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9.3: Activity 2 - Three Classifications

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    Jess Whalen, Mt. San Jacinto College

    In a sense, classification has nothing to do with the object and everything to do with the archaeologist. There is nothing intrinsic about the object that means that it must be classified in a certain way. Rather, the classifications are arbitrary and up to the archaeologist who places objects into them. Two archaeologists could come up with different classifications for the same object.

    In this exercise, you will work in teams of three to classify ten cars on your campus. Your instructor will assign each team to different parking lots or areas of a parking lot. Choose cars in a range of sizes, colors, makes, and ages to sample.

    Classify the cars according to each of the following classification systems:

    1. Chronological: The age of the vehicles.
    2. Utility: The function of the vehicles. Of course, all are designed for transportation, but do they mainly transport people, objects, or both? Are some meant to carry more cargo/people than others? Are some used to negotiate rough terrain and others for more-urban environments? Consider a variety of options here.
    3. Social: The social status of the owners of the vehicles.

    It is up to your team to decide how you will classify the cars in each classification system. You will need to identify the attributes that are most useful in each system and create three or more sub-groups for each classification. This means that you will need to identify secondary and tertiary attributes that will allow you to classify the cars. Label the sub-groups in each classification system (using 1, 2, 3, 4 or a, b, c, d).

    Make a data table that refers to the numbered sub-group when you list each car (e.g., 4 – Luxury vehicle with new chrome).

    Tip: Use notepaper to work out the major sub-categories for each classification system and the primary (first), secondary (second), and tertiary (third) characteristics that define cars put into each sub-group. You may choose to revise these as you work.

    Worksheet 1: Classification Schemes

    With your team, brainstorm categories (sub-groups) you can use for the three classification systems and criteria that define those categories in the following table. Then, go to the assigned parking lot area and select the ten vehicles you will use as your observations. Once you have selected the vehicles, review the categories you came up with and make any modifications you feel will make your classification system more effective.

    Chronological classification: Age of the vehicle
    Sub-groups Defining criteria

    Utility classification: Function of the vehicle
    Sub-groups Defining criteria

    Social classification: Social status of the owners of the vehicles
    Sub-groups Defining criteria

    Worksheet 2: Data Table

    Use the following data table to record the attributes each vehicle possesses using the criteria you defined for your sub-groups. Make sure that the characteristics you record reflect why you assigned each car to a particular sub-group. Note that you will not have enough time to look up characteristics such as the cars’ ages on the internet. Make your data table entries neat and readable!

    Car number
    and basic description

    Chronological classification Utility classification Social classification


    1. Did you modify any of the classification systems you created? Why?

    2. Do you feel that you were able to classify all ten automobiles using your system? Why or why not? If not, what would you have had to modify to accommodate all vehicles?

    3. Are there other broad categories you think would be better suited for classifying vehicles (For example, was function useful for your classification?)? Why or why not?

    4. Compare your categories to categories created by another group. Are they the same or different? If they are different, how so? Why might this be?

    5. How can classification systems lead researchers to look at and analyze a subject in a particular way?