Glossary of Terms
Absolute Dating -- a method of dating archaeological materials in which scientific tests are performed directly on an artifact that can be used to determine the time period during which the artifact was made or used.
Analytical Unit (AU) -- a discrete, intact deposit of sediment that represents a recognizable period in the occupational history of a site.
Antler Billet -- a tool made from deer or antelope antler used to apply a moderate amount of percussive force to a large flake in order to remove smaller thinning flakes.
Arrow Point - A small tool made from bone, metal, or stone that has been formed as the pointed end of an arrow for penetration and is often found at sites of prehistoric peoples. The earliest known are Solutrean points of the Upper Palaeolithic. Arrowheads are often the only evidence of archery since the arrow shaft and bow rarely survive. The term projectile point is generally preferable because it avoids an inference regarding the method of hafting and propulsion. Most often, arrowheads were placed in a slot in the shaft, tied, then fixed with resin.
Chronology - the order in which events that are visible in the archaeological record occurred; the situation of a site or occupation in time.
Compression, Compressed -- the deflation of a site by the removal of sediments from between separate occupational deposits; IE: soil and dust might be removed by wind action, leaving behind the heavier artifacts.
Core - the scarred nucleus resulting from the detachment of one or more flakes from a lump of source material or tool stone, usually by using a hard hammer percussor such as a hammerstone. The core is marked with the negative scars of these flakes. The surface area of the core which received the blows necessary for detaching the flakes is referred to as the striking platform.
Crazing -- a network of fine cracks caused by over-heating of chert due to burning.
Curated - for stone tools, the concept of keeping and reusing; relates to curation and measuring use versus potential use available in a stone tool.
Drill – an oblong tool made of flaked stone used in drilling holes in wood, leather or hides. Oftentimes, drills were made from well used projectile points which were near end of life and thus many drills maintain the stem and hafting area of the original point type.
Expedient tools - tools that can be easily prepared but have relatively low reliability. (Flake tools, etc.)
Geoarchaeology -- the study of the way in which geological processes impact materials in an archaeological context.
Ground Stone - a category of stone tool formed by the grinding of a coarse-grained tool stone. Ground stone tools are usually made of basalt, rhyolite, granite, or other macrocrystalline igneous stones whose coarse structure makes them ideal for grinding other materials, including plants and other stones
Material Remains/Material Culture - The physical material left behind by former societies, such as buildings, tools and other artifacts.
Mixing, Mixed -- the disturbance of archaeological deposits so that their original order of deposition cannot be easily determined. Mixing can be caused by natural processes, such as erosion or animal disturbance, or by human activity, such as digging.
Persistent Place -- a place having qualities of geography or ecology that makes it particularly suited to human life, and to which humans are drawn over and over again despite differences in culture, technology and lifeways.
Pot Lid -- a small round or oblong piece of chert that pops off of a larger chert object due to burning
Potlidding -- small round or oblong divots in a chert artifact caused by over-heating and burning of the artifact.
Pressure Flaking -- removing very small flakes from the edges of a uniface or biface by applying pressure with a sharp pointed tool.
Projectile Point - Tools used for arrow, dart, or spear. They are not referred to as "arrowheads" unless it is known that the point was hafted to a shaft and used with bow and arrow. See also, Dart Point or Arrow Point.
Provenience -- the exact location in 3-dimensional space from which an artifact was recovered. Provenience includes not only the general location and name of a site, but also the precise location in the site including unit number, level number and location in 3 dimensions within the level. A well-documented excavation will record the provenience of many artifacts down to the centimeter.
Relative Dating -- the dating of archaeological materials that can not be absolutely dated by their proximity to materials that have been absolutely dated. See also: Temporally Diagnostic.
Temporally Diagnostic - an artifact or other feature that can be associated with a particular time period with a reasonable degree of certainty. See also, Relative Dating.