Questions

  1. Explain why marine shell artifacts may be biased towards decorative, elite objects.
  2. Assemble an exhibit that contrasts elite implements and facilities with those of commoners.
  3. Assemble an exhibit that contrasts men's vs. women's tools and decorative items. What does this this exhibit tell us about the sexual division of labor in Mississippian society?
  4. What are the reasons that people in chiefdom level societies throughout the world often build their houses on mounds? Discuss both issues of comfort as well as social reasons.
  5. Assuming that the typical Mississippian house occupies approximately 20 sq. meters (4 x 5m), which of the Cahokia mounds may have been platforms for elite houses? Which clearly served a very specialized function, and why?
  6. You are an adult Mississippian farmer weeding the field. What is your likely sex?
  7. Your Mill Creek chert hoe is no longer servicable. What do you do with this oblong chunk of chert? What are the economic consequences of your decision?
  8. Describe the characteristics you would want in chert to be used for utilitarian flake tools, and for chert hoes. How would the final tool you wish to produce guide your selection of chert?
  9. A description of the finely made projectile points from Mound 72 are presented in the archives. How many sets of artifacts with similar morphological, technological, and material traits are indicated by these data. Be sure to illustrate your findings with summary graphs.
  10. Explain the evidence that many of the mounds at Cahokia were positioned according to some sort of site plan.
  11. Explain the significance of the palisade at Cahokia.
  12. How did specific technological innovations affect human-land interactions in the American Bottom?
  13. What class or classes of technology do mounds represent? In which class do mounds serve as instruments of communication? How do they do this?

Observational Learning

  1. Obtain several cobs of dry corn. Imagine you have 100 or so bushels of cobs with dry corn. You have a limited amount of space and want to have access to the corn later in the winter. 1a) Design a storage facility using materials known to be used by Mississippian people. Discuss the factors would you have to consider in making a facility/artifact to store corn? 1b) Using your design, construct a facility or artifact outside that meets your needs for corn storage and place your corn in this facility and/or artifact in November. Leave your corn stored in this facility for 2 months. After 2 months examine your stored corn. What is the condition of the corn? Has their been any damage or loss? Remove 25% of the corn. One month later, examine the remaining stored corn. What is the condition of the corn? Has their been any damage or loss? 1c) Based on your findings from storing your corn, how would you modify your storage facility?
  2. Obtain several pieces of chert of the same size and quality. Obtain several granitic hammerstones that are easily held, but of very different weights and sizes. Which hammerstone works best for removing what size of flakes?
  3. Obtain several pieces of chert of the same size and quality. Using a small hammerstone, manufacture 3 chert scrapers so that they have working edges of approximately 90, 60, and 30 degrees.
  4. Obtain a fresh, but unscraped deer hide. Stake the hide out on the ground. Divide the hide into 3 areas of roughly equal size. Use a scraper manufactured above to scrape an area. Is one scraper easier to use? Do all scrapers remove flesh equally as well? Do all scrapers damage the hide?
  5. Examine Ahler's classification of projectile points found in 3 separate caches in Mound 72 (see archives). Are the points within a cache more similar to each other than points in the other caches? What are the social implications of your conclusions?
  6. Compare and use maps and other geographic representations and instruments to gather information about people, places and environments.

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