Glossary of terms used on this site

There are 33 entries in this glossary.
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Term Definition
amphora

An amphora is a type of container that was used to transport wine, oil, and other bulk commodities across the Mediterranean Sea.

Archaeoastronomy

the study of how people in the past "have understood the phenomena in the sky, how they used phenomena in the sky, and what role the sky played in their cultures.”

assemblage

An assortment of artifacts or features that are found in the same area and depth.

Aterian

A North African stone tool industry from between 90,000 and 40,000 years ago.

atlatl

A tool used in conjunction with a spear or dart that utilizes properties of leverage to propel the spear or dart a greater distance.

biface

A stone tool that has been worked on both sides, typically used for cutting or scraping.

Bronze Age

An arbitrary technological stage in a three-part system created by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen.

Clovis

The earliest known human culture in North America.

codex

An ancient text or manuscript.

colluvial

Rock detritus and soil accumulated at the foot of a slope.

coprolite

A coprolite is fossilized feces. They are important to archaeologists because they contain information regarding the diet of the organism from which they came. For example, the presence of human proteins in a human coprolite might indicate the practice of cannibalism. Through parasite analysis, migratory patterns can also be abstracted from coprolite.

cultural resources managment

A branch of archaeology focused on the development and implementation of policies aimed at preserving archaeological features and artifacts.

cuneiform

An early form of writing originating in Mesopotamia around 3000 B.C..

debitage

Waste material produced from the reductive manufacture of lithic tools.

diaspora

A large scale migration, or the collective area that a people have migrated to.

earthlodge

A permanent house built with wattle and daub construction, and covered with sod. Wattle refers to a woven lattice of wooden strips, and daub refers to a combination of wet soil, clay, sand animal dung, and straw.

earthworks

Earthworks are artificial changes in land levels. In England they are referred to as barrows, and in the North America as mounds.

faience

A manufactured material that imitates the bright colors and radiance of valuable jewels used in jewelry and ornamentation throughout Egypt and the Near East nearly 5500 years ago.

fish weir

A fish weir is a large device typically constructed from wood that funnels large amounts of fish into a net, used in large scale fisheries operations. They have been extensively used around the world for several thousand years.

flint knapping

A process used in manufacturing stone tools.

haft

A handle or shaft, usually constructed from wood or bone.

in situ

The position of an artifact when it is encountered in the soil.

Iron Age

A period occuring after the Bronze Age (in the three-age system) characterized by the manufacture and use of iron implements.

lithic

Relating to stone.

lustreware

A pottery style created and expanded upon by the 9th-13th century pottery industries of the Islamic civilization.

midden

An pile of old domestic waste. Many middens are comprised of broken shells accumulated in food processing. Another example of a midden is Monte Testaccio, a mound in Rome that comprised almost entirely of broken fragments of amphora.

ochre

A light brown pigment that has been used since prehistory, and is frequently found in among grave goods in a burial context.

post-processual archaeology

A form of archaeological theory that emphasizes the subjective nature of archaeological interpretations. Post-processual archaeologists recognize their own influences on the nature of archaeological discoveries, rather than considering them objectively.

provenience

Vertical and horizontal position of an artifact or feature.

radiocarbon dating

Radiocarbon dating is a method of measuring the decay of carbon-14 to determine the approximate age of organic materials, such as charcoal or leather, up to an age of 58,000 to 62,000 years.

shovel test pit

A shovel test pit (STP) is part of the initial phases of archaeological surveys. They are generally half a meter deep, with vary widths. During the initial phase of an archaeological survey, many STPs might be dug in ~10 meter intervals.

Stone Age

An arbitrary technological stage in a three-part system created by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen. The Stone Age is characterized by the use to stone to create tools.

thermoluminescence dating

Thermoluminescence (TL) dating is the measurement of the accumulated radiation dose of a given material since it was last heated or exposed to sunlight. Thermoluminescence dating is important to archaeology because it provides a means of dating material when radiocarbon dating is not available. It is frequently used to date ceramic materials, as the measurements it provides give an approximate date of the last firing.

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