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Archaeology

Glossary

Analyze: To look at carefully and in detail to identify causes, key factors, and possible results.

Archaeology: The scientific study of historic peoples and their cultures by analysis of their artifacts, inscriptions, monuments, and other remains, especially those that have been excavated.

Artifact: Objects made or used by humans, typically found because they were discarded, someone lost them, or they were broken.

Classification: Placing similar artifacts in groups so they can be compared, recorded, and closely examined.

Context: The recording of the site location and where artifacts were found within the site. Once archaeologists return to their labs, they can use the information to relate the objects to each other. Context is the most important piece of information for an archaeologist to record when an artifact is found.

Cultural Resource Management (CRM): Work conducted within the environmental industry, outside of academic or museum institutions. When the federal government plans to expand a building, widen a highway, or build something new, they are required to hire archaeologists to survey if there are any archaeological sites that could be destroyed in the course of the project.

Cuts: Digs made into the ground by an archaeologist so they can see the feature that is hidden and see stratigraphy.

Excavate: Digging. Once an archaeologist finds a site, they divide the site off into smaller parts so they are able to work very carefully. They then begin to excavate the site, recording the context for each artifact they find.

Feature: An artifact that cannot be moved. An example includes pithouses, which are houses that are dug into the ground, or midden.

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR): A geophysical method that uses radar pulses to image the subsurface. It can be used to detect and map artifacts and features underground.

Global Positioning System (GPS): A global system of US navigational satellites developed to provide precise positional and velocity data and global time synchronization for air, sea, and land travel.

Insight: An instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, especially through intuitive understanding.

Interpret: To give or provide the meaning of; explain.

Looting: Going to an archaeological site and excavating without a permit. This includes picking up or collecting artifacts with the intent of selling them. Looting is wrong because the context of artifacts and any information they could share is forever lost.

Matrix: Materials such as soil or rock around an artifact when it is found. It contributes to the context of the artifact, which is the purpose of excavating.

Midden: A trash pit and a feature at a site, such as an outhouse pit.

Prehistoric: Of or relating to the time or a period prior to recorded history.

Repository: A receptacle or place where things are deposited, stored, or offered for sale.

Seriation: A relative dating method archaeologists use to place artifacts in order from oldest to newest, or newest to oldest.

Sherd: a piece of pottery found at an archaeological site.

Site: Places with evidence of past human activities investigated by archaeologists.

Stratigraphy: The study of the different layers or sections of earth. The different layers are typically different colors.

Survey: To find sites, an archaeologist performs surveys of the land. This is done in a methodical way with several people and a GPS walking over an area of land and marking sites they find on a map, using the coordinates from the GPS.



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