a tool made of a coarse material such a sandstone that is used to smooth materials such as bone, antler or wood.
Determining age on a specific time scale, such as a years B.C. or A.D. Radiocarbon dating provides an absolute date.
Assigning a unique number to each provenience and to each artifact within that provenience, so that the artifacts can be identified and tabulated.
a woodworking tool.
a person who studies people and how they live (both past and present people).
The study of humans through their past remains, culture, biology, and language.
growing or living in or around water.
A pre-determined depth for digging that is established at the beginning of an excavation. For example, an arbitrary level may be set at 5 cm per level.
a person who studies past people and how they lived.
A method for studying past human cultures and analyzing material evidence (artifacts and sites). NOT the study of fossils, dinosaurs, or paleontology!
any object made, modified or used by humans.
spear-thrower, used with a spear to make the spear travel farther and with more force.
View a video clip describing how to throw an atlatl. You will need a player
to view the MOV files. Download a free version of RealPlayer..
a tool with a sharp tip used for making holes.
a weight placed on an atlatl.
A fine-grained, heavy igneous rock. Usually a greenish black color, but sometimes dull brown or black. Basalt is often used to make axes and other groundstone tools.
A stone tool that has been flaked on both sides (faces).
Disturbances of sediments related to the archaeological records by animals such as moles and gophers.
See also rodent run.
A roughly shaped flake or piece of raw material. Oftentimes, hunters would carry prepared blanks with them and make them into projectile points as needed.
Catlinite / Pipestone
fine-grained red rock that can be carved.
Also see Catlinite entry in Native Technologies.
A microcrystalline metamorphic stone commonly used to make stone tools. Sometimes used as a synonym for flint.
the relationship between artifacts and/or where they are found.
Archaeological research conducted in order to fulfill legal requirements or private demand, usually in advance of development.
A technique used in making pottery, when cordage is pressed into the clay surface as decoration or to strengthen the vessel.
Several strands of fiber twisted together; string or rope.
The parent stone material from which flakes are struck.
The weathered exterior of a stone; sometimes also called the rind.
Cultural Resource Management (CRM)
The conservation and selective investigation of prehistoric and historic remains; includes laws and practices designed to protect past and present cultural resources.
a common way of life of a group of people.
A specific spot assigned as the basis for measurement when doing an archaeological excavation.
Unfired clay, usually not mixed with temper, that was often used for the construction of wattle-and-daub structures.
Waste flakes resulting from flaked stone tool production.
An item that is indicative of a particular time and/or cultural group; a computer would be a diagnostic artifact of the modern age.
Something which may cause artifacts to appear at the "wrong" levels when excavating a site, such as evidence of moles or gophers or an underground sewer pipe.
See also bioturbation and rodent run.
A stone tool specifically shaped to function as a "drill"; a stone tool used to bore a hole into something.
object placed in a hole in a person's earlobes.
Natural biological objects recovered from archaeological sites usually modified or used by human behavior such as the remains of plant and animal foods.
The study of living or ethnohistorically known peoples for the purposes of generating archaeologically useful data.
Systematic uncovering and recording of archaeological sites.
Scientific studies designed to discover processes that produced and/or modified artifacts and structures that are found in archaeological sites. Examples include making
pottery, projectile points, structures, and gardens.
In archaeology, the remains of animals that are found at a site and used to study diet, seasonal activities, and climate.
A combination of artifacts and/or ecofacts that create a single definable entity, such as a fireplace, burial, or garbage pit. Unlike artifacts, features are part of the
landscape and cannot be removed from the site without losing the overall value of the whole.
Fire Cracked Rock (FCR)
Rock placed around a hearth that shows evidence of being heated. In Wisconsin, the raw material was usually limestone or sandstone.
The pieces of stone struck off a rock in the reduction sequence (flintknapping), each usually having a striking platform, bulb of percussion, and similar identifying features.
There are three main types of flakes:
- Primary: A flake that has substantial amounts of cortex on it and that was one of the first flakes removed from the core when the stone was initially broken open.
- Secondary: A flake that may have some cortex on its surface and that was removed during the rough shaping of a stone tool.
- Tertiary: A flake that has no cortex on it and that was removed during the final shaping of a stone tool.
Sometimes used as a synonym for chert.
the process of making stone tools through percussion, one rock hit against another in a specific and controlled way.
Also see Making Stone Tools entry in Native Technologies.
In archaeology, the remains of plants that are found at a site and used to study diet, seasonal activities, and climate.
The image on the left is a close-up of a charred corn
kernel and the image on the right is of a small charred corncob.
The process of soaking and screening matrix samples in water in order to collect very small artifacts and the organic material that floats to the top, such as seeds and
long thin flake removed from the base of a projectile point.
a triangular shaped tool used for engraving or incising.
Ground Stone Tools
Tools that are produced by pecking and grinding stones into desired shapes.
A site at which prehistoric people lived or camped.
a stone used for battering or pecking or for making stone tools.
A stone used for battering or pecking or for making stone tools, as seen in this photo showing a hammerstone on the left and a core on the right.
Refers to the process of placing a rock or other raw material into the fire in order to produce a more stable/sturdy/attractive product.
The heat treated artifact is on the right.
a culture whose people are organized into ranks.
a person who studies the past through researching and creating written documents.
In North American archaeology this term refers to the time period after European influence and the beginning of written records. Native Americans did not have a written
history. In Wisconsin, this would be around 1650 and later. Historic artifacts may consist of old bottles, buttons, coins, etc.
The period of time since the last glaciation, about 10,000 years ago. We are still in the Holocene today.
A term applied to people whose diet is based on hunting, fishing, and gathering, as opposed to domesticating animals or plants.
A proposed explanation accounting for a set of facts that can be tested by further investigation.
In place; an undisturbed artifact is in situ.
A determination arrived at by reasoning; using facts to arrive at a broader conclusion.
A site at which prehistoric people killed or butchered an animal.
Specific layers of soil removed during excavation and processed for cultural materials.
a way of living shared by a group of people.
A sedimentary rock, comprised of the mineral precipitate calcium carbonate. In Wisconsin, it was sometimes used to make tools, but was most often used to surround hearths.
The full range of stone material related to or resulting from human activity, for example, projectile points, drills, cores, hammerstones, etc.
the process of assigning a number to artifacts in the field in order to keep track of all finds.
See also acquisitioning artifacts.
Another name for corn.
a hand sized rock used with a metate for grinding food.
from the ocean, not freshwater lakes or rivers.
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
a large flat rock used as a grinding surface with a mano.
A surface used for trash disposal, often characterized by a dark stain or an accumulation of debris.
flake of stone that has been modified to be used as a tool.
Displaying multiple colors or shades, often used to describe soil colors.
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.
A plant that was used to make cordage, often found along riverbanks or in the woods.
Recognizing or noting a fact or occurence.
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.
Also known as silicified sandstone, this is a form of quartzite found in Wisconsin.
a high post fence or stockade.
A mixture of clay and water, to which other materials are added as temper before being formed into a pottery vessel.
There are two forms:
- Direct Percussion: Striking a core directly with a hammer or billet in order to drive off a flake.
- Indirect Percussion: The use of an intermediary punch to focus the power of a blow on a specific point of a core.
A design chiseled or chipped out of a rock surface.
A design painted on a rock surface.
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.
a large mound of earth with a flat top.
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.
stain left in the soil where posts from a structure have decomposed.
A piece of broken pottery.
All forms of human-made products constructed from clay.
Archaeology that deals with materials that date prior to written history within a region. In Wisconsin, this would be before A.D. 1650.
The controlled application of increasing pressure to a core in order to strike off a flake.
a man made pointed stone tool used as a tip on spears or arrows.
The location of an item (artifact, feature, or ecofact) in a site.
Pressing nodes or other shapes into the surface of pottery, usually one shape at a time.
Formula used to determine the side or hypotenuse of a right triangle (a squared + b squared = c squared). Used to lay out excavation units.
A site where stone was removed to be traded or made into tools.
Quartzite (Silicified Sandstone)
A hard, light colored rock with a flinty sheen; it is a metamorphosed sandstone.
See also orthoquartzite.
A method of absolute dating which is based on the radioactive decay of carbon in organic materials.
Determining age relative to other items or events, such as saying one point style is older than another. Artifact styles and stratigraphy are often used to give sites relative
Evidence of a mole, gopher, or other rodent in an archaeological site, demonstrated typically through the mottling of soil.
Any stone that is made of cemented grains of sand; sometimes used for groundstone tools and hearth rock.
a triangular shaped bone in the shoulder of an animal.
a tool used for scraping items such as hides.
The process of sifting soil to collect artifacts. A 1/4" screen is standard for an archaeological site.
See also tool kit.
The distribution of features and sites across the landscape.
Small chunks of rock that are a result of the flintknapping process.
The process of systematic or random sampling of an archaeological site through the excavation of small holes, typically about 50 cm wide and up to 1 meter deep.
Animal tendon prepared to use as cord or thread.
A geographic place where there is evidence of past human activity.
The master control point on an archaeological site into which all measurements are eventually tied.
The process of carefully shoveling soil within an archaeological unit; usually 1/2 cm - 1 cm at a time. The soil is tossed into a screen and then sifted.
A specific area of discolored soil within a unit of excavation or within a feature.
enclosure of posts used for fortification or to control entry.
The systematic study of layers of sediments, usually to determine the sequence in which past human activities took place.
Styles of artifacts, such as the decorations on pottery, the shape of projectile points, or the designs of cars, change through time. Archaeologists can trace these changes
and use them to date sites. Style is used for relative dating.
A systematic examination of the surface of the land for the purpose of locating and recording archaeological sites.
material (sand, small stones or ground up clamshell) which is added to clay to help prevent shrinkage and cracking when the clay is dried or fired.
An archaeologist's tool kit is comprised of several tools, along with the larger tools needed for excavation.
Tools in the kit to the left include bags, tags, twisties, a film canister to hold fragile artifacts, pencil, marker, trowel, root cutter, wooden pick, two brushes, linelevel,
string, nails to mark the unit border, rulers, tape measure, and files.
- Files: Used out in the "field" or on an archaeological dig, files are essential for keeping shovels, trowels and other items sharpened.
- Line Level: A small level that sits on top of a string that is attached to a datum point. The string, when pulled taut, will allow an archaeologist to use the
level and then measure the depth below the datum point (an extremely useful tool on a dig!!).
- Probe: Soil probes are used to find the depths of soil layers of feature stains.
- Screen: Field screens are used to catch artifacts that are larger than the 1/4" mesh.
- Shovel: Archaeologists generally use curved spades for shovel tests and flat shovels for skim shoveling excavation units.
- Trowel: This tool is used for carefully removing layers of soil and creating flat profiles and unit floors.
Unit (Excavation Unit)
A defined horizontal area that will be systematically excavated, such as a2 X 2 meter square.