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

A - B - C - D

Absolute Dating: Determining age on a specific time scale, such as a years B.C. or A.D.  Radiocarbon dating provides an absolute date.


 Acquistioning Artifacts


Acquisitioning Artifacts: Assigning a unique number to each provenience and to each artifact within that provenience, so that the artifacts can be identified and tabulated.


Anthropology: The study of humans through their past remains, culture, biology, and language.


Arbitrary Level: 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.


Archaeology: A method for studying past human cultures and analyzing material evidence (artifacts and sites).  NOT the study of fossils, dinosaurs, or paleontology!


Archaeologist: Scientist who studies past people through the remains of their activities.




Artifacts: The materials deliberately produced or used by past peoples.


Atlatl Atlatl: An Aztec term for spear thrower; a wooden shaft or board used to propel a long, composite spear/dart equipped with a relatively large flaked stone point.  Atlatls increased the range and force of the spear, and in North America comprised the primary hunting weapon from about 6,500 B.C. to A.D. 500.

Click here to view a video clip describing how to throw an atlatl.  You will need a player to view the MOV files.  Click here if you want to download a free version of RealPlayer




Basalt: 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. 


 Biface Biface: A stone tool that has been flaked on both sides (faces).




Bioturbation: Disturbances of sediments related to the archaeological records by animals such as moles and gophers.  See also rodent run.




Blank: 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.


 Chert (flint)


Chert (flint): A microcrystalline metamorphic stone commonly used to make stone tools.  Sometimes used as a synonym for flint.
Chert (flint)


Context: The relationship artifacts have to each other and the situation in which they are found.


Contract Archaeology: Archaeological research conducted in order to fulfill legal requirements or private demand, usually in advance of development. 


 Cord impressed


Cord Impressed: A technique used in making pottery, when cordage is pressed into the clay surface as decoration or to strengthen the vessel.




Cordage: Several strands of fiber twisted together; string or rope.




Core: The parent stone material from which flakes are struck.




Cortex: 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. 


Culture: All of the beliefs and customs that we learn as members of society and that bind members of any given society together.  Archaeology attempts to study culture by examining the artifacts and sites of people of the past.




Datum: A specific spot assigned as the basis for measurement when doing an archaeological excavation.




Daub: Unfired clay, usually not mixed with temper, that was often used for the construction of wattle-and-daub structures. 




Debitage: Waste flakes resulting from flaked stone tool production.


Diagnostic artifact Diagnostic Artifact: An item that is indicative of a particular time and/or cultural group; a computer would be a diagnostic artifact of the modern age.
Diagnostic artifact




Disturbance: 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.




Drill: A stone tool specifically shaped to function as a "drill"; a stone tool used to bore a hole into something.


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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.