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Glossary Q - Z
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Quarry Site: 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.


Radiocarbon Dating: A method of absolute dating which is based on the radioactive decay of carbon in organic materials.


Relative Dating: 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 dates.


Rodent run


Rodent Run: Evidence of a mole, gopher, or other rodent in an archaeological site, demonstrated typically through the mottling of soil.




Sandstone: Any stone that is made of cemented grains of sand; sometimes used for groundstone tools and hearth rock.
Sandstone pipe




Scraper: A stone tool that is modified for the specific task of scraping; for example, to scrape the meat from hides.




Screening: The process of sifting soil to collect artifacts.  A 1/4" screen is standard for an archaeological site.  See also tool kit.


Settlement Pattern: The distribution of features and sites across the landscape.




Shatter: Small chunks of rock that are a result of the flintknapping process.


Shovel testing map

Shovel Testing: 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.
Shovel testing




Sinew: Animal tendon prepared to use as cord or thread.




Site: A geographic place where there is evidence of past human activity.


Site datum


Site Datum: The master control point on an archaeological site into which all measurements are eventually tied.


Skim shoveling


Skim Shoveling: 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.




Stain: A specific area of discolored soil within a unit of excavation or within a feature.




Stratigraphy: The systematic study of layers of sediments, usually to determine the sequence in which past human activities took place.




Style: 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. 




Survey: A systematic examination of the surface of the land for the purpose of locating and recording archaeological sites.



Temper: Coarse inclusions deliberately added to a paste for purposes of improving the firing characteristics of that paste.  Whether the temper seen in broken rimsherds is rock or shell can help date the artifact.


Tool kit


Tool Kit: 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


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 a
2 X 2 meter square.


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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.