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Glossary M - P
Glossary A - D
Glossary E - L
Glossary M - P
Glossary Q - Z

M - N - O - P



Maize: Another name for corn.




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




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




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




Pictograph: A design painted on a rock surface.




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




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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All material Copyright 2000-2014 Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse

*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.