A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Z
abrasive stone: usually a sandstone slab used for grinding and polishing.
absolute dating: the determination of age with reference to a specific time scale, such as a fixed calendrical system; also referred to as chronometric dating.B [top]
achieved status: social standing and prestige reflecting the ability of an individual to acquire an established position in society as a result of individual accomplishments (cf. ascribed status).
activity area: a limited portion of a site in which a specialized cultural function was carried out, such as food preparation, tool manufacture etc.
adaptation: changes in gene frequencies resulting from selective pressures being placed upon a population by environmental factors; results in a greater fitness of the population to its ecological niche.
adze-blade: a ground and polished stone artifact characterized by a generally rectangular shape with a beveled cutting edge on one end. Used as a woodworking tool. [picture] Reference: http://www.loghelp.com/adzes.html
aerial photography: photographic coverage of the land surface obtained from the air. Useful in locating and recording site positions.
aerial reconnaissance: an important survey technique in the discovery and recording of archaeological sites (see also reconnaissance survey).
alidade: an optical surveying instrument used in conjunction with a plane-table and stadia-rod to produce detailed large-scale topographic maps. [picture] Reference: http://www.atlasinstrument.com/alidade.html
alloying: a technique involving the mixing of two or more metals to create an entirely new material, e.g. the fusion of copper and tin to make bronze.
alluvial fan: a cone-shaped deposit of sediments generally formed where a mountain stream discharges onto a level surface. Alluvial fan deposits are among the most common surficial sediments in mountainous terrain.
alluvium: a general term for all deposits laid down in fresh water - most commonly applied to riverine sediments.
altimeter: a barometric device for determining elevations above sea-level.
altithermal: a postulated climatic period characterized by warmer and/or drier conditions approximately 4,000-8,000 years ago.
amino-acid racemization: a method used in the dating of both human and animal bone. Its special significance is that with a small sample (10g) it can be applied to material up to 100,000 years old, i.e. beyond the time range of radiocarbon dating.
analogy: a process of reasoning whereby two entities that share some similarities are assumed to share many others.
ancillary sample: any non-artifactual materials collected by archaeologists to aid in dating, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, or other interpretations - e.g. carbon samples, soil samples, palynological samples etc.
annealing: in copper and bronze metallurgy, this refers to the repeated process of heating and hammering the material to produce the desired shape.
anthropology: the study of humanity - our physical characteristics as animals, and our unique non-biological characteristics we call culture. The subject is generally broken down into three subdisciplines: biological (physical) anthropology, cultural (social) anthropology, and archaeology.
anthropomorphic: "man-like." Used to describe artifacts or art work decorated with human features or with a man-like appearance.
arbitrary level: an excavation level defined by factors of convenience, with no necessary relationship to site-stratigraphy or cultural components.
archaeobotany: see paleoethnobotany.
archaeological culture: a constantly recurring assemblage of artifacts assumed to be representative of a particular set of behavioral activities carried out at a particular time and place (cf. culture).
archaeology of cult: the study of the material indications of patterned actions undertaken in response to religious beliefs.
archaeology: a subdiscipline of anthropology involving the study of the human past through its material remains.
archaeomagnetic dating: sometimes referred to as paleomagnetic dating. it is based on the fact that changes in the earth's magnetic field over time can be recorded as remnant magnetism in materials such as baked clay structure (ovens, kilns, and hearths).
archaeozoology: sometimes referred to as zooarchaeology, this involves the identification and analysis of faunal species from archaeological sites, as an aid to the reconstruction of human diets and to an understanding of the contemporary environment at the time of deposition.
art object: any artifact carrying, or consisting of, decorative or artistic elements.
articulated: two or more bones left in their anatomical position after tissue decay.
artifact: any manually portable product of human workmanship (see feature). In its broadest sense includes tools, weapons, ceremonial items, art objects, all industrial waste, and all floral and faunal remains modified by human activity.
ascribed status: social standing or prestige which is the result of inheritance or hereditary factors (cf. achieved status).
assemblage: a group of artifacts recurring together at a particular time and place, and representing the sum of human activities.
association: the co-occurrence of an artifact with other archaeological remains, usually in the same matrix.
atlatl-weight: usually a ground and polished stone object with grooves or perforations - for attachment to the shaft of an atlatl. Presumed to function in balancing the weapon prior to throwing.
atlatl: a device used to propel throwing-spears or "darts", used in most parts of North America prior to the appearance of the bow and arrow.
atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS): a method of analyzing artifact composition similar to optical emission spectrometry (OES) in that it measures energy in the form of visible light waves. It is capable of measuring up to 40 different elements with an accuracy of c. 1 percent.
attribute: a minimal characteristic of an artifact such that it cannot be further subdivided; attributes commonly studied include aspects of form, style, decoration, color, and raw material.
attritional age profile: a mortality pattern based on bone or tooth wear which is characterized by an overrepresentation of young and old animals in relation to their numbers in live populations. It suggests either scavenging of attritional mortality victims (i.e. those dying from natural causes or from non-human predation) or the hunting by humans or other predators of the most vulnerable individuals.
augering: a subsurface detection method using either a hand or machine-powered drill to determine the depth and character of archaeological deposits. [picture] Reference: http://www.eijkelkamp.com/seismic5.html
Australopithecus: a collective name for the earliest known hominids emerging about 5 million years ago in East Africa.
awl: a small pointed hand tool used for piercing holes in leather, wood and other materials,
azimuth: a magnetic bearing sighted from your position to a known landmark. Used in navigation and in determining site locations.
B.P.: "Before Present." the notation commonly used on radiocarbon dates, e.g. 1,000 B.P. = 1,000 years before 1950 A.D., or approximately 1,000 A.D.C [top]
back-dirt: the excavated matrix or fill of a site, Presumed to be of little or no further archaeological significance.
back-filling: the process of refilling a completed excavation.
band: a small territorially-based social group consisting of 2 or more nuclear families. A loosely integrated population sharing a sense of common identity but few specialized institutions.
barb: a sharp backwards extension of a projectile point intended to act as a hook to keep the point within a wound.
barrow: a large mound of earth or stones placed over a burial. The term is especially used in reference to the mounds of England.
basal grinding: intentional smoothing of the base or stem of a chipped stone projectile point.
basal thinning: the intentional removal of small longitudinal flakes from the base of a chipped stone projectile point or knife to facilitate hafting.
basalt: a fine-grained volcanic rock used for the manufacture of chipped stone artifacts. Color black to gray, texture granular to glass-like.
base-line: an arbitrary line established by stakes and string, or by surveying instrument, from which measurements are taken to produce a site-map, or to provide an initial axis for an excavation grid.
baulks: unexcavated "walls" which may be left between pits to provide stratigraphic control.
bearing: in mapping or navigation, a compass direction, or horizontal angle of sight measured in magnetic degrees.
bench mark (B.M.): a vertical datum-point usually at a known elevation above sea-level, to which mapped elevations may be related.
biconical drilling: a means of perforating beads or pendants for suspension. Accomplished by drilling in from both sides with a tapered drill resulting in an hour-glass-shaped hole.
biface: a stone artifact flaked on both faces.
bifacial flaking: the manufacture of a stone artifact by removing flakes from both faces.
bilaterally barbed: a projectile point or harpoon with barbs on both edges.
bilaterally symmetrical: the condition in which, when something is cut down the middle, the two halves formed are generally mirror images of each other.
biological anthropology: see physical anthropology.
bipoint: a bone or stone artifact pointed at both ends.
bipolar percussion: a means of manufacturing chipped stone artifacts. Accomplished by placing the raw material on a large rock and hitting it cith a hammerstone from above.
bison jump: a specialized animal trap used on the Plains, involving driving bison (or buffalo) over a natural cliff or embankment.
blade: a long slender prismatic flake manufactured by indirect percussion or pressure from a prepared core. (See macroblade and microblade.) At least twice as long as it is wide.
blank: an "advanced" Preliminary stage in the manufacture of an artifact (also: "preform".)
body sherd: any fragment of a ceramic vessel not identifiable as a rim sherd.
bone breccia: cave fill that consists of masses of bone cemented together with calcium carbonate that has dissolved out of limestone.
bone hammer: a bone that is used as a hammer in the removal of flakes from a core in the manufacturing of stone tools.
bone industry All the bone artifacts from a particular site.
boreal forest: "subarctic forest." A dense mixed forest dominated by spruce, aspen and birch with areas of muskeg. It extends as far north as the tree-line (edge of the tundra) and is the largest single vegetation zone in Canada.
bosing (or bowsing): a subsurface detection method performed by striking the ground with a heavy wooden mallet or a lead-filled container on a long handle.
boulder arrangement: (also boulder mosaic, petroform.) surface boulders aboriginally arranged into geometric, zoomorphic or anthropomorphic patterns.
brain endocasts: these are made by pouring latex rubber into a skull, 50 as to produce an accurate image of the inner surface of the cranium. This method gives an estimate of cranial capacity and has been used on early hominid skulls.
break-in-slope: any abrupt change in the gradient of a topographic surface, such as the edge of a cliff, terrace scarp, etc.
breaking chain: the process of obtaining horizontal distances over sloping terrain with a surveyor's chain by measuring stepped level intervals up the slope.
brunton compass: a sophisticated magnetic compass used as a basic surveying instrument. Also known as the "Brunton Pocket Transit".
bulb of percussion: a raised rounded area on the ventral surface of a conchoidal flake directly below the striking platform.
burial mound: an artificial aboriginal mound containing or covering human burials.
burial: a human interment. may be "flexed" or "extended"; single or multiple; primary or secondary.
burin: a type of chipped stone artifact characterized by the deliberate removal of small prismatic flakes (burin-spalls) down one or more edges. Commonly assumed to have served as engraving or carving tools.
butchering station: a site, or localized activity area within a site, dominated by evidence for the past butchering of game animals (e.g. broken and cut faunal remains and butchering tools).
cache: a deliberate store of equipment, food, furs or other resources placed in, or on the ground (perhaps protected by a rock cairn), or raised above the ground on a platform.
cairn: stones intentionally piled by humans.
calcined bone: burned bone reduced to white or blue mineral constituents.
calendrical system: a system of measuring time that is based on natural recurring units of time, such as revolutions of the earth around the sun. Time is determined by the number of such units that have preceded or elapsed with reference to a specific point in time.
carbon sample: a quantity of organic material, usually charcoal, collected for radiocarbon dating.
catalogue number: a number assigned all items recovered by archaeological research to cross-index them to the catalogue.
catalogue: the systematic list recording artifacts and other finds, recovered by archaeological research, including their description and Provenience.
catastrophe theory: a branch of mathematical topology developed by Rene Thom which is concerned with the way in which nonlinear interactions within systems can produce sudden and dramatic effects; ills argued that there are only a limited number of ways in which such changes can take place, and these are defined as elementary catastrophes.
catastrophic age profile: a mortality pattern based on bone or tooth wear analysis, and corresponding to a "natural" age distribution in which the older the age group, the fewer the individuals it has. This pattern is often found in contexts such as flash floods, epidemics, or volcanic eruptions.
cation-ratio dating: this method aspires to the direct dating of rock carvings and engravings, and is also potentially applicable to Paleolithic artifacts with a strong patina caused by exposure to desert dust. It depends on the principle that cations of certain elements are more soluble than others; they leach out of rock varnish more rapidly than the less soluble elements, and their concentration decreases with time.
cenote: a ritual well, for example, at the late Maya site of Chichen Itza, into which enormous quantities of symbolically rich goods had been deposited.
central place theory: developed by the geographer Christaller to explain the spacing and function of the settlement landscape. Under idealized conditions, he argued, central places of the same size and nature would be equidistant from each other, surrounded by secondary centers with their own smaller satellites. In spite of its limitations, central place theory has found useful applications in archaeology as a preliminary heuristic device.
ceramics: deliberately fired clay artifacts, such as ceramic vessels.
chain: a surveying chain, or long steel tape-measure, calibrated in meters or feet, used for site mapping and grid layout.
chaine operatoire: ordered chain of actions, gestures, and processes in a production sequence (e.g. of a stone tool or a pot) which led to the transformation of a given material towards the finished product. The concept, introduced by Andre Leroi-Gourhan, is significant in allowing the archaeologist to infer back from the finished artifact to the procedures, the intentionality in the production sequence, and ultimately to the conceptual template of the maker.
chalcedony: a semi-translucent silicate (quartz) rock with a wax-like luster and a great range of colors, used as raw material for the manufacture of chipped stone artifacts. Commonly called agate.
characterization: the application of techniques of examination by which characteristic properties of the constituent material of traded goods can be identified, and thus their source of origin; e.g. petrographic thin-section analysis.
chert: a mainly opaque, fairly granular, silicate rock with a dull shiny luster and a great range of colors, used as raw material for the manufacture of chipped stone artifacts. Varieties include jasper and flint.
chi-tho: crude bifacially flaked boulder spall or slab scraper-cutting tools commonly associated with northern Athabaskan assemblages. Similar to a cortical spall tool.
chiefdom: a term used to describe a society that operates on the principle of ranking, i.e. differential social status. Different lineages are graded on a scale of prestige, calculated by how closely related one is to the chief. The chiefdom generally has a permanent ritual and ceremonial center, as well as being characterized by local specialization in crafts.
chinampas: the areas of fertile reclaimed land, constructed by the Aztecs, and made of mud dredged from canals.
chopper: a natural pebble with a crude, steep cutting edge formed by unifacial percussion flaking.
chronology: arrangement of past events in time.
chronometric dating: a dating system that refers to a specific point or range of time. Chronometric dates are not necessarily exact dates, and they are often expressed as a range.
classification: the ordering of phenomena into groups or other classificatory schemes on the basis of shared attributes (see also type and typology).
CLIMAP: a project aimed at producing paleoclimatic maps showing sea-surface temperatures in different parts of the globe, at various periods.
cluster analysis: a multivariate statistical technique which assesses the similarities between units or assemblages, based on the occurrence or non-occurrence of specific artifact types or other components within them.
cognitive archaeology: the study of past ways of thought and symbolic structures from material remains.
cognitive map: an interpretive framework of the world which, it is argued, exists in the human mind and affects actions and decisions as well as knowledge structures.
cognitive-processual approach: an alternative to the materialist orientation of the functional-processual approach, it is concerned with (1) the integration of the cognitive and symbolic with other aspects of early societies; (2) the role of ideology as an active organizational force. It employs the theoretical approach of methodological individualism.
collagen: the organic fraction of bone as distinct from the mineral or carbonate portion. Can be dated by the C-14 method.
collateral flaking: when flakes on a chipped stone artifact extend to the middle from both edges forming a medial ridge. The flakes are at right angles to the longitudinal axis, and regular and uniform in size.
colluvium: materials deposited by gravity at the foot of a slope, e.g. talus, soil creep, etc.
complex: a consistently recurring assemblage of artifacts or traits which may be indicative of a specific set of activities, or a common cultural tradition.
component: "the manifestation of a given archaeological phase at a site." (Willey and Phillips 1958: 21.) Sites may be "single component" (only one distinct cultural unit), or "multi-component" (2 or more cultural units).
composite tool: a tool formed of two or more joined parts, e.g. "composite toggling harpoon head".
computed axial tomography (CAT or CT scanner): the method by which scanners allow detailed internal views of bodies such as mummies. The body is passed into the machine and images of crosssectional "slices" through the body are produced.
concentration: a notable accumulation of archaeological materials in a small area, such as a "concentration of flakes" etc.
conchoidal flake: a type of spall resulting from the fracture of fine-grained, or glassy rocks. Characterized by a bulb of percussion, striking platform remnant, and extremely sharp edges. A predictable fracture pattern that allows the manufacture of Pre-determined tools from these materials.
concretion: a natural clay nodule formed out of solution in soil interstices. Often confused for man-made objects because of their peculiar shapes.
conjoining: see refitting.
conjunctive approach: a methodological alternative to traditional normative archaeology, argued by Walter Taylor (1948), in which the full range of a culture system was to be taken into consideration in explanatory models.
conservation: the protection and care of archaeological resources.
context: an artifact's context usually consists of its immediate matrix (the material surrounding it e.g. gravel, clay, or sand), its provenience (horizontal and vertical position within the matrix), and its association with other artifacts (occurrence together with other archaeological remains, usually in the same matrix). "Primary context" refers to materials found in their original position; "secondary context" refers to materials which have been displaced and redeposited by disturbance factors; "geological context" is the relationship of the archaeological finds to geological strata.
contextual seriation: a method of relative dating pioneered by Flinders Petrie in the 19th century, in which artifacts are arranged according to the frequencies of their co-occurrence in specific contexts (usually burials).
continuous variation: see clinal distribution.
contour interval: the vertical spacing of contour lines on a topographic map - e.g. 10 m , 100 ft., etc..
contour line: a line on a map connecting points of equal elevation.
contoured level: an excavation level with a floor parallel to the slope of the ground surface.
contract archaeology: archaeological research conducted under the aegis of federal or state legislation, often in advance of highway construction or urban development, where the archaeologist is contracted to undertake the necessary research.
control: in the scientific method, a situation in which a comparison can be made between a specific situation and a second situation that differs, ideally, in only one aspect from the first.
coprolites: fossilized feces; these contain food residues that can be used to reconstruct diet and subsistence activities.
core: (1) a blocky nucleus of stone from which flakes or blades have been removed. (2) a column or lineal sample of materials obtained by "coring" the ground, trees, etc..
cortex: the naturally weathered outer surface of a pebble.
cortical spall: a flake struck from the surface of a pebble or nodule which retains the natural cortex on one face. A "Cortical Spall Tool" is generally a relatively large ovate cortical spall exhibiting retouch or use-wear on one or more edges.
creation-science: the idea that scientific evidence can be and has been gathered for creation as depicted in the Bible. Mainstream scientists and the Supreme Court discount any scientific value of creation-science statements.
cremation: an intentionally burned human interment.
Critical Theory: a theoretical approach developed by the so-called "Frankfurt School" of German social thinkers, which stresses that all knowledge is historical, and in a sense biased communication; thus, all claims to "objective" knowledge are illusory.
cryptocrystalline: a term for glassy rocks which break with a conchoidal fracture, such as obsidian.
cultural anthropology: a subdiscipline of anthropology concerned with the non-biological, behavioral aspects of society; i.e. the social, linguistic, and technological components underlying human behavior. Two important branches of cultural anthropology are ethnography (the study of living cultures) and ethnology (which attempts to compare cultures using ethnographic evidence). In Europe, it is referred to as social anthropology.
cultural deposit: sediments and materials laid down by, or heavily modified by, human activity.
cultural determinism: the idea that except for reflexes all behavior is the result of learning.
cultural diffusion: the spreading of a cultural trait (e.g., material object, idea, or behavior pattern) from one society to another.
cultural ecology: a term devised by Julian Steward to account for the dynamic relationship between human society and its environment, in which culture is viewed as the primary adaptive mechanism.
cultural evolution: the theory that societal change can be understood by analogy with the processes underlying the biological evolution of species.
cultural group: a complex of regularly occurring associated artifacts, features, burial types, and house forms comprising a distinct identity.
cultural materialism: the theory, espoused by Marvin Harris, that ideas, values, and religious beliefs are the means or products of adaptation to environmental conditions ("material constraints").
cultural relativism: the ability to view the beliefs and customs of other peoples within the context of their culture rather than one's own.
cultural resource management (CRM): the safeguarding of the archaeological heritage through the protection of sites and through salvage archaeology (rescue archaeology), generally within the framework of legislation designed to safeguard the past.
culture history: the identification and classification of cultural change through time. A primary aspect of archaeological interpretation concerned with establishing the chronological context of cultural items and complexes.
culture sequence: the chronological succession of cultural traits, phases, or traditions in a local area.
culture-area: a classification of cultures within a specific geographic-environmental region, sharing enough distinctive traits to set them apart from adjacent areas, e.g. Northwest Coast, Arctic, etc.
culture-historical approach: an approach to archaeological interpretation which uses the procedure of the traditional historian (including emphasis on specific circumstances elaborated with rich detail, and processes of inductive reasoning).
culture: learned, nonrandom, systematic behavior and knowledge that can be transmitted from generation to generation.
cutting blade: (also "end blade".) the Piercing element of a composite projectile point or harpoon head. (See also projectile point.)
datum plane: an arbitrary or imaginary horizontal surface surveyed over a site from which vertical measurements are taken.E [top]
datum: a fixed reference point on an archaeological site from which measurements are taken.
debitage: waste by-products from tool manufacture.
deduction: a process of reasoning by which more specific consequences are inferred by rigorous argument from more general propositions (cf. induction).
deductive nomological (D-N) explanation: a formal method of explanation based on the testing of hypotheses derived from general laws.
deep-sea cores: cores drilled from the sea bed that provide the most coherent record of climate changes on a worldwide scale. The cores contain shells of microscopic marine organisms (foraminifera) laid down on the ocean floor through the continuous process of sedimentation. Variations in the ratio of two oxygen isotopes in the calcium carbonate of these shells give a sensitive indicator of sea temperature at the time the organisms were alive.
demography: the study of the processes which contribute to population structure and their temporal and spatial dynamics..
dendrochronology: the study of tree-ring patterns; annual variations in climatic conditions which produce differential growth can be used both as a measure of environmental change, and as the basis for a chronology.
dentalia: small, slender horn-like Pacific Ocean shell used and traded as beads and wealth-items.
dependent variable: a variable that is affected by the independent variable.
detritus: waste by-products from tool manufacture. Most frequently applied to chips and fragments resulting from stone flaking.
diachronic: referring to phenomena as they change over time; i.e. employing a chronological perspective (cf. synchronic).
diatom analysis: a method of environmental reconstruction based on plant microfossils. Diatoms are unicellular algae, whose silica cell walls survive after the algae die, and they accumulate in large numbers at the bottom of rivers and lakes. Their assemblages directly reflect the floristic composition of the water's extinct communities, as well as the water's salinity, alkalinity, and nutrient status.
differential fluxgate magnetometer: a type of magnetometer used in subsurface detection with the advantage of producing a continuous reading.
diffusion: when elements of one culture spread to another without wholesale dislocation or migration.
diffusionist approach: the theory popularized by V.G. Childe that all the attributes of civilization from architecture to metalworking had diffused from the Near East to Europe.
distal: that portion of a tool or bone farthest from the body of the user or "owner".
disturbance: a cultural deposit is said to be disturbed when the original sequence of deposition has been altered or upset by post-depositional factors. Agents of disturbance include natural forces such as stream or wind erosion, plant or animal activity, land-slides etc.; and cultural forces such as later excavations.
division of labor: the set of rules found in all societies dictating how the day to day tasks are assigned to the various members of a society.
DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid): the material which carries the hereditary instructions (the "blueprint") which determine the formation of all living organisms. Genes, the organizers of inheritance, are composed of DNA.
domestication: the process by which people try to control the reproductive rates of animals and plants by ordering the environment in such a way as to favor certain species.
dowsing: the supposed location of subsurface features by employing a twig, copper rod, pendulum, or other instrument; discontinuous movements in these instruments are believed by some to record the existence of buried features.
drill: a tool used for perforating wood, bone, and soft stone.
drinking tube: a length of hollow bird-bone used in aboriginal ceremonial situations for drinking liquids.
drive-lanes: aboriginal fences of rock piles or brush used to direct game-animals towards a trap.
drumlin: a streamlined hill or mound formed by a moving glacier, with the "tail" in the direction of ice-flow.
early man: in the New World this term refers to the oldest known human occupants - i.e. prior to ca. 8,000 B.P.F [top]
echo-sounding: an acoustic underwater-survey technique, used to trace the topography of submerged coastal plains and other buried land surfaces (see also seismic reflection profiler).
ecofacts: non-artifactual organic and environmental remains which have cultural relevance, e.g. faunal and floral material as well as soils and sediments.
ecological determinism: a form of explanation in which it is implicit that changes in the environment determine changes in human society.
ecology: the study of the dynamic relationships of organisms to each other and the total environment.
ecosystem: a group of organisms with specific relationships between themselves and a particular environment.
effigy mound: an earthwork in the general shape of an animal (e.g. a snake, bird, etc.).
effigy pipe: an aboriginal smoking pipe shaped to resemble a human or animal form.
egalitarian society: a society that recognizes few differences in wealth, power, prestige, or status.
electrical resistivity: see soil resistivity. electrolysis A standard cleaning process in archaeological conservation. Artifacts are placed in a chemical solution, and by passing a weak current between them and a surrounding metal grill, the corrosive salts move from the cathode (object) to the anode (grill), removing any accumulated deposit and leaving the artifact clean.
electron probe microanalysis: used in the analysis of artifact composition, this technique is similar to XRF (X-ray fluorescence spectrometry), and is useful for studying small changes in composition within the body of an artifact.
electron spin resonance (ESR): a chronometric dating technique based upon the behavior of electrons in crystals exposed to naturally occurring radioactivity; used to date limestone, coral, shell, teeth, and other materials. Enables trapped electrons within bone and shell to be measured without the heating that thermoluminescence requires.
elevation: a measurement of vertical distance in mapping.
empathetic method: the use of personal intuition (in German Einfuhlung to seek to understand the inner lives of other people, using the assumption that there is a common structure to human experience. The assumption that the study of the inner experience of humans provides a handle for interpreting prehistory and history is made by idealist thinkers such as B. Croce, R.G. Collingwood and members of the "postprocessual" school of thought.
empirical: received through the senses (sight, touch, smell, hearing, taste), either directly or through extensions.
empiricism: reliance on observable and quantifiable data.
emulation: one of the most frequent features accompanying competition, where customs, buildings, and artifacts in one society may be adopted by neighboring ones through a process of imitation which is often competitive in nature.
engineer's level: an optical surveying instrument designed to obtain accurate level lines of sight and turn.
environmental archaeology: a field in which inter-disciplinary research, involving archaeologists and natural scientists, is directed at the reconstruction of human use of plants and animals, and how past societies adapted to changing environmental conditions.
environmental circumscription: an explanation for the origins of the state propounded by Robert Carneiro that emphasizes the fundamental role exerted by environmental constraints and by territorial limitations.
eolian deposits: sediments transported by wind (e.g. sand-dunes, loess, etc.).
eoliths: crude stone pebbles found in Lower Pleistocene contexts; once thought to be the work of human agency, but now generally regarded as natural products.
erratic: a glacially transported boulder.
esker: a sinuous ridge of fluvial deposits resulting from a sub-glacial melt-water stream.
ethnicity: a basis for social categories that are rooted in socially perceived differences in national origin, language, and/or religion.
ethnoarchaeology: the study of contemporary cultures with a view to understanding the behavioral relationships which underlie the production of material culture.
ethnographic analogy: interpretation of archaeological remains by comparison to historical cultures.
ethnography: that aspect of cultural anthropology concerned with the descriptive documentation of living cultures.
ethnohistory: the study of ethnographic cultures through historical records.
ethnology: a subset of cultural anthropology concerned with the comparative study of contemporary cultures, with a view to deriving general principles about human society.
ethnos: the ethnic group, defined as a firm aggregate of people, historically established on a given territory, possessing in common relatively stable peculiarities of language and culture, and also recognizing their unity and difference as expressed in a self-
evolution: the process by which small but cumulative changes in a species can, over time, lead to its transformation; may be divided into two categories: physical evolution (adaptive changes in biological makeup) and cultural evolution (adaptive changes in thought and behavior).
excavation grid: a system of rectangular coordinates, established on the ground surface by stakes and string, which divides a site into excavation units.
excavation: the principal method of data acquisition in archaeology, involving the systematic uncovering of archaeological remains through the removal of the deposits of soil and the other material covering them and accompanying them.
experimental archaeology: the study of past behavioral processes through experimental reconstruction under carefully controlled scientific conditions.
exposure: (1) a natural or artificial section or cut into the ground, such as a wind blow-out, sea-cliff, or roadcut. (2) the orientation of a site in relation to magnetic direction or the sun - e.g. a "southern exposure". (3) the quality of color, contrast and light in a photograph.
fabric: (1) a material woven of plant or animal fibers. (2) the orientation of sedimentary particles.G [top]
factor analysis: a multivariate statistical technique which assesses the degree of variation between artifact types, and is based on a matrix of correlation coefficients which measure the relative association between any two variables.
faience: glass-like material first made in predynastic Egypt; it involves coating a core material of powdered quartz with a vitreous alkaline glaze.
fall-off analysis: the study of regularities in the way in which quantities of traded items found in the archaeological record decline as the distance from the source increases. This may be plotted as a falloff curve, with the quantities of material (y-axis) plotted against distance from source (X-axis).
faunal dating: a method of relative dating based on observing the evolutionary changes in particular species of mammals, so as to form a rough chronological sequence.
faunal remains: bones and other animal parts found in archaeological sites. Important in the reconstruction of past ecosystems and cultural subsistence patterns.
feature: a non-portable product of human workmanship. Usually clusters of associated objects; structural remains; hearths, etc.
field data forms: printed forms used to record archaeological survey or excavation information. Special forms are frequently used to record artifact proveniences; features and burials; site locations and descriptions; and level-notes.
filigree: fine open metalwork using wires and soldering, first developed in the Near East.
fire-cracked rock (f.c.r.): (also "fire-broken rock"). Rocks which have been cracked or broken by the heat of a fire. A common element in aboriginal campsite debris.
fishing station: a special type of site located on streams, lakes, or ocean beaches, where fishing activities were carried on. May be characterized by a fish-trap or WEIR.
fission-track dating: a dating method based on the operation of a radioactive clock, the spontaneous fission of an isotope of uranium present in a wide range of rocks and minerals. As with potassium-argon dating, with whose time range it overlaps, the method gives useful dates from rocks adjacent to archaeological material.
flagging (also "survey tape"): brightly colored plastic ribbon used to mark features, sites, surveyed stakes etc., to aid in their relocation.
flake-scar: the negative area left on a stone core or nucleus after the removal of a conchoidal flake.
flake: a fragment removed from a core or nucleus of cryptocrystalline or fine-grained rock by percussion or pressure. May be used as a tool with no further deliberate modification, may be retouched, or may serve as a preform for further reduction.
flaking station: a specialized site, or activity area within a site, dominated by evidence for the past manufacture of flaked stone artifacts. Might consist of an area of concentrated detritus, cores, flaking-tools, and preforms.
flaking-tool (also "flaker"): any implement used to remove conchoidal flakes by percussion or pressure from a nucleus of suitable material. May be a pointed antler or bone pressure-flaking tool, or a small hammer-stone used for percussion.
flesher: a toothed implement manufactured on an animal long-bone, used for scraping hides.
flexed burial: a human interment where the body is placed in a semi-fetal Position with the knees drawn up against the chest and hands near the chin.
flint: a microcrystalline silicate rock similar to chert, used for the manufacture of flaked stone tools. Color most commonly gray, honey-brown, or black.
floor-plan: a scale drawing of features, matrix changes, and important associations completed for the end of each excavation level in a given
floral remains: remnants of past vegetation found in archaeological sites (see microfloral remains). Useful in the reconstruction of past environments.
flotation: the process of recovering small particles of organic material by immersing sediment samples in water or other fluids and skimming off the particles which float on the surface. An important method for obtaining microfloral and microfaunal remains and carbon samples.
fluted: grooved or channeled. A fluted point is a projectile point which has had one or more long thinning flakes removed from the base along one or both faces (e.g. Clovis or Folsom points).
fluvial deposits: sediments laid down by running water.
foraging: collecting wild plants and hunting wild animals for subsistence.
foreshaft: a separate, often detachable piece, between the point and main shaft of a projectile.
formation processes: those processes affecting the way in which archaeological materials came to be buried, and their subsequent history afterwards. Cultural formation processes include the deliberate or accidental activities of humans; natural formation processes refer to natural or environmental events which govern the burial and survival of the archaeological record.
fossil beach (also: "paleo-beach", "raised beach", "fossil strandline"): a lake or ocean beach developed when the water-level was significantly different from that of the present. Most commonly these will be "raised beaches", or old strandline features and sediments found above the modern shoreline.
fossil cuticles: the outermost protective layer of the skin of leaves or blades of grass, made of cutin, a very resistant material that survives in the archaeological record often in feces. Cuticular analysis is a useful adjunct to palynology in environmental reconstruction.
fossil ice wedges: soil features caused when the ground freezes and contracts, opening up fissures in the permafrost that fill with wedges of ice. The fossil wedges are proof of past cooling of climate and of the depth of permafrost.
frequency seriation: a relative dating method which relies principally on measuring changes in the proportional abundance, or frequency, observed among finds (e.g. counts of tool types, or of ceramic fabrics).
functional-processual approach: see processual archaeology.
functionalism: the theory that all elements of a culture are functional in that they serve to satisfy culturally defined needs of the people in that society or requirements of the society as a whole.
genes: the basic units of inheritance, now known to be governed by the specific sequence of the genetic markers within the DNA of the individual concerned.H [top]
geochemical analysis: the investigatory technique which involves taking soil samples at regular intervals from the surface of a site, and measuring their phosphate content and other chemical properties.
geochronology: relative dating based on geological stratigraphy.
geographic coordinates: the world-wide system of latitude and longitude used to define the location of any point on the earth's surface.
geomagnetic reversals: an aspect of archaeomagnetism relevant to the dating of the Lower Paleolithic, involving complete reversals in the earth's magnetic field.
geomorphology: a subdiscipline of geography, concerned with the study of the form and development of the landscape, it includes such specializations as sedimentology.
georadar: a technique used in ground reconnaissance, similar to soil-sounding radar, but with a much larger antenna and more extensive coverage.
gift exchange: see reciprocity.
glacial lake: a lake formed of ponded glacial meltwater, or by the damming of a drainage system by glacial activity. A "pro-glacial" lake has at least one margin formed by glacial ice.
glacial maximum: the position and period of greatest advance of a glacier.
glacial striae: scratches on bedrock or loose stones caused by glacial abrasion. May be large or microscopic and could, in some cases, be mistaken for evidence of human activity.
glacial: a period of expansion of glacial ice.
glottochronology: a controversial method of assessing the temporal divergence of two languages based on changes of vocabulary (lexicostatistics), and expressed as an arithmetic formula.
gorge (also "gorge-hook"): a bone bipoint used to catch fish or waterfowl. After being swallowed, the hook will toggle in the stomach of the prey and cannot be drawn out.
gorget: a relatively large, flat, or gently curving object of polished stone, shell, or metal, with holes for suspension. Usually believed to have been worn as an ornament around the throat.
granulation: the soldering of grains of metal to a background, usually of the same metal, and much used by the Etruscans.
grave goods (also: "grave inclusions", "mortuary goods", etc.): tools, weapons, food, or ceremonial objects placed with a burial.
graver: a small pointed or chisel-like stone tool used for incising or engraving.
grid-system: a system of rectangular excavation or sampling units laid over a site by strings and stakes.
ground reconnaissance: a collective name for a wide variety of methods for identifying individual archaeological sites, including consultation of documentary sources, place-name evidence, local folklore, and legend, but primarily actual fieldwork.
ground stone: stone artifacts shaped by sawing, grinding, and/or polishing with abrasive materials (e.g. "ground slate knives", "polished soapstone pendants" etc.).
gun-flint: a square blade-segment of flint used to ignite the powder charge of a flint-lock gun. Often mistaken for an aboriginal artifact.
habitation area: a generalized term for a house or tent floor, or the remains of any other type of aboriginal shelter.I [top]
habitation site: a location where a human group has lived and conducted normal daily activities for a significant period.
hafted: attached with a binding to a shaft or handle (e.g. a "hafted knife").
half-life: the time taken for half the quantity of a radioactive isotope in a sample to decay (see also radioactive decay).
hammerstone: a natural rounded, largely unmodified pebble used as an unhafted hammer.
hand-axe: a Paleolithic stone tool usually made by modifying (chipping or flaking) a natural pebble.
hand-level: a small, simple, hand-held surveying instrument for establishing horizontal lines-of-sight over short distances.
hand-maul: a carefully manufactured unhafted stone hammer.
harpoon head (point): the arming tip of a harpoon. generally classifiable into 2 main forms - toggling and barbed - each of which may be composite or single-piece, and may or may not carry additional cutting-blades or side-blades. Always have line-guards or other means of line attachment.
harpoon: a thrown or thrust spear-like weapon armed with a detachable point fastened to a retrieving line.
hearth: a fireplace, often circular and may be unlined, rock or clay-lined, or rock-filled.
heat treatment: an aboriginal process by which the flaking properties of a rock were improved by controlled heating in a fire.
hegemony: preponderant influence or authority of one individual or social group over another. heliocentric: a sun-centered model of the universe.
hematite: a natural iron oxide which was used as a reddish pigment.
henge: literally, "hanging rock," this term is often applied to the Neolithic stone monoliths found in Britian.
herd: among geladas, a large social unit consisting of several bands that come together under very good grazing conditions.
hermeneutics: formal study of methods of interpretation. Following Gadamer, the hermeneutical process is often regarded as involving complex interaction between the interpreting subject and the interpreted object.
hinge-fracture: a weak or inward-directed blow against cryptocrystalline or fine-grained rock will produce a flake which breaks off (or "hinges") halfway along, without carrying through to a thin tapered end.
historic period: the time after European contact, or the beginning of written recording.
historical archaeology: the archaeological study of historically documented cultures. In North America, research is directed at colonial and post-colonial settlement, analogous to the study of medieval and post-medieval archaeology in Europe.
historical particularism: a detailed descriptive approach to anthropology associated with Franz Boas and his students, and designed as an alternative to the broad generalizing approach favored by anthropologists such as Morgan and Tylor.
historiographic approach: a form of explanation based primarily on traditional descriptive historical frameworks.
hoards: deliberately buried groups of valuables or prized possessions, often in times of conflict or war, and which, for one reason or another, have not been reclaimed. Metal hoards are a primary source of evidence for the European Bronze Age.
holism: the philosophical view that no complex entity can be considered to be only the sum of its parts; as a principle of anthropology, the assumption that any given aspect of human life is to be studied with an eye to its relation to other aspects of human life.
holocene: the post-glacial period, beginning about 10,000 B.P.
homeostasis: a term used in systems thinking to describe the action of negative feedback processes in maintaining the system at a constant equilibrium state.
horizon: (1) a discrete regional cultural period or level of cultural development marked by some easily recognizable criterion or trait. (2) in soil-science terminology, a natural developmental zone in a soil profile such as the "A-horizon".
horizontal angle: in mapping, the angle of sight measured on the level or horizontal plane.
horizontal circle: with major surveying instruments, the graduated horizontal table around which the sighting telescope revolves; used to measure the horizontal angle.
horizontal datum: a base measuring point ("0.0 point") used as the origin of rectangular coordinate systems for mapping or for maintaining excavation provenience.
horizontal distance: the measurement of distance on a true level plane.
horizontal provenience: the location of an object on a two-dimensional plane surface.
house-pit: an aboriginally excavated house floor.
household: a domestic residential group whose members live together in intimate contact, rear children, share the proceeds of labor and other resources held in common, and in general cooperate on a day-to-day basis.
Human Relations Area Files: (HRAF) a compilation of reports on 330 societies that are used for cross-cultural research.
hunter-gatherers: a collective term for the members of small-scale mobile or semi-sedentary societies, whose subsistence is mainly focused on hunting game and gathering wild plants and fruits; organizational structure is based on bands with strong kinship ties.
hunting and gathering: involves the systematic collection of vegetable foods, hunting of game, and fishing.
hypothesis: a statement that stipulates a relationship between a phenomenon for which the researcher seeks to account and one or more other phenomena.
hypothetico-deductive explanation: a form of explanation based on the formulation of hypotheses and the establishment from them by deduction of consequences which can then be tested against the archaeological data.
ice cores: borings taken from the Arctic and Antarctic polar ice caps, containing layers of compacted ice useful for the reconstruction of paleoenvironments and as a method of absolute dating.J [top]
ice-wedge: a vertical wedge-shaped vein of ground ice found in permafrost areas. causes "polygonal ground" (see periglacial phenomena) and may result in severe disturbance of archaeological sites.
iconography: an important component of cognitive archaeology, this involves the study of artistic representations which usually have an overt religious or ceremonial significance; e.g. individual deities may be distinguished, each with a special characteristic, such as corn with the corn god, or the sun with a sun goddess etc.
idealist explanation: a form of explanation that lays great stress on the search for insights into the historical circumstances leading up to the event under study in terms primarily of the ideas and motives of the individuals involved.
in situ: archaeological items are said to be "in situ " when they are found in the location where they were last deposited.
inclined sights: in mapping, a vertically angled line of sight.
inclusion: an intentional cultural association, such as grave-goods with a burial.
increment borer: a hand-operated coring device for obtaining tree-ring samples.
independent variable: the variable that can cause change in other variables.
index: a spirit-bubble leveling device on the vertical circle of major surveying instruments.
indirect percussion: a technique for flaking stone artifacts by interposing a bone or antler punch between the hammer and the raw materials. Allows greater control than direct percussion flaking.
induction: a method of reasoning in which one proceeds by generalization from a series of specific observations so as to derive general conclusions (cf. deduction).
inductively coupled plasma emission spectrometry (ICPS): based on the same basic principles as OES (optical emission spectrometry), but the generation of much higher temperatures reduces problems of interference and produces more accurate results.
industry: all the artifacts in a site that are made from the same material, such as the bone industry.
infrared absorption spectroscopy: a technique used in the characterization of raw materials, it has been particularly useful in distinguishing ambers from different sources: the organic compounds in the amber absorb different wavelengths of infrared radiation passed through them.
innovation: the process of adopting a new thing, idea, or behavior pattern into a culture.
institutions: a society's recurrent patterns of activity, such as religion, art, a kinship system, law, and family life.
instrument height: the elevation of the line-of-sight of a surveying instrument above the immediate ground surface.
instrument position (ip): the location at which a surveying instrument is established to obtain a sighting.
instrument: a general term for major optical surveying equipment, including transits, alidades, and surveyor's levels.
intensification: an increase in the product derived from a unit of land or labor.
intensive agriculture: a form of agriculture that involves the use of draft animals or tractors, plows, and often some form of irrigation.
interaction sphere: a regional or inter-regional exchange system, e.g. the Hopewell interaction sphere.
interglacial: a period of warming between two glacials.
invention: any new thing, idea, or way of behaving that emerges from within a society.
Iron Age: a cultural stage characterized by the use of iron as the main metal.
isostatic uplift: rise in the level of the land relative to the sea caused by the relaxation of Ice Age conditions. It occurs when the weight of ice is removed as temperatures rise, and the landscape is raised up to form raised beaches.
isotopic analysis: an important source of information on the reconstruction of prehistoric diets, this technique analyzes the ratios of the principal isotopes preserved in human bone; in effect the method reads the chemical signatures left in the body by different foods. Isotopic analysis is also used in characterization studies.
jasper: a colloquial term for some varieties of chert. Usually refers to dark red or dull-green, fine-grained, semi-translucent banded materials.K [top]
kill-site: a type of special activity site where large game animals were killed and butchered.
kula ring: a system of ceremonial, non-competitive, exchange practiced in Melanesia to establish and reinforce alliances. Malinowski's study of this system was influential in shaping the anthropological concept of reciprocity.
labret: a "cuff-link" or pulley-shaped object of stone, bone or wood, inserted in a perforation of the lower lip as an ornament or status symbol by some aboriginal peoples.
lacustrine deposits: lake sediments; usually fine laminated silts and clays.
laminae: very thin strata.
LANDSAT: see remote sensing.
landscape archaeology: the study of individual features including settlements.
leaching: a natural process by which chemicals and minerals are transported downwards through a soil-profile.
legal subdivision system: the method of describing parcels of land in terms of "Township, Range, Section, and Quarter Section".
leister: a composite fishing spear made up of barbed side-pieces surrounding an unbarbed central point.
lenticular: "lens-shaped". any object with a biconvex cross-section.
level bag: a bag containing excavated materials from a single level of a single excavation unit.
level notes: written observations on all significant characteristics of an excavated level.
level: the basic vertical subdivision of an excavation unit. May be natural. arbitrary or contoured.
lexicostatistics: the study of linguistic divergence between two languages, based on changes in a list of common vocabulary terms and the sharing of common root words (see also glottochronology).
lichenometry: the study of lichen growth as an aid to dating surface rock features and rock art.(-FONT>
life expectancy: the length of time that a person can, on the average, expect to live.
light-table: a glass-topped table illuminated from underneath, used in the laboratory photography of archaeological specimens.
lignite: a soft shiny black variety of coal, aboriginally used to manufacture decorative objects.
line-guard: a device to fasten the retrieving line to a harpoon point.
line-level: a small spirit-bubble designed for suspension on a string Used in archaeology to determine horizontal lines over short distances.
lineage: a unilineal descent group composed of people who trace their genealogies through specified links to a common ancestor.
linguistic anthropology: a subdivision of anthropology that is concerned primarily with unwritten languages (both prehistoric and modern), with variation within languages, and with the social uses of language; traditionally divided into three branches: descriptive linguistics, the systematic study of the way language is constructed and used; historical linguistics, the study of the origin of language in general and of the evolution of the languages people speak today; and sociolinguistics, the study of the relationship between language and social relations.
linguistics: the scientific study of language.
lipids: the class of compounds that includes fats, oils, and waxes.
lithic industry: that part of an archaeological artifact assemblage manufactured of stone.
lithic technology: the process of manufacturing tools etc. from stone. Most frequently refers to stone flaking.
lithic: of, or pertaining to stone.
lithology: the identification and study of rocks.
living floor: the horizontal layer of an archaeological site that was once the surface occupied by a prehistoric group. It is identifed both by the fact that it is hard-packed and also by the artifacts located on its surface.
locality: a very large site or site-area composed of 2 or more concentrations or clusterings of cultural remains.
loess sediments: deposits formed of a yellowish dust of silt-sized particles blown by the wind and redeposited on land newly deglaciated, or on sheltered areas.
logistics: the process of transporting, supplying and supporting a field project.
long-house: the long multi-family dwellings of the Iroquois area.
macroblade: a large blade, greater than 5 cm in length.N [top]
macrofamily: classificatory term in linguistics, referring to a group of language families showing sufficient similarities to suggest that they are genetically related (e.g. the Nostratic macrofamily is seen by some linguists as a unit embracing the Indo-European, Afro-Asiatic, Uralic, Altaic, and Kartvelian language families).
magnetometer: an electronic device for detecting small anomalies in the earth's magnetic field. Can be used to explore certain subsurface characteristics of an archaeological site prior to excavation.
Manichean: a believer in religious or philosophical dualism, from a religious dualism originating in Persia in the third century A.D. and teaching the release of the spirit from matter through strict self-denial. mano: a hand-held stone used for grinding vegetable foods on a stone slab or "metate".
manuport: an unmodified, natural rock, brought into a site by human agency, that shows no sign of alteration.
map-measure: a small wheeled device for measuring map distances.
mapping: drawing a map showing the physical features of a community; usually an early step in a field project.
market exchange: a mode of exchange which implies both a specific location for transactions and the sort of social relations where bargaining can occur. It usually involves a system of price-making through negotiation.
Marxist anthropology: based principally on the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, this posits a materialist model of societal change. Change within a society is seen as the result of contradictions arising between the forces of production (technology) and the relations of production (social organization). Such contradictions are seen to emerge as a struggle between distinct social classes. Current Marxist anthropology focuses on the transformation of social orders and the relationships between conflict and cultural change.
material culture: the buildings, tools, and other artifacts that constitute the material remains of former societies.
matrix: the physical material within which artifacts are embedded or supported.
Maya calendar: a method employed by the Maya of measuring the passage of time, comprising two separate calendar systems: (1) the Calendar Round, used for everyday purposes; (2) the Long Count, used for the reckoning of historical dates.
megafauna: all animals weighing more than 100 pounds
megalithic yard: a metrological unit (c. 2.72 ft) proposed by Alexander Thom, and argued by him, on statistical grounds, as the standard unit of length used in the construction of megalithic monuments in Britain and France.
Mesolithic: an Old World chronological period beginning around 10,000 years ago, situated between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic, and associated with the rise to dominance of microliths.
metal detector: an electronic instrument which detects buried metallic objects by inducing and measuring an electromagnetic field.
metallographic examination: a technique used in the study of early metallurgy involving the microscopic examination of a polished section cut from an artifact. which has been etched so as to reveal the metal structure.
methodological individualism (or individualistic method): approach to the study of societies which assumes that thoughts and decisions do have agency, and that actions and shared institutions can be interpreted as the products of the decisions and actions of individuals.
microblade core: the nucleus from which micro-blades were manufactured. Usually a small barrel or conical shaped stone artifact with a flat top and one or more fluted surfaces left as scars from the removal of the microblades.
microblade: a small prismatic parallel-sided flake struck from a prepared core. Microblades were probably inserted end-to-end in a slotted bone or antler shaft to provide a continuous cutting edge for points or knives.
microfaunal remains: very small animal remains, such as rodent bones, tiny bone fragments, insects, small mollusks, foraminifera, etc., discovered in an archaeological site.
microfloral remains: very small plant materials such as seeds, pollen, spores, phytoliths etc. discovered in an archaeological site. Microfauna and microflora are extremely important in paleoenvironmental re-construction.
microlith: a tiny stone tool, characteristic of the Mesolithic period, many of which were probably used as barbs.
microwear analysis: the study of the patterns of wear or damage on the edge of stone tools, which provides valuable information on the way in which the tool was used.
midden: the accumulation of debris and domestic waste products resulting from human use. The long-term disposal of refuse can result in stratified deposits, which are useful for relative dating.
Middle Range Theory: a conceptual framework linking raw archaeological data with higher-level generalizations and conclusions about the past which can be derived from this evidence.
Midwestern taxonomic system: a framework devised by McKern (1939) to systematize sequences in the Great Plains area of the United States, using the general principle of similarities between artifact assemblages.
MNI (minimum number of individuals): a method of assessing species abundance in faunal assemblages based on a calculation of the smallest number of animals necessary to account for all the identified bones. Usually calculated from the most abundant bone or tooth from either the left or right side of the animal.
mobiliary art: a term used for the portable art of the Ice Age, comprising engravings and carvings on small objects of stone, antler, bone, and ivory.
model: a system of hypothetical principles that represents the characters of a phenomenon and from which predictions can be made.
mold: a cavity left in firm sediment by the decayed body of an organism.
monocausal explanation: the attribution of one cause to the existence of a phenomenon.
moraine: a glacial deposit (till) with a distinctive topographic expression. "Terminal moraines" mark episodes of stability or re-advance in a Period of overall glacial retreat. Moraines appear as hill or ridges marking original glacial limits.
mosaic evolution: the concept that major evolutionary changes tend to ttake place in stages, not all at once. Human evolution shows a mosaic pattern in the fact that small canine teeth, large brains, and tool use did not all evolve at the same time. Mossbauer spectroscopy: a technique used in the analysis of artifact composition, particularly iron compounds in pottery. It involves the measurement of the gamma radiation absorbed by the iron nuclei, which provides information on the particular iron compounds in the sample. and hence on the conditions of firing when the pottery was being made.
multi-component: a site is said to be multi-component when it shows evidence of 2 or more distinctive cultural occupations.
multi-dimensional scaling (MDSCAL): a multivariate statistical technique which aims to develop spatial structure from numerical data by estimating the differences and similarities between analytical units.
multicausal explanation: the attribution of more than one cause to the existence of a phenomenon.
multilineal evolutionism: an anthropological approach that focuses on the development of individual cultures or populations without insisting that all follow the same evolutionary pattern.
multiplier effect: a term used in systems thinking to describe the process by which changes in one field of human activity (subsystem) sometimes act to promote changes in other fields (subsystems) and in turn act on the original subsystem itself. An instance of positive feedback, it is thought by some to be one of the primary mechanisms of societal change.
multivariate explanation: explanation of culture change, e.g. the origin of the state, which, in contrast to monocausal approaches, stresses the interaction of several factors operating simultaneously.
native copper: metallic copper found naturally in nuggets, which can be worked by hammering, cutting, and annealing.O [top]
natural levels (also "stratigraphic levels"): an excavation level defined by the original stratigraphic units of the site.
natural selection: the process whereby members of a species who have more surviving offspring than others pass their traits on to the next generation, whereas the less favored do not do so to the same degree.
negative feedback: in systems thinking, this is a process which acts to counter or "dampen" the potentially disruptive effects of external inputs; it acts as a stabilizing mechanism (see homeostasis).
Neolithic Revolution: a term coined by V.G. Childe in 1941 to describe the origin and consequences of farming (i.e. the development of stock raising and agriculture), allowing the widespread development of settled village life.
Neolithic: an Old World chronological period characterized by the development of agriculture and, hence, an increasing emphasis on sedentism.
nephrite: a hard fibrous green to white rock often used for the manufacture of adze-blades. Commonly called jade.
net sinker (also "net weight", "sinker"): a rock used to submerge a fishing net. May be grooved, notched or perforated.
neutron activation analysis (NAA): a method used in the analysis of artifact composition which depends on the excitation of the nuclei of the atoms of a sample's various elements, when these are bombarded with slow neutrons. The method is accurate to about plus or minus 5 percent.
neutron scattering: a remote sensing technique involving the placing of a probe into the soil in order to measure the relative rates of neutron flows through the soil. Since stone produces a lower count rate than soil. buried features can often be detected.
New Archaeology: a new approach advocated in the 1960s which argued for an explicitly scientific framework of archaeological method and theory, with hypotheses rigorously tested, as the proper basis for explanation rather than simply description (see also processual archaeology).
NISP (number of identified specimens): a gross counting technique used in the quantification of animal bones. The method may produce misleading results in assessing the relative abundance of different species, since skeletal differences and differential rates of bone preservation mean that some species will be represented more than others.
non-equilibrium systems: see self-organization.
non-probabilistic sampling: a non-statistical sampling strategy (in contrast to probabilistic sampling) which concentrates on sampling areas on the basis of intuition, historical documentation, or long field experience in the area.
nucleation: the tendency of populations to cluster in settlements of increasing size and density.
obsidian hydration dating: this technique involves the absorption of water on exposed surfaces of obsidian; when the local hydration rate is known, the thickness of the hydration layer, if accurately measured, can be used to provide an absolute date.P [top]
obsidian: a volcanic glass whose ease of working and characteristically bard flintlike edges allowed it to be used for the making of tools.
ochre: iron oxide or hematite. Color is commonly reddish-brown to yellow. Used as a natural pigment.
off-site data: evidence from a range of -information, including scatters of artifacts and features such as plowmarks and field boundaries, that provides important evidence about human exploitation of the environment.
Oldowan industry: the earliest toolkits, comprising flake and pebble tools, used by hominids in the Olduvai Gorge, East Africa.
open-area excavation: the opening up of large horizontal areas for excavation, used especially where single period deposits lie close to the surface as, for example, with the remains of American Indian or European Neolithic long houses.
optical emission spectrometry (OES): a technique used in the analysis of artifact composition, based on the principle that electrons, when excited (i.e. heated to a high temperature), release light of a particular wavelength. The presence or absence of various elements is established by examining the appropriate spectral line of their characteristic wavelengths. Generally, this method gives an accuracy of only 25 percent and has been superseded by ICPS (inductively coupled plasma emission spectrometry).
osteodontokeratic culture: an archaeological culture based upon tools made of bone, teeth, and hoary.
osteology: the study of bones.
ostracum: fragments (as of pottery) containing inscriptions. The singular is "ostraca."
outwash channel: a stream valley formed by glacial melt-water.
outwash deposit: fluvial sediments laid down by glacial melt-water.
paleoanthropology: the study of the fossil record and archaeology.Q [top]
paleoecology: the study of the relationship of extinct organisms or groups of organisms to their environments.
paleoentomology: the study of insects from archaeological contexts. The survival of insect exoskeletons, which are quite resistant to decomposition, is an important source of evidence in the reconstruction of paleo-environments.
paleoenvironments: past environmental/climatic conditions.
paleoethnobotany (archaeobotany): the recovery and identification of plant remains from archaeological contexts, important in the reconstruction of past environments and economies.
paleoindian: a term most frequently applied to early projectile point "cultures" of North America (e.g. Clovis, Folsom, Cody, etc.).
Paleolithic: the archaeological period before c.10,000 BC, characterized by the earliest known stone tool manufacture.
paleomagnetism: see archaeomagnetic dating.
paleontologists: experts on animal life of the distant past.
paleontology: that specialized branch of physical anthropology that analyzes the emergence and subsequent evolution of human physiology.
paleopathology: the study of the evidence of trauma and disease in fossilized skeletons.
paleosol: "old soil." buried soil horizons indicative of past soil conditions different from that presently prevailing.
palisade (also "stockade"): a fence formed of vertical posts placed side-by-side. Usually intended for defensive purposes.
palynology: the analysis of fossil pollen as an aid to the reconstruction of past vegetation and climates.
paradigmatic view: approach to science, developed by Thomas Kuhn, which holds that science develops from a set of assumptions (paradigm) and that revolutionary science ends with the acceptance of a new paradigm which ushers in a period of normal science.
parallel flaking: regular sized parallel sided flakes removed from stone artifacts.
parietal art: a term used to designate art on the walls of caves and shelters, or on huge blocks.
patination (patina): crust formed on an artifact by chemical alteration of its surface or accretion of calcium carbonate.
pebble tool: a natural rounded pebble manufactured into a simple cutting tool by the removal of a few percussion flakes, usually unifacially on one edge.
pecking (also "pecking and grinding"): the process of manufacturing heavy-duty stone tools (bowls, mauls etc.) from granular rocks by prolonged hammering with a hammerstone. Abrasive techniques might be used to finish the piece.
pedestal: a raised area isolated around important excavated materials to facilitate their study.
pedology: the scientific study and classification of soils.
peer-polity interaction: the full range of exchanges taking place -- including imitation, emulation, competition, warfare, and the exchange of material goods and information -- between autonomous (self-governing) sociopolitical units, generally within the same geographic region.
pendant: any ornamental object designed for suspension.
percussion flaking (also "direct percussion flaking"): the technique of shaping stone artifacts by removing flakes with direct blows with a hammer of stone, antler, or wood.
periglacial phenomena (also "cryoturbation"): a general term for disturbance of surficial deposits caused by frost action. Most prevalent in areas of permafrost and can be very damaging to archaeological sites.
period: a unit of geological time; a division of an era.
petrified wood: agatized wood, sometimes used as a raw material for the manufacture of flaked stone artifacts. Often banded or laminated and of variable color.
petroglyph: pictures, symbols, or other art work pecked, carved or incised on natural rock surfaces.
pH: The measurement of acidity or alkalinity. A pH of 7 is neutral; less than 7 is acid; greater than 7 is basic or alkaline.
phase (also "focus"): a chronologically limited cultural unit within a local culture sequence, characterized by sufficient diagnostic traits to set it apart from all other units. A phase is generally represented by 2 or more components in several sites and is the basic classificatory unit of archaeological "cultures".
photo-mosaic: a number of overlapping photographs glued together to provide continuous coverage of a large area. Aerial photographic mosaics are used in the production of modern topographic maps.
photogrammetry: the science of obtaining accurate measurements and maps from photographs.
phyllite: a soft laminated shale-like rock used for the manufacture of decorative objects such as pendants and beads.
physical anthropology: the scientific study of the physical characteristics, variability, and evolution of the human organism.
physical environment: the complex of inanimate elements that surround an organism.
phytoliths: minute particles of silica derived from the cells of plants, able to survive alter the organism has decomposed or been burned. They are common in ash layers, pottery, and even on stone tools.
pictograph: aboriginally painted designs on natural rock surfaces. Red ochre is the most frequently used pigment and natural or abstract motifs may be represented.
piece esquillee (fr. "splintered piece"): a type of flaked stone artifact manufactured by the bipolar percussion technique. Generally characterized by a lenticular or wedge-shaped cross-section; opposed bifacial crushing, battering and hinge-fracturing; and frequently relatively long columnar "blade-like" flake scars.
pinger (or boomer profiler): an underwater survey device, more powerful than sidescan sonar, capable of probing up to 60 m (197 ft) below the seabed.
pipestone: any soft stone used in the manufacture of aboriginal smoking pipes.
piston corer: a device for extracting columns of sediment from the ocean floor. Dates for the different layers are obtained by radiocarbon, archaeomagnetic, or uranium series methods.
pithouse: a semi-subterranean "earth-lodge" dwelling. Usually consisted of an earth-covered log framework roof over a circular to rectangular excavation.
plane-table mapping: the construction of small-scale topographic maps, on the site, by use of an alidade, plane-table, and stadia-rod.
plane-table: a small drawing table mounted on a tripod in such a way that it can be leveled and rotated. Provides the base for the alidade in plane-table mapping.
plating: a method of bonding metals together, for instance silver with copper or copper with gold.
Pleistocene: the latest major geological epoch, colloquially known as the "Ice Age" due to the multiple expansion and retreat of glaciers. Ca. 3.000,000-10,000 years B.P.
political economy approach: assumes that I peasants rationally calculate the advantages.
polity: a politically independent or autonomous social unit, whether simple or complex, which may in the case of a complex society (such as a state) comprise many lesser dependent components.
pollen analysis: see palynology.
positive feedback: a term used in systems thinking to describe a response in which changing output conditions in the system stimulate further growth in the input; one of the principal factors in generating system change or morphogenesis (see also multiplier effect).
positivism: theoretical position that explanations must be empirically verifiable, that there are universal laws in the structure and transformation of human institutions, and that theories which incorporate individualistic elements, such as minds, are not verifiable.
post-contact period (also "historic period"): refers to the period following the first arrival of Europeans.
post-mold: the impression, stain, or cavity, left in the ground by a rotted wooden post.
postprocessual explanation: Explanation formulated in reaction to the perceived limitations of functional-processual archaeology. It eschews generalization in favor of an "individualizing" approach that is influenced by structuralism, Critical Theory, and neo-Marxist thought.
pot-hunter: an "amateur archaeologist" who vandalizes and destroys sites to add to his private collection, or for monetary gain.
pot-lid fracture: a circular flake removed from cryptocrystalline materials by sudden heating. Leaves a small saucer-shaped depression in the surface of the stone.
potassium argon dating: a chronometric dating technique based on the rate of decay of potassium 40 to argon 40. Used to date rocks up to thousands of millions of years old though it is restricted to volcanic material no more recent than c 100 000 years old. One of the most widely used methods in the dating of early hominid sites in Africa.
pre-ceramic period: the period prior to the introduction of ceramic artifacts.
pre-contact: refers to the period before the first arrival of europeans in a given area.
Pre-Wisconsinan: prior to the Wisconsinan glacial period or older than about 70,000 B.P.
preadaptation: the potential to adapt to a new niche.
preform: an early preliminary stage in the reduction-manufacture of a flaked stone artifact.
prehistoric: the period prior to written records for any given area. In North America synonymous with
prehistory: the period of human history before the advent of writing.
preservation potential: the probability of a bone's being preserved after death.
pressure flaking: the technique of shaping tools from cryptocrystalline or fine-grained rocks by pressing off small concoidal flakes by flaking.tools of antler or bone.
prestige goods: a term used to designate a limited range of exchange goods to which a society ascribes high status or value.
primary context: the original depositional situation, unaffected by any later disturbance.
primary deposit: a primary deposit is a body of sediments which have not been significantly disturbed since their original deposition.
primary flakes: the first series of flakes removed from a core or nucleus in the process of tool manufacture.
primitive valuables: a term coined by Dalton to describe the tokens of wealth and prestige, often of specially valued items, that were used in the ceremonial exchange systems of non-state societies; examples include the shell necklaces and bracelets of the kula systems (cf. prestige goods).
probabilistic sampling: sampling method, employing probability theory, designed to draw reliable general conclusions about a site or region, based on small sample areas. Four types of sampling strategies are recognized: (1) simple random sampling; (2) stratified random sampling; (3) systematic sampling; (4) stratified systematic sampling.
processual archaeology: an approach that stresses the dynamic relationship between social and economic aspects of culture and the environment as the basis for understanding the processes of culture, change. Uses the scientific methodology of problem statement, hypothesis formulation, and subsequent testing. The earlier functional-processual archaeology has been contrasted with cognitive-processual archaeology, where the emphasis is on integrating ideological and symbolic aspects.
profile drawing: a precise scale drawing of the strata and horizons revealed in the walls of an excavation or other exposure. A section which has been drawn is said to have been "profiled".
profile: a section, or exposure of the ground, showing depositional or developmental strata or horizons.
projectile point: An inclusive term for arrow, spear or dart-points. Characterized by a symmetrical point, a relatively thin cross-section and some element to allow attachment to the projectile shaft. Flaked stone projectile points are usually classified by their outline form.
protohistoric: a period prior to the beginning of written records in an area, but after that area has been initially mentioned in reports written elsewhere.
proton magnetometer: a device used in subsurface detection which records variation in the earth's magnetic field.
provenience: the horizontal and/or vertical position of an object in relation to a set of spatial coordinates.
provisional site designation: a temporary code or number applied to newly located sites during site-surveying, until a final Borden System number can be assigned.
proximal: the portion of an artifact or bone closest to the body of the user or "owner".
pseudo-archaeology: the use of selective archaeological evidence to promulgate nonscientific, fictional accounts of the past.
punctuated equilibria: principal feature of the evolutionary theory propounded by Niles Eldredge and Stephen J. Gould, in which species change is represented as a form of Darwinian gradualism "punctuated" by periods of rapid evolutionary change.
pyrotechnology: the intentional use and control of fire by humans.
quadrant: generally refers to one-quarter of an excavation unit or level, e.g. "the northwest quadrant of excavation unit N. 2-4, E. 4-6".R [top]
quadrat: a rectangular sampling unit.
quarry site: a site where lithic raw materials have been mined.
quartz-crystal: pure silicate rock-crystal. Usually perfectly clear with six crystal surfaces. May be used as a raw material for lithic tool manufacture.
quartzite: a granular stone formed of fused quartz grains. Commonly white, yellow or red. Used as a raw material, for flaked stone tools.
radioactive decay: the regular process by which radioactive isotopes break down into their decay products with a half-life which is specific to the isotope in question (see also radiocarbon dating).S [top]
radiocarbon dating: an absolute dating method based on the radioactive decay of Carbon-14 contained in organic materials.
radioimmunoassay: a method of protein analysis whereby it is possible to identify protein molecules surviving in fossils which are thousands and even millions of years old.
radiometric dating: a type of chronometric dating that involves methods based upon the decay of radioactive materials; examples are radiocarbon and potassium-argon dating.
raised beaches: these are remnants of former coastlines, usually the result of processes such as isostatic uplift or tectonic movements.
random sample: a sample in which each individual in a population has the same chance of being selected as any other.
range: see home range.
ranked societies: societies in which there is unequal access to prestige and status e.g. chiefdoms and states.
reaves: Bronze Age stone boundary walls, for instance on Dartmoor, England, which may designate the territorial extent of individual communities.
reciprocity: a mode of exchange in which transactions take place between individuals who are symmetrically placed, i.e. they are exchanging as equals, neither being in a dominant position.
reconnaissance survey: a broad range of techniques involved in the location of archaeological sites, e.g. the recording of surface artifacts and features, and the sampling of natural and mineral resources.
redistribution: a mode of exchange which implies the operation of some central organizing authority. Goods are received or appropriated by the central authority, and subsequently some of them are sent by that authority to other locations.
refitting: sometimes referred to as conjoining, this entails attempting to put stone tools and flakes back together again, and provides important information on the processes involved in the knapper's craft.
refutationist view: approach which holds that science consists of theories about the empirical world, that its goal is to develop better theories, which is achieved by finding mistakes in existing theories, so that it is crucial that theories be falsifiable (vulnerable to error and open to testing). The approach, developed by Karl Popper, emphasizes the important of testability as a component of scientific theories.
relative dating: the determination of chronological sequence without recourse to a fixed time scale; e.g. the arrangement of artifacts in a typological sequence, or seriation (cf. absolute dating).
relativism: the concept that a cultural system can be viewed only in terms of the principles, background, frame of reference, and history that characterize it.
religion: a framework of beliefs relating to supernatural or superhuman beings or forces that transcend the everyday material world.
remote sensing: general term for reconnaissance and surface survey techniques that leave subsurface archaeological deposits undisturbed.
replication: the experimental reproduction or duplication of prehistoric artifacts in an attempt to better understand how they were made and used in the past.
rescue archaeology: see salvage archaeology.
research design: systematic planning of research, usually including (1) the formulation of a strategy to resolve a particular question; (2) the collection and recording of the evidence; (3) the processing and analysis of these data and their interpretation; and (4) the publication of results.
resharpening flakes: usually small flakes removed from the edges of chipped-stone cutting or scraping tools to rejuvenate the effectiveness of the edge.
resistivity meter: see soil resistivity. Natural accretions of manganese and iron oxides, together with clay minerals and organic matter, which can provide valuable environmental evidence. Their study, when combined with radiocarbon methods, can provide a minimum age for some landforms, and even some types of stone tool which also accumulate varnish.
resistivity: a means of detecting buried features and areas of disturbance by measuring the resistance of an electrical current passed through the ground.
retouch: the removal of small secondary flakes along the edge of a lithic artifact to improve or alter the cutting properties of that edge. Retouch flaking may be bifacial or unifacial.
retouched flake: a stone flake which has had one or more edges modified by the deliberate removal of secondary chips.
rhyolite: a fine-grained light colored volcanic rock, chemically identical to obsidian. color may range from white, through gray, and yellow to reddish-pink. Sometimes used as a raw material for lithic tools.
rimsherd: a fragment of the rim, or top edge, of a ceramic vessel. important archaeologically since rims-herds frequently show the greatest degree of stylistic variability.
ritual: behavior that has become highly formalized and stereotyped.
rock alignment: any artificial arrangement of rocks or boulders into rows or other patterns.
rock-art: an inclusive term for petroglyphs and pictographs.
rock-shelter: a shallow cave or rock overhang large enough to have allowed human occupancy at some time.
sacred: the sphere of extraordinary phenomena associated with awesome supernatural forces.T [top]
salvage archaeology (also "rescue archaeology", or "crisis archaeology"): archaeological research carried out to preserve or rescue sites, materials and data from areas threatened by man-made or natural disturbance. The most common type of archaeological fieldwork conducted in North America at the present time.
sampling bias: the tendency of a sample to exclude some members of the sampling universe and overrepresent others.
sampling error: in population genetics, the transmission of a nonrepresentative sample of the gene pool over space or time due to chance. See also founder principle and genetic drift.
sampling unit: the sub-element of the total population selected for sampling.
sampling universe: the largest entity to be described, of which the sample is a part.
sampling: the probabilistic, systematic, or judgmental selection of a sub-element from a larger population, with the aim of approximating a representative picture of the whole.
scarp: an escarpment, cliff or other steep slope, such as the slope between fluvial terraces.
science: a method of reaming about the world by applying the principles of the scientific method, which includes making empirical observations, proposing hypotheses to explain those observations, and testing those hypotheses in valid and reliable ways; also refers to the organized body of knowledge that results from scientific study.
scientific theory: a statement that postulates ordered relationships among natural phenomena.
scientism: the belief that there is one and only one method of science and that it alone confers legitimacy upon the conduct of research.
scraper: a tool presumably used in scraping, scouring, or planing functions. Most frequently refers to flaked stone artifacts with one or more steep unifacially retouched edge(s).
secondary burial: a human interment which was moved and re-buried aboriginally.
secondary datum: a local base measuring point at a known distance from the main horizontal or vertical datum points.
secondary deposit: a body of natural or cultural sediments which have been disturbed and re-transported since their original deposition.
secondary retouch: finishing or resharpening flaking done after the basic shape of a lithic tool has been completed.
section: (1) a vertical cut (or exposure) through a body of sediments or a feature. (2) a one-square mile unit in the legal subdivision system.
sedentism: the practice of establishing a permanent, year-round settlement.
sediment: material that was suspended in water and that settles at the bottom of a body of water.
sedimentary beds: beds, or layers, of sediments; also called strata.
sedimentation: the accumulation of geological or organic material deposited by air, water, or ice.
sedimentology: a subset of geomorphology concerned with the investigation of the structure and texture of sediments i.e. the global term for material deposited on the earth's surface.
segmentary societies: relatively small and autonomous groups, usually of agriculturalists. who regulate their own affairs; in some cases, they may join together with other comparable segmentary societies to form a larger ethnic unit.
seismic reflection profiler: an acoustic underwater survey device that uses the principle of echo-sounding to locate submerged landforms; in water depths of 100 m, this method can achieve penetration of more than 10 m into the sea-floor.
selective pressure: pressure placed by a selective agent upon certain individuals within the population that results in the change of allele frequencies in the next generation.
self-organization: the product of a theory derived from thermodynamics which demonstrates that order can arise spontaneously when systems are pushed far from an equilibrium state. The emergence of new structure arises at bifurcation points, or thresholds of instability (cf. catastrophe theory).
self-reducing tacheometer: a major surveying instrument (transit or alidade) which allows the direct read-out of true vertical and horizontal distances within the eye-piece without the use of trigonometric formulae or tables.
seriation: a relative dating technique based on the chronological ordering of a group of artifacts or assemblages, where the most similar are placed adjacent to each other in the series. Two types of seriation can be recognized, frequency seriation and contextual seriation.
serrated: notched or toothed. may refer to the edge of a tool.
settlement pattern: the spatial distribution of cultural activities across a landscape at a given moment in time.
sexual division of labor: the situation in which males and females in a society perform different tasks. In hunting-gathering societies males usually hunt while females usually gather wild vegetable food.
shell midden: a site formed of mainly concentrated shellfish remains.
shovel-screening: a rapid excavation procedure in which the site matrix is shoveled directly through a screen (usually 1/4" mesh).
side-blade: a flaked stone, bone, shell, or metal artifact inserted in the side of a shaft or projectile point to provide an extended cutting edge.
sidescan sonar: a survey method used in underwater archaeology which provides the broadest view of the sea-floor. An acoustic emitter is towed behind a vessel and sends out sound waves in a fan-shaped beam. These pulses of sonic energy are reflected back to a transducer-- return time depending on distance traveled--and recorded on a rotating drum.
simple random sampling: a type of probabilistic sampling where the areas to be sampled are chosen using a table of random numbers. Drawbacks include (1) defining the site's boundaries beforehand; (2) the nature of random number tables results in some areas being allotted clusters of sample squares, while others remain untouched.
simulation: the formulation and computer implementation of dynamic models i.e. models concerned with change through time. Simulation is a useful heuristic device, and can be of considerable help in the development of explanation.
site catchment analysis (SCA): a type of off-site analysis which concentrates on the total area from which a site's contents have been derived; at its simplest, a site's catchment can be thought of as a full inventory of artifactual and non-artifactual remains and their sources.
site exploitation territory (SET): often confused with site catchment analysis, this is a method of achieving a fairly standardized assessment of the area habitually used by a site's occupants.
site survey: the process of searching for and describing archaeological sites in a given area.
site: a distinct spatial clustering of artifacts, features, structures, and organic and environmental remains. as the residue of human activity.
skull deformation: the artificial distortion of cranial bones during growth practiced by some aboriginal cultures.
slag: the material residue of smelting processes from metalworking. Analysis is often necessary to distinguish slags derived from copper smelting from those produced in iron production. Crucible slags (from the casting process) may be distinguished from smelting slags by their high concentration of copper.
SLAR (sideways-looking airborne radar): a remote sensing technique that involves the recording in radar images of the return of pulses of electromagnetic radiation sent out from aircraft (cf. thermography).
slope distance: in mapping the inclined distance (as opposed to true horizontal or vertical distance) between 2 points.
social anthropology: see cultural anthropology.<> social category: a category composed of all people who share certain culturally identified characteristics.
social class: a category of people who have generally similar educational histories, job opportunities, and social standing and who are conscious of their membership in a social group that is ranked in relation to others and is replicated over generations.
social control: a framework of rewards and sanctions that channel behavior.
society: a group of interacting people who share a geographical region, a sense of common identity, and a common culture.
sociobiology: the study of the biological control of social behavior.
sociocultural anthropology: a branch of anthropology that deals with variations in patterns of social interaction and differences in cultural behavior.
sociolinguistics: a branch of anthropological linguistics that studies how language and culture are related and how language is used in different social contexts.
soil resistivity: a method of subsurface detection which measures changes in conductivity by passing electrical current through ground soils. This is generally a consequence of moisture content, and in this way, buried features can be detected by differential retention of groundwater.
soil texture: the relative proportion of clay, silt and sand sized particles in a soil.
soil-sample: a quantity of soil, site matrix, or sediments collected for physical, or chemical analysis.
soil-sieves: small, precision metal screens, used for determining the proportions of different sized particles in a soil sediment sample.
soil-sounding radar: a method of subsurface detection in which short radio pulses are sent through the soil, such that the echoes reflect back significant changes in soil conditions.
solifluction: the slow downslope movement of surface sediments in a saturated condition. Prevalent in permafrost areas due to the seasonal thawing of the surface of the permafrost zone. Can cause complete mixture of site stratigraphy and archaeological components.
specialization: the limited range of activities in which a single individual is likely to be engaged.
spheres of exchange: the modes of exchange-- reciprocity, redistribution, and market exchange-- that apply to particular goods or in particular situations.
spokeshave: an artifact with a notch or concave edge, presumed to have been used in shaping wooden or bone shafts.
stadia rod (also "surveyor's staff'): a long brightly painted rod, accurately calibrated in metric units (or feet and inches), used for obtaining elevations and stadia measurements of distance in mapping with a major surveying instrument.
standing wave technique: an acoustic method, similar to bosing, used in subsurface detection.
state: a term used to describe a social formation defined by distinct territorial boundedness, and characterized by strong central government in which the operation of political power is sanctioned by legitimate force. In cultural evolutionist models, it ranks second only to the empire as the most complex societal development stage.
statistical analysis: the application of probability theory to quantified descriptive data.
status: a position in a pattern of reciprocal behavior.
steatite: soapstone or talc; a soft gray to green stone used as a carving medium.
stela (pl. stelae): a free-standing carved stone monument.
step-trenching: an excavation method employed on very deep sites, such as Near Eastern tell sites, in which the excavation proceeds downwards in a series of gradually narrowing steps.
stereoscope: a simple optical device to allow the perception of a stereoscopic (or 3-dimensional) image from pairs of aerial photographs.
storage-pit (also called cache-pits): circular excavations usually less than 3 m in diameter assumed to have aboriginally functioned as storage "cellars".
strata: (1) depositional units or layers of sediment distinguished by composition or appearance. (singular: "stratum"), (2) individually sampled subareas in a "stratified-random" probabilistic sampling scheme.
stratification: the laying down or depositing of strata or layers (also called deposits) one above the other. A succession of layers should provide a relative chronological sequence, with the earliest at the bottom and the latest at the top.
stratified random sampling: a form of probabilistic sampling in which the region or site is divided into natural zones or strata such as cultivated land and forest; units ate then chosen by a random number procedure so as to give each zone a number of squares proportional to its area, thus overcoming the inherent bias in simple random sampling.
stratified sample: a sample obtained by the process of dividing a population into categories representing distinctive characteristics and then selecting a random sample from each category.
stratified society: a society in which extensive subpopulations are accorded differential treatment.
stratified systematic sampling: a form of probabilistic sampling which combines elements of (1) simple random sampling, (2) stratified random sampling, and (3) systematic sampling, in an effort to reduce sampling bias.
stratigraphy: the study and validation of stratification; the analysis in the vertical, time dimension, of a series of layers in the horizontal, space dimension. It is often used as a relative dating technique to assess the temporal sequence of artifact deposition.
structural functionalism: the theory that the central function of the various aspects of a society is to maintain the social structure--the society's pattern of social relations and institutions.
structuralist approaches: interpretations which stress that human actions ate guided by beliefs and symbolic concepts, and that underlying these ate structures of thought which find expression in various forms. The proper object of study is therefore to uncover the structures of thought and to study their influence in shaping the ideas in the minds of the human actors who created the archaeological record.
style: according to the art historian, Ernst Gombrich, style is "any distinctive and therefore recognizable way in which an act is performed and made." Archaeologists and anthropologists have defined "stylistic areas" as areal units representing shared ways of producing and decorating artifacts.
sub-bottom profiler: see underwater reconnaissance.
subsistence pattern: the basic means by which a human group extracted and utilized energy from its environment.
subsurface detection: a collective name lot a variety of remote sensing techniques operating at ground level, and including hosing (or bowsing), augering, magnetometer, and radar techniques.
superposition: the principle that under stable conditions strata on the bottom of a deposit were laid down first and hence are older than layers on top.
surface collection: archaeological materials obtained from the ground surface.
surface finish: in the study of ceramic artifacts, the mainly decorative outer elements of a vessel.
surface scatter: archaeological materials found distributed over the ground surface.
surface survey: two basic kinds can be identified: (1) unsystematic and (2) systematic. The former involves field-walking, i.e. scanning the ground along one's path and recording the location of artifacts and surface features. Systematic survey by comparison is less subjective and involves a grid system, such that the survey area is divided into sectors and these are walked systematically, thus making the recording of finds mote accurate.
survey area: the region within which archaeological sites are to be located.
surveying: (1) in archaeology, the process of locating archaeological sites. (2) more generally, the process of mapping and measuring points on the ground surface (e.g. "legal" or topographic surveying").
symbol: something that can represent something distant from it in time and space.
symmetry analysis: a mathematical approach to the analysis of decorative style which claims that patterns can he divided into two distinct groups or symmetry classes: 17 classes for those patterns that repeat motifs horizontally, and 46 classes for those that repeat them horizontally and vertically. Such studies have suggested that the choice of motif arrangement within a particular culture is far from random.
synchronic studies: rely on research that does not make use of or control for the effects of the passage of time.
synchronic: referring to phenomena considered at a single point in time; i.e. an approach which is not primarily concerned with change (cf. diachronic).
synostosis: the joining of separate pieces of bone in human skeletons; the precise timing of such processes is an important indicator of age.
synthetic theory of evolution: the theory of evolution that fuses Darwin's concept of natural selection with information from the fields of genetics, mathematics, embryology, paleontology, animal behavior, and other disciplines.
system: a series of interrelated parts wherein a change in one part brings about changes in all parts.
systematic sampling: a form of probabilistic sampling employing a grid of equally spaced locations; e.g. selecting every other square. This method of regular spacing runs the risk of missing (or hitting) every single example if the distribution itself is regularly spaced.
systematic survey: see surface survey.
systems thinking: a method of formal analysis in which the object of study is viewed as comprising distinct analytical sub-units. Thus in archaeology, it comprises a form of explanation in which a society or culture is seen through the interaction and interdependence of its component parts; these are referred to as system parameters, and may include such things as population size, settlement pattern, crop production, technology etc.
taphonomy: the study of processes which have affected organic materials such as bone after death; it also involves the microscopic analysis of tooth-marks or cut marks to assess the effects of butchery or scavenging activities.U [top]
tectonic movements: displacements in the plates that make up the earth's crust, often responsible for the occurrence of raised beaches.
tectonic plate: a segment of the lithosphere.
tell: a Neat Eastern term that refers to a mound site formed through successive human occupation over a very long timespan.
temper: materials added to clay in the manufacture of ceramic artifacts, to prevent cracking during firing. Could include vegetal fibers, feathers, rock fragments, sand, or ground-up pot-sherds.
tent-ring: a circle of rocks used to hold down the edges of an aboriginal tent (e.g. "tipi-rings").
tephra: volcanic ash. In the Mediterranean, for example, deep-sea coring produced evidence for the ash fall from the eruption of Theta, and its stratigraphic position provided important information in the construction of a relative chronology.
terrace: a fluvial terrace is a remnant of an earlier flood-plain isolated by down-cutting of the river, resulting in a step-like series of "flats" and scarps. Beach terraces are old ocean or lake beaches isolated by lowered water levels.
territory: an area that a group defends against other members of its own species.
test pit (also "test excavation"): a small exploratory "dig" designed to determine a site's depth, and contents prior to major excavation.
theodolite (also "optical transit"): a transit with accurate optical readout of vertical and horizontal angles.
theory: a step in the scientific method in which a statement is generated on the basis of highly confirmed hypotheses and is used to generalize about conditions not yet tested.
thermal prospection: a remote sensing method used in aerial reconnaissance. It is based on weak variations in temperature which can be found above buried structures whose thermal properties are different from those of their surroundings.
thermography: a non-photographic technique which uses thermal or heat sensors in aircraft to record the temperature of the soil surface. Variations in soil temperature can be the result of the presence of buried structures.
thermoluminescence dating (TL): a chronometric dating method based on the fact that some materials, when heated, give off a flash of light. The intensity of the light is proportional to the amount of radiation the sample has been exposed to and the length of time since the sample was heated. It has much in common with electron spin resonance (ESR).
Thiessen polygons: a formal method of describing settlement patterns based on territorial divisions centered on a single site; the polygons are created by drawing straight lines between pairs of neighboring sites, then at the mid-point along each of these lines, a second series of lines are drawn at right angles to the first. Linking the second series of lines creates the Thiessen polygons.
thin-section analysis: a technique whereby microscopic thin sections are cut from a stone object or potsherd and examined with a petrological microscope to determine the source of the material.
Three Age System: a classification system devised by C.J. Thomsen for the sequence of technological periods (stone, bronze, and iron) in Old World prehistory. It established the principle that by classifying artifacts, one could produce a chronological ordering.
till: sediments laid down directly by glacial ice. Commonly consists of unsorted angular rock fragments mixed with clay.
tipi: a relatively large conical skin and pole tent used in the Plains area.
topographic map: a map which accurately depicts the physical features and relief of an area.
topography: the physical ground features of an area.
township: a square area, containing 36 sections; a major unit of the legal subdivision system.
trace element analysis: the use of chemical techniques, such as neutron activation analysis, or X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, for determining the incidence of trace elements in rocks. These methods are widely used in the identification of raw material sources for the production of stone tools.
tradition: a continuum of gradational culture change through time representing the unbroken development of a single culture.
trait: any discrete cultural element; or, one aspect of the phenotype.
trajectory: in systems thinking, this refers to the series of successive states through which the system proceeds over time. It may be said to represent the long-term behavior of the system.
transect: a linear sampling area.
transit: a sophisticated optical surveying instrument similar to an alidade, except that it is mounted directly on a tripod, rather than resting on a plane
tree-ring dating: a chronometric dating method in which the age of a wood sample is determined by counting the number of annual growth rings.
trend surface analysis: the aim of trend surface analysis is to highlight the main features of a geographic distribution by smoothing over some of the local irregularities. In this way, important trends can be isolated from the background "noise" more clearly.
tribe: a descent and kinship-based group in which subgroups are clearly linked to one another, with the potential of uniting a large number of local groups for common defense or warfare. Unlike bands, tribes are usually settled farmers, though they also include nomadic pastoral groups whose economy is based on exploitation of livestock. Individual communities tend to be integrated into the larger society through kinship ties.
tuff: geological formation composed of compressed volcanic ash.
tundra: a type of landscape where the ground is frozen solid throughout most of the year but thaws slightly during the summer.
tuyere: a ceramic blowtube used in the process of smelting.
type: a distinctive formal artifact class defined by the consistent clustering of attributes and restricted in space and time, e.g. the "Folsom Point" is a projectile point "type".
typology: the systematic organization of artifacts into types on the basis of shared attributes.
ulu: an Eskimo word for a relatively large, semi-lunate, side-mounted "woman's knife".V [top]
unconformity: the surface of a stratum that represents a break in the stratigraphic sequence.
underwater reconnaissance: geophysical methods of underwater survey include (1) a proton magnetometer towed behind a survey vessel, so as to detect iron and steel objects which distort the earth's magnetic field; (2) sidescan sonar that transmits sound waves in a fan-shaped beam to produce a graphic image of surface features on the sea-bed; (3) a sub-bottom profiler that emits sound pulses which bounce back from features and objects buried beneath the sea floor.
uniface: a stone artifact flaked only on one surface.
unifacial flaking: the removal of secondary flakes from only one surface of a stone nucleus.
uniformitarianism: the principle which states that physical forces working today to alter the earth were also in force and working in the same way in former times.
uranium series dating: a dating method based on the radioactive decay of isotopes of uranium. It has proved particularly useful for the period before 50,000 years ago, which lies outside the time range of radiocarbon dating.
use-wear: polish, striations, breakage, or minor flaking which develop on a tool's edge during use. Microscopic examination and study of the wear may indicate the past function of tools.
utilized flake: a stone flake used for a tool without deliberate retouch, but exhibiting use-wear.
utilized material: pieces of stone that have been used without modification.
variable: any property that may be displayed in different forms.W [top]
varves: fine layers of alluvium sediment deposited in glacial lakes. Their annual deposition makes them a useful source of dating.
ventral: the front or bottom side of an animal or artifact.
Venus figurines: small Upper Paleolithic statues characterized by exaggerated breasts and buttocks and very stylized heads, hands, and feet.
vertical angle: in mapping, the angle of sight measured on the vertical plane.
vertical circle: with major surveying instruments, the graduated vertical table around which the sighting telescope rotates; used to measure the vertical angle.
vertical datum: a base measurement point from which all elevations are determined.
vertical distance: the measurement of distance (or elevations) on a true vertical plane.
vertical provenience: the vertical position of objects within a site determined in relation to a vertical datum or datum plane, as well as to the local ground surface.
volcanic ash: layers of airborne pumice resulting from violent volcanic eruptions. Provide valuable dating markers when found in sites.
weathering zone: in pedology, the depth to which soil processes are operational.X [top]
weathering: the natural chemical or physical alteration of an object or deposit through time.
weir: an aboriginal fish-trap based on a fence or barrier of stakes or rocks built across a stream.
welded tuff: a rock formed of consolidated pumice or volcanic ash. Occasionally used as a raw material for lithic artifacts.
Wheeler box-grid: an excavation technique developed by Mortimer Wheeler from the work of Pitt-Rivers, involving the retaining of intact baulks of earth between excavation grid squares, so that different layers can be correlated across the site in the vertical profiles.
Wisconsin(an) glaciation: the latest major episode of glacial advance in the Pleistocene of North America; from about 70,000 to 10,000 B.P.
world system: a term coined by the historian Wallerstein to designate an economic unit, articulated by trade networks extending far beyond the boundaries of individual political units (nation states), and linking them together in a larger functioning unit.
X-ray diffraction analysis: a technique used in identifying minerals present in artifact raw materials; it can also be used in geomorphological contexts to identify particular clay minerals in sediments, and thus the specific source from which the sediment was derived.
X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF): a method used in the analysis of artifact composition, in which the sample is irradiated with a beam of X-rays which excite electrons associated with atoms on the surface.
XTENT modeling: a method of generating settlement hierarchy, that overcomes the limitations of both central place theory and Thiessen polygons; it assigns territories to centers based on their scale, assuming that the size of each center is directly proportional to its area of influence. Hypothetical political maps may thus be constructed from survey data.
zooarchaeology: the study of faunal remains found in archaeological sites and their cultural significance.
zoomorphic: "animal-like". refers to art-work or decorated objects with an animal motif or appearance.
Permission to use this dictionary was granted by:
John Kantner, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
Department of Anthropology http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/
UC Santa Barbara http://sipapu.ucsb.edu/
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
May 5, 1999