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Glossary M - P
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Maize

 

Maize: Another name for corn.

 

Matrix

 

Matrix: A general term applied to the sediments and other material, such as boulders, gravel, or stone, in which archaeological materials are found.  Soil samples are also removed for flotation.

 

Midden

 

Midden: A surface used for trash disposal, often characterized by a dark stain or an accumulation of debris.

 

Mottling

 

Mottling: Displaying multiple colors or shades, often used to describe soil colors.

 

Munsell

 

Munsell: A book of standardized colored ships used by archaeologists to describe soil.

 

NAGRPA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act): Law passed in 1990 which created new ethical and legal archaeological standards for the treatment of human remains.  It calls for human remains and sacred objects held by federal museums and agencies to be repatriated to native groups who can be connected to the archaeological cultures.

 

Nettle

 

Nettle (wood): A plant that was used to make cordage, often found along riverbanks or in the woods.

 

Observation: Recognizing or noting a fact or occurence.

 

Obsidian

 

Obsidian: Sometimes referred to as volcanic glass, this is a form of stone that has no internal blocky or crystalline structure.  Consequently, it can be made to have an exceptionally sharp edge, though it is typically brittle.

 

Orthoquartzite

 

Orthoquartzite: Also known as silicified sandstone, this is a form of quartzite found in Wisconsin.

 

Paste: A mixture of clay and water, to which other materials are added as temper before being formed into a pottery vessel.

 

Percussion flaking: There are two forms:

 

Direct percussion

Direct Percussion: Striking a core directly with a hammer or billet in order to drive off a flake.

 

Indirect percussion

 

Indirect Percussion: The use of an intermediary punch to focus the power of a blow on a specific point of a core.

 

Petroglyph

 

Petroglyph: A design chiseled or chipped out of a rock surface.

 

Pictograph

 

Pictograph: A design painted on a rock surface.

 

Pit

 

Pit: A hole that was dug into the ground, often for storage, burials, or refuse.  Also a slang word used to describe an area of excavation.

 

Pleistocene: The Ice Age; the epoch of geologic time from 1.6 million years ago to 10,000 years ago, characterized in North America by periods of glacial advance and retreat.

 

Pottery sherd

 

Pot Sherd: A piece of broken pottery.

 

Pottery

 

Pottery: All forms of human-made products constructed from clay.

 

Prehistoric archaeology

 

Prehistoric Archaeology: Archaeology that deals with materials that date prior to written history within a region.  In Wisconsin, this would be before A.D. 1650.
Prehistoric archaeology

 

Pressure flaking

 

Pressure Flaking: The controlled application of increasing pressure to a core in order to strike off a flake.

 

 Projectile point

 

Projectile Point: Not always an arrowhead!  A term used to describe any stone tool used as a hunting device, either a spearpoint or an arrowhead.

 

Provenience

 

Provenience: The location of an item (artifact, feature, or ecofact) in a site.

 

Punctates

 

Punctation: Pressing nodes or other shapes into the surface of pottery, usually one shape at a time.

 

Pythagorean Theorem

Pythagorean Theorem: Formula used to determine the side or hypotenuse of a right triangle (a squared + b squared = c squared).  Used to lay out excavation units.
Pythagorean Theorem

 

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Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
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*MVAC Educational Programs are supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
*This project was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation.  Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.