I. Prehistoric Times > A. Introduction > 2. The Study of Prehistory > e. Analysis and Interpretation > 3. Interpretation
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  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
3. Interpretation
 
Interpretation of artifacts and food remains provides clues as to ancient human behavior. Archaeologists use three major approaches to interpretation: ethnographic analogy, ethnoarchaeology, and controlled experimentation.  1
Sometimes analogies between living societies and those of the prehistoric past can yield fruitful insights. Such difficult analogies must be carried out under carefully controlled conditions. For example, comparisons of present Inuit harpoons from the Canadian Arctic can sometimes give insights into prehistoric bone artifacts from the same region, even those manufactured a thousand years earlier.  2
Some archaeologists have employed ethnoarchaeology, living for long periods among surviving hunter-gatherer and subsistence-farming societies like the San hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. Such studies provide data for controlled interpretation of the dynamics of ancient hunter-gatherer life or early agriculture.  3
Controlled experimentation with ancient technology can yield valuable information. For instance, by replicating the stoneworking techniques used by prehistoric peoples, some prehistorians have been able to reconstruct minute details of ancient stone technology, even establishing that some very early humans were left handed!  4
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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