In most prehistoric sites, only a small fraction of the prehistoric material culture is preserved for archeologists to recover. Items such as leather clothing, most wooden objects, woven mats and baskets, and the animal and plant foods that were collected and eaten usually deteriorate and rot away over time. Typically only the most durable goods—the rocks used for cooking and warmth, the chipped-stone tools and waste flakes generated from their production, and in later sites, sherds of their ceramic pottery—are preserved. In some instances, depending on the local site conditions and the age of the deposits, some of the animal bones as well as tiny bits of burned organic matter (wood charcoal, bulbs, seeds, shell, etc.) are preserved. Thus, the archeologist typically recovers only a very limited percentage of the garbage left behind by prehistoric campers. Few though they may be, these items provide the foundation from which a great deal more information can be extracted.
Here we highlight some of the different technical analyses that were conducted on samples from the Varga site and the information gleaned from those analyses. It is hoped the reader will gain a better understanding and insight into some of the different types of technical analyses that can be performed on tools, rocks, and soils to help us better understand the activities, behaviors, and lives of peoples of the past. This is an attempt to answer the frequently asked question, How do you know that? By clicking on the images above, you can learn more about the technical studies used in interpreting archeological sites.