GLOSSARY
ABRADER
A tool used to scrape off or wear away materials by friction.
ABSOLUTE DATING
Dates are expressed in absolute terms, that is in specific units of measurement such as days, years, centuries, or millennia. For example, the village was inhabited between AD 1400 and 1650. Absolute dates may be expressed with a standard deviation (see Radiocarbon dating.) Absolute dating and relative dating are contrasting concepts.
ABSOLUTE LOCATION
The exact position of a place on Earth, typically using latitude and longitude coordinates.
ACCULTURATION
The process of accepting new ideas from one culture and fitting them into another culture.
ADAPTATION
The process of change to better conform with environmental conditions or other external stimuli.
ADZ
An ax like tool with a curved blade at right angles to the handle, used for shaping wood.
AGATE
A fine-grained fibrous variety of chalcedony with color banding or clouding
AGRICULTURE
The domestication and growing of crops. It indicates a sedentary life.
ALLUVIAL SOIL
Soils deposited by water, essentially the fertile topsoil left by rivers after a flood.
ANALYSIS
the process of studying and classifying artifacts, usually conducted in a laboratory after excavation has been completed.
ANTHROPOLOGY
The scientific and humanistic study of man's present and past biological, linguistic, social, and cultural variations. Its major subfields are archaeology, physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, and anthropological linguistics.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONTEXT
The physical setting, location, and cultural association of artifacts and features within an archaeological site.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE
a place where human activity occurred and material remains were deposited.
ARCHAEOLOGIST
Anyone with an interest in the aims and methods of archaeology. A professional archaeologist usually holds a degree in anthropology with a specialization in archaeology and is trained to collect archaeological information in a proper scientific way.
ARCHAEOLOGY (ALSO SPELLED ARCHEOLOGY)
The scientific study of the physical evidence of past human societies recovered through the excavation. Archaeologists not only attempt to discover and describe past cultures, but also to formulate explanations for the development of cultures.
ARCHAIC CULTURE
The Native American culture in Mississippi which occurred between about 8000 BCE and 500 BCE.
ARCHEOPEDOLOGY
The study of ancient soils in an archeological context.
ARTIFACT
Any object manufactured, used or modified by humans. Common examples include tools, utensils, art, food remains, and other products of human activity.
ASSEMBLAGE
A group of artifacts related to each other based upon some recovery from a common archaeological context. Assemblage examples are artifacts from a site or feature.
ASSIMILATION
The process whereby a group, as in a minority or immigrant peoples, gradually adapt the characteristics of another culture.
ATLATL
A wood or bone shaft implement, held in one hand, and used to propel a spear. The tool functions as a lever, giving greater thrust and distance.
ATTRIBUTE
An artifact's physical property, such as the material(s) from which the artifact is made, its size, shape, function, and decoration.
AWL
AWL
A pointed tool used for boring holes, as into leather or wood.
B.P.
years before present; as a convention, 1950 is the year from which B.P. dates are calculated.
BACKFILLING
Covering an archeological site with fill to stabilize and preserve it.
BALK
A part of an archaeological excavation left untouched, usually becoming a wall between the individual test pits. The sides of the balk show the strata of the site.
BENTONITES
A clay formed by the decomposition of volcanic ash, having the ability to absorb large quantities of water and to expand to several times its normal volume.
BIFACE
A stone tool that has been flaked on two sides. "Biface" is a broad term for a tool that cannot or has not been specifically identified as a projectile point, knife, axe, etc.
BLADE
A worked tool flake that is roughly twice as long s it is across.
BOTANIST
A person who pursues the scientific study of the structure, growth, and identification of plants.
BREASTWORKS
A temporary, quickly constructed fortification, usually breast high, to allow standing defenders to fire over them. To enhance the protection, they are often earth filled, and the remains can be found at sites of archaeological interest.
BULB OF PERCUSSION
In stone tool manufacturing, a cone of swelling appears at the point of impact of the hammerstone.
BURIN
A specific type of lithic flake with a chisel-like edge which may have been used to engrave wood or bone.
CADASTRE (CADASTER)
A public record of the extent, value, and ownership of land within a district for purposes of taxation.
CADDO
A shortened form of the tribal name Cadohadacho, referring to three main Native American tribal groups spread along wide fertile prairies bordering the great bend in the Red River. The three cultures are- the Cadohadacho and the Natchitoches along the Red River, and the Hasinai along the banks of the upper Neches and Angelina Rivers in East Texas. Each tribe within these three regional groupings had an individual identity and was independently governed, but all had a common language, followed the same social and religious customs, and shared traditions. Their direct descendants are listed on the tribal roll of the Caddo Indian Tribe of Oklahoma in the twentieth century. (From Caddo Indians: Where We Come From (1995pg4) by Cecile Elkins Carter, Cultural Liason for the Caddo Tribes of Oklahoma.)
CADDOAN
A family of North American Indian languages spoken in the upper Missouri Valley in North Dakota, in the Platto Valley in Nebraska, in southwestern Arkansas, and in neighboring parts of Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.
CADDOAN CULTURE AREA
The geographical region that encompasses eastern Oklahoma, southwestern Arkansas, western Louisiana, and eastern Texas which was the homeland of the Native American Caddo people.
CALCAREOUS CONCRETIONS
A rounded mass of mineral matter occurring in sand stone, clay, etc., often in concentric layers around a nucleus.
CATALOGING
The process of describing and recording an artifact's many attributes.
CELT
A prehistoric manufactured long, thin, stone ax-like tool. Possibly also an adz or hoe. Usually not grooved for a handle.
CERAMICS
Artifacts that are modeled or molded from clay and then made durable by firing.
CHERT
A very fine grained rock formed in ancient ocean sediments. It often has a semi-glassy finish and is usually white, pinkish, brown, gray, or blue-gray in color. It can be shaped into arrowheads by chipping. It has often been called flint, but true flint is found in chalk deposits and is a distinctive blackish color.
CHRONOLOGY
an arrangement of events in the order in which they occurred.
CHRONOMETRY
The art of measuring time accurately.
CLASSIFICATION
a systematic arrangement in groups or categories according to criteria.
COLLECTION
Material remains that are excavated or removed during a survey, excavation, or other study of a prehistoric or historic resource, and associated records that are prepared or assembled in connection with the survey, excavation or other study.
COMPLIANCE WORK
Archeology undertaken to comply with requirements mandated by law. Often compliance refers to work done to satisfy requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, or comparable state laws.
CONSERVATION
Measures taken to prolong the life of an object or document and its associated data as long as possible in its original form. May involve chemical stabilization or physical strengthening.
CONSERVATION ARCHAEOLOGY
A subfield of archaeology which focuses on the preservation of archaeological resources. This position encourages the stabilization and preservation of archaeological sites as opposed to their immediate excavation.
CONTEXT
the relationship of artifacts and other cultural remains to each other and the situation in which they are found.
CORD MARKED
A characteristic exterior surface treatment of Woodland ceramic ware that results from hitting the pasty surface with a cord wrapped paddle during the manufacturing process.
CORE
The primary stone from which flakes have been removed.
CROSS-DATING
Relative dating of objects based on consistencies in stratigraphy between parts of a site or different sites, and objects or strata with a known relative chronology.
CUESTAS
A long, low ridge with a relatively steep face, escarpment on one side and a long, gentle slope on the other.
CULTURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
A branch of archaeology that is concerned with developing policies and action in regard to the preservation and use of cultural resources.
CULTURAL RESOURCES
Sites, structures, landscapes, and objects of some importance to a culture or community for scientific, traditional, religious, or other reasons.
CULTURE
a set of learned beliefs, values and behaviors--the way of life--shared by the members of a society.
CURATION
The long-term, professional management and care of objects, associated records, and reports.
DAUB
Clay used to fill in the holes and gaps between the wood or thatching of a wall. It was used by both Indians and European settlers in North America to construct houses.
DEBITAGE
the by-products or waste materials left over from the manufacture of stone tools.
DEMOGRAPHY
The study of the distribution, density, and vital statistics of populations.
DENDROCHRONOLOGY
Also referred to as tree-ring dating, this absolute dating technique uses annual growth rings of trees from a single region to compare and match sequences of growth rings to determine that date when the tree was first cut down. Dendrochronology is also used to calibrate radiocarbon dates. Dendrochronology can also be used to reconstruct fluctuations in rainfall in the past, reflecting past climatic conditions.
DIAGNOSTIC ARTIFACT
an item that is indicative of a particular time period and/or cultural group.
DIG
The location of a professionally conducted archaeological investigation.
DISTORTION
Event occurring during or after the formation of a site that may cause strata to disappear in one area of the site and reappear farther along at a different distance from the surface. Distortion could result from processes such as landfilling, dumping, a landslide or other earth movement.
DISTURBANCE
Event that changes the contexts of materials within a site, moving and mixing materials from and between strata. Some causes of disturbance are farming, heavy construction, rodent burrowing, and natural forces such as floods.
DUGOUT
A canoe made from a hollowed-out log.
DUGOUT
A canoe made from a hollowed-out log.
ECOFACTS
Natural remains, such as those of wild and domesticated animals and plants, that are found in the archeological record.
ECOLOGY
The study of interrelationships of organisms and their environment.
END SCRAPER
A stone tool formed by chipping the end of a flake of stone which can then be used to scrape animal hides and wood.
EXCAVATION
The systematic unearthing of and data recovery from an archaeological site.
EXCAVATION UNIT
A square hole of predetermined uniform size that is excavated from an archaeological site.
EXPERIMENTAL ARCHAEOLOGY
scientific studies designed to discover processes that produced and/or modified artifacts and sites.
FAUNA
A Latin term which refers to animals remains, as opposed to flora which refers to plant remains.
FEATURE
A component of an archaeological site that cannot be removed from the site. Examples include storage pits, post molds, architecture, and hearths.
FEATURES
Evidence of human activities visible as disturbances in the soil. Such disturbances are produced by digging pits for storage, setting posts for houses, or by constructing a hearth for cooking. These disturbances are often distinguished by soil discolorations.
FLAKE
(n)A stone fragment that has intentionally been removed from a core or a tool. (v) to remove a stone fragment from a core or tool.
FLOTATION
A method of extracting carbonized plant remains, shells, small bones, and insect remains from ancient soils and sediments. The process involves stirring the sediment into a large barrel of water so that the lighter material floats and can be scooped off or floated over a weir and into a fine-meshed sieve. More sophisticated floatation machines have a water supply inside the barrel, thus forcing water upwards through the descending sediment, so helping to push light material to the surface. Various chemicals can be added to prepare the samples by breaking the sediments down or by creating froth in the floatation machine so that organic residues get trapped in air bubbles and are taken to the surface more easily.
FLUTE
A long, narrow flake removed from a spear point to aid in the binding of the point to the spear shaft.
GEOARCHEOLOGY
Science by which archeologists incorporate geomorphological studies to gain an understanding of what earlier landforms were like, where sites potentially may be located, and insights regarding prehistoric raw material availability, site formation processes, and landscape history.
GEOLOGIC DATING
Relative dating technique used by geologists to develop dates for various geological stages by relating them to other climactic and geologic events.
GEOLOGIST
A person who studies the history of the earth and its life, especially as recorded in rocks.
GEOMORPHOLOGY
The science that studies the general configuration of the earth's surface, specifically the study of the classification, description, nature, origin, and development of present landforms and their relationships to underlying structures, and the history of geologic changes as recorded by these surface features.
GIS
Abbreviation for Geographic Information System, an analytic tool used to create a computerized, layered composite of spatial information about an area.
GORGET
An ornament usually worn over the chest which may be either suspended on a cord or attached directly to clothing.
GPS
Abbreviation for the Global Positioning System, a “constellation” of satellites that orbit the Earth and make it possible for people with ground receivers to pinpoint their geographic location. GPS allows archeologists to determine location coordinates in the field. Archeological sites and their environments can be mapped quickly and accurately using GPS to measure control points.
GRID
a network of uniformly spaced squares that divides a site into units; used to measure and record an object's position in space.
GRIT AND GROG TEMPERED POTTERY
Sand (grit) and crushed pottery sherds (grog) mixed in the unfired clay to make ceramic vessels stronger. These inclusions prevented the rapid expansion of the paste as the clay's water content was boiled away when the pottery was fired.
HEWN
Wood shaped by heavy cutting or chopping blows struck by hand tools such as axes or adzes.
HISTORIC SITES ACT OF 1935
Public Law 74-292; 49 Statute 666 enabling the authorized expenditure of funds for archaeological studies on major land modification projects.
HISTORICAL
Text-aided archeology that studies that portion of human history that begins with the appearance of written records and continues until today.
HISTORICAL SCIENCE
Sciences such as geology, evolutionary biology and archeology that deal with past events that no longer can be directly observed or replicated, although the evidence they left behind can be studied to reconstruct what took place.
HORIZON
Ties and uniformity across space at a single point in time. In archeology, a horizon is a pattern characterized by widespread distribution of a complex of cultural traits that lasts a relatively short time. Factors that might create the pattern of a horizon would include a rapid military conquest or effective religious mission. Horizon and tradition are contrasting concepts.
HORTICULTURE
The science and art of growing fruit, flowers, ornamental plants, and vegetables in small gardens.
IN SITU
Refers to an artifact that has been found in its original context.
INCISED
A decoration found on pottery consisting of lines drawn into wet clay. When fired, the arrangement of lines leaves a permanent design on the vessel surface.
INTERACTION SPHERE
This term refers to prehistoric groups who shared social interaction and exchanged material goods, through a network made up of long distance trade contacts.
INTERRUPTION
Elements that break the continuity of a stratum such as stones, tree roots, walls, wells and post holes.
LAW OF SUPERPOSITION
This law holds that, under normal circumstances, deeper layers of soil, sediment, or rock are older than those above them.
LEVEL
an excavation layer, which may correspond to natural strata. Levels are numbered from the top to bottom of the excavation unit, with the uppermost level being Level 1.
LITHIC
Stone, or pertaining to stone. In archaeology, this term most often refers to a stone artifact.
MANO
A hand-held stone used in food preparation to grind grains (such as corn and wheat) on a stone slab, known as a metate.
MATERIAL CULTURE
Elements of the physical environment that people have modified through cultural behavior. Tangible material culture may reveal information about intangible cultural elements such as social practices and ideology.
MATERIAL REMAINS
artifacts, features and other items such as plant and animal remains that indicate human activity.
MEAN CERAMIC DATING
Technique used in historical archeology to date sites based on the average age of recovered ceramics. A mean ceramic date (MCD) provides a weighted average of manufacturing dates and does not indicate a range of occupation.
METATE
A large stone slab that serves as the surface upon which to grind grains with a mano.
MIDDEN
The layer of soil which contains the byproducts of human activity as the result of the accumulation of these materials on their living surface. For prehistoric sites, a layer of soil that was stained to a dark color by the decomposition of organic refuse which also contained food bones, fragments of stone tools, charcoal, pieces of pottery, or other discarded materials. For historic sites, a similar layer of soil but with appropriate historic material remains often in a much thinner deposit.
NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATION ACT OF 1966
Public Law 89-665, as amended by Public law 96515, National Historic Preservation Act Amendments of 1980, 94 Stat. 2987. This act and its amendments clearly established the basic funding and implementation of archaeological work in federally funded projects.
NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES (NRHP)
The administrative branch of the Department of Interior that officially reviews nominations of archaeological and historic sites and structures, and guides the federal implementation of cultural resources legislation.
OBSIDIAN
A volcanic glass which is one of the finest raw materials for the chipping of stone tools.
OBSIDIAN HYDRATION
Absolute dating technique that measures the microscopic amount of water absorbed on freshly broken obsidian surfaces. The principle behind obsidian hydration dating is simple—the longer the artifact surface has been exposed, the thicker the hydration band will be—but its application requires careful analysis of absorption rates for different obsidian sources. Obsidian hydration can indicate an artifact's age if the datable surfaces tested are only those exposed by deliberate flintknapping, rather than by accidental breakage.
OUTBUILDINGS
A term used to refer to all nonresidential structures on a site. These include animal pens, storage buildings, sheds, barns, etc.
OUTCROPS
A term designating the surface exposure of rock layers, which have not been decomposed into soil.
PALEOETHNOBOTANY
The analysis and interpretation of plant remains from archeological sites in order to understand the past interactions between human populations and plants (Thomas 1998:325).
PALYNOLOGIST
One who studies plant pollen and spores. Since pollen may be preserved thousands of years it can be used to reconstruct the plant ecology of the past.
PARALLEL FLAKING
A technique used in the production of stone tools that is often found on the earliest projectile points from North Central Texas. Long, consistent chipping scars run parallel on the flat sides of stone tools.
PEDOLOGY
The science that deals with the study of soils.
PETROGLYPHS
Carvings in rock which express artistic or religious meaning.
PHYTOLITH
A plant microfossil composed of silica.
PICTOGRAPHS
Paintings on rock which express artistic or religious meaning.
PIPE STEM DATING
Technique used in historical archeology to date sites based on the statistical analysis of English clay smoking pipe bore widths.
PLEISTOCENE
A geologic period, usually thought of as the Ice Age, which began about 1.6 million years ago and ended with the melting of the large continental glaciers creating the modern climatic pattern about 11,500 years ago.
POST MOLD / POST HOLE
a type of feature; a circular stain left in the ground after a wooden post has decayed; usually indicates the former existence of a house or fence.
POT SHERD
a piece of broken pottery.
PREHISTORIC
the period of time before written records; the absolute date for the prehistoric period varies from place to place.
PREHISTORIC HUNTER
Gatherers-Humans who lived prior to written history and depended upon the hunting of wild animals and the gathering of natural plant foods for their livelihood
PREHISTORIC SITES
Locations where people who were alive before modern written records existed once lived, hunted, camped, or were buried. Painted or carved rock outcrops are considered sites as well.
PRIMARY CONTEXT
The soil layer and location in which an artifact, ecofact or feature was originally deposited or constructed.
PROJECTILE POINT
A bifacial stone tool used for arrows, spears and darts. Commonly known outside of the archaeology field as "arrowheads."
PROVENIENCE
The three-dimensional location of an artifact or feature within an archaeological site, measured by two horizontal dimensions, and a vertical elevation.
PUBLIC ARCHAEOLOGY
(see also Conservation Archaeology) A movement to increase public awareness and education about archaeology which advanced the legislative attempts to provide funding and protection for archaeological sites.
PUNCTATES
Impressions in the surface of ceramic vessels made by implements or by fingernails as a form of decoration.
QUARTZITE
A stone which was formed in water deposited sediments and consists of sand grains which have been cemented together. It can be chipped, but is difficult to work.
RADIOCARBON DATING
Absolute dating technique based on the knowledge that living organisms build up organic carbon. When the organism dies, the carbon 14 (C14) atoms disintegrate at a known rate, with a half-life of 5,700 years. It is possible to calculate the date of an organic object by measuring the amount of C14 left in the sample. Because the concentration of radiocarbon in the atmosphere has varied considerably over time, radiocarbon dates as far back as 7,000 years may be corrected by calibrating them against accurate dates from radiocarbon-dated tree rings and developing a master correction curve (see Dendrochronology).
RELATIVE DATING
Dates are expressed in relation to one another, for instance, earlier, later, more recent, and so forth. For example, the habitation of the east end of the site is older than the one on the west end. Relative and absolute dating are contrasting concepts.
RESCUE ARCHAEOLOGY
A term applied to the emergency salvage of sites in immediate danger of destruction by major land modification projects such as reservoir construction.
RESEARCH DESIGN
A plan in which the objectives of an archeological investigation are described and justified. It states research questions and describes methods and techniques to be used to identify, recover, study and store associated archeological materials.
ROCK ART
a general term for pecked, incised, or painted figures on rock.
SAMPLING
Methods for identifying portions of an archeological site or resource area to be examioned. Sampling methods vary according to each research design.
SEDENTARY
A term applied to human groups leading a settled, non-migratory lifestyle.
SERIATION
Relative dating technique whereby artifacts are ordered temporally based on the assumption that cultural styles (fads) change and that the popularity of a particular style or decoration can be associated with a certain time period. The fattest part of the cluster is the central part of the fad (Thomas 1998:246).
SHERD
A fragment of a ceramic artifact.
SHERDS
The individual pieces of broken pottery vessels.
SHOVEL TEST PIT
A small test hole that is excavated to determine the presence or absence of an archaeological site in a project area.
SITE
A location where human activities once took place and left some form of material evidence.
SITE STEWARD
a volunteer who visits a site and helps protect it form vandalism and looting.
SITES
Location where there is evidence for the human past. A site is often a spatial cluster of artifacts, features, or ecofacts that can be quite sparse.
SOCIAL CONTEXT
Interpretations of an artifact's technical production and use, its value to the people who used it, and perhaps how and if the object symbolized those peoples' ideology.
SOIL SCIENTISTS
One who studies the distribution, fertility, and chemical and organic composition of the upper layer of the Earth.
SPALLED
Condition when pieces of material have come off an artifact.
STABILIZATION
Preserving an archeological site or artifact by supporting or strengthening it to reduce the possibility of deterioration.
STATE ARCHAEOLOGIST
An appointed official who is responsible for overseeing all potential impacts to archaeological resources and for reviewing and administering all archaeological work in order to insure compliance with state and federal regulations.
STONE BOILING
A type of cooking that is done by heating stones in an open fire and then placing themin the liquid or substance to be cooked. This is often done in baskets or containers that cannot be placed directly in or over a fire.
STP
Abbreviation for shovel test pit, a type of subsurface probe. Archeologists place shovel test pits at systematic or random patterns in an area being investigated. Each pit is approximately one foot in diameter and extends deep enough to penetrate sterile subsoil.
STRATA
many layers of earth or levels in an archaeological site (singular stratum).
STRATIGRAPHY
Analysis of sequences of layered, or stratified, deposits. Like geological exposures, archeological sites usually contain stratified layers, some of them the results of human activity, like house building, and others from natural phenomena like rain and wind.
STRATUM (PLURAL STRATA)
A soil layer, visually separable from other layers by a distinct change in color, texture, or other characteristic.
SUBSISTENCE ECONOMY
The means by which a group obtains the food and shelter necessary to support life.
SURVEY
the systematic examination of the ground surface in search of archaeological sites.
TEMPER
A small hard substance that is added to clay prior to the forming and firing of a ceramic vessel. Temper serves to strengthen a vessel and to prevent it from cracking during the firing process. Examples of temper include sand, quartz, and crushed sherds.
TERMINUS POST QUEM (TPQ) DATING
The date after which a stratum, feature, or artifact must have been deposited. The TPQ is determined by the most recent date. A 1962 penny, for example, indicates that the feature in which it was found dates to after 1962.
TERRITORY
The familiar surroundings or home range which is claimed by a group of people.
TEST EXCAVATIONS
Subsurface excavations in areas which are either defined as sites based on surface artifacts or thought to contain buried deposits based on the landform.
TEST PIT
a small excavation unit dug to learn what the depth and character of the stratum might be, and to determine more precisely which strata contain artifacts and other material remains.
THERMOLUMINESCENCE
Absolute dating technique used for rocks, minerals and ceramics. It is based on the fact that almost all natural minerals are thermoluminescent—they emit light when heated. Energy absorbed from ionizing radiation frees electrons to move through the crystal lattice and some are trapped at imperfections. In the lab, ceramic samples are heated, releasing the trapped electrons and producing light that is measured to fix a date.
TIMBER FRAME
An early English building technique using sawn or hewn lumber (cut using hand tools) and joined with mortises and tenons (holes and pegs) instead of nails.
TOOL KIT
The set of all weapons and tools that was created and used by a person or group of people.
TRADITION
A pattern of long persistence of cultural traits in a restricted geographical area. Traditions not only suggest a strong degree of conservatism, but a stable pattern of permanent settlement that allows such developments to take place relatively undisturbed. Tradition and horizon are contrasting concepts.
TRANSECT
A linear area of land from which samples are taken in order to determine the presence or absence of archaeological material in the region.
TRANSIT
An instrument that is used to create a map of an archaeological site prior to excavation. The transit (also known as the transit total station) allows archaeologists to determine such things as the topography of the site, the location of landmarks, and what areas should be excavated.
TYPOLOGY
The organization of artifacts into groups based on shared attributes, such as function, decoration, or temper.
UNIFACE
A worked stone tool with evidence of flaking and lithic reduction on only one side.
WORKING PERIOD FARM
A term usually associated with a working museum exhibit in which a full scale farm has been restored or reconstructed to depict the former lifeways, tools, and technologies of particular periods.
ZOOARCHEOLOGY (OR ARCHEOZOOLOGY)
The study of faunal (animal) remains from archeological sites.