CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: A system devised by E. Harris for representing a site's stratigraphy in schematic form, emphasizing the chronological relationships between the various deposits. It is a method of summarizing the vertical and horizontal interrelationships of all the layers and features on a site in a diagrammatic form.
CATEGORY: measure DEFINITION: The abstract representation of unequivocal stratigraphic relationships between layers, interfaces, and features in a lattice similar to a flow diagram.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: plural matrices or matrixes CATEGORY: feature; term DEFINITION: The soil or physical material in which an excavation is conducted, or within which artifacts or fossils are embedded or supported. The term also refers to the surrounding deposit in which archaeological finds are situated. Originally the term described the grains in sediments or rocks that are finer than the coarsest material in the sediment or rock. Matrix is the material within which cultural debris is contained.
CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: The hand-sorting of processed bulk soil samples to find very small artifacts and ecofacts
CATEGORY: artifact DEFINITION: The object used to make impressions in wax as seals.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: associated CATEGORY: term; technique DEFINITION: The co-occurrence of two or more objects sharing the same general location and stratigraphic level and that are thought to have been deposited at approximately the same time (being in or on the same matrix). Objects are said to be in association with each other when they are found together in a context which suggests simultaneous deposition. Associations between objects are the basis for relative dating or chronology and the concept of cross-dating as well as in interpretation -- cultural connections, original function, etc. Pottery and flint tools associated in a closed context would be grounds for linking them into an assemblage, possibly making the full material culture of a group available. The association of undated objects with artifacts of known date allows the one to be dated by the other. When two or more objects are found together and it can be proved that they were deposited together, they are said to be in genuine or closed association. Examples of closed associations are those within a single interment grave, the material within a destruction level, or a hoard. An open association is one in which this can only be assumed, not proved. Artifacts may be found next to each other and still not be associated; one of the artifacts may be intrusive.
CATEGORY: flora; fauna DEFINITION: A complex (biotic) community of plants and animals established over a large geographic area and characterized by the distinctive lifeforms of certain species which live in harmony together and have a certain unity. The biome is a plant-plus-animal formation that is composed of a plant matrix together with all the associated animals. The term specifically applies to such a community in a prehistoricperiod. Examples are the oak/deer biome or the spruce/moose biome of North America.
CATEGORY: geology DEFINITION: A deposit of angular compositestone fragments held together by a matrix of natural cement, such as sap, lime, or a calcium-charged water. Its occurrence indicates a previous cold phase in the climate, since the rock is detached either by frost or alternating heat and cold. Many caves occupied by early man, e.g. Dordogne in southwest France, have layers of breccia crammed with bones, tools, art objects. This conglomerate used by the ancient peoples in architecture and sculpture. It is the opposite of conglomerate, in which the fragments are rounded and waterworn. Osseous or bone breccia is breccia in which fossil bones are found.
CATEGORY: fauna DEFINITION: A durable flexible animal tissue of cells in a matrix of protein, carbohydrates (chondroitin), and fibers.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: archaeological context CATEGORY: term; technique DEFINITION: The time and space setting of an artifact, feature, or culture. The context of a find is its position on a site, its relationship through association with other artifacts, and its chronological position as revealed through stratigraphy. Certain features or artifacts may be normally associated with particular contexts, for example a potterytype may be found in the context of certain burials. If such an artifact is found out of context, it may suggest the previous presence of a burial, the robbery of a burial, or a place of manufacture of the pots that accompanied burials. An artifact's context usually consists of its immediate matrix (the material surrounding it e.g. gravel, clay, or sand), its provenience (horizontal and vertical position within the matrix), and its association with other artifacts (occurrence together with other archeological remains, usually in the same matrix). The assessment of context includes study of what has happened to the find since it was buried in the ground.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: damaskeening CATEGORY: artifact DEFINITION: The art of incrusting one metal on another, in the form of wire, which by undercutting and hammering is completely attached to the metal it ornaments. The process of etching slight ornaments on polished steel wares is also called damascening. Although related to pattern-welding, this technique used in the manufacture of sword blades probably developed independently. First a high-carbon steel is produced by firing wrought iron and wood together in a sealed crucible; the resulting steel, or wootz, consists of light cementations in a darker matrix, and this, together with a series of complicated forging techniques at relatively low temperatures produced the delicate 'watered silk' pattern with the alternating high- and low-carbon areas. Damascene steel was very strong and highly elastic.
CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: The systematic and scientific recovery of cultural, material remains of people as a means of obtaining data about past human activity. Excavation is digging or related types of salvage work, scientifically controlled so as to yield the maximum amount of data. It is the main tool of the archaeologist. The excavation of a site, however, involves the destruction of the primary evidence, which can never be recovered. Excavation should therefore never be undertaken lightly or without an understanding of the obligations of the excavator to the evidence he destroys. The first decision is whether to excavate a site at all, a question of particular interest when sites are being rapidly destroyed by farming methods and road and town building. The nature and scale of the undertaking is the next decision. If time and/or money is short, sampling of the site may be all that is possible. If a large-scale excavation is to be undertaken, the approach will be either area (open) excavation, grid method, quadrant method, rabotage, sondage, etc. Removal of the topsoil will either be carried out by hand or machine. After an initial plan has been made of all visible features before excavation, digging proceeds according to the dictates of the site: sections may be taken across areas of feature intersection, or across individual features. A permanent record of the whole process should be kept: plans, drawings, notes, photographs. Excavation is only the first part of the process. For years, excavation was regarded as merely a method of collecting artifacts. Pitt Rivers in Britain and Petrie in the Near East first placed emphasis on evidence rather than artifacts, not what is found but where it was found relative to the layers of deposit (stratigraphy) and to other objects (association) -- the context. The excavator can only justify his destruction if it is done with meticulous care so that every artifact, be it an ax or a posthole, is discovered and if possible preserved; if it is recorded accurately enough for all information to remain available after the site has disappeared; and if this record is quickly made available by publication. In short, excavation is the digging of archaeological sites, removal of the matrix, and observance of the provenience and context of the finds therein, and the recording of them in a three-dimensional way.
F-U-N dating or F.U.N. dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: F-U-N method CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: A collective term for the techniques of fluorine, uranium, and nitrogen dating. It is a relative dating technique which compares concentrations of fluorine, uranium, or nitrogen in various samples from the same matrix to determine contemporaneity.
CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: A multivariate mathematical technique which assesses the degree of variation between artifact types, and is based on a matrix of correlation coefficients which measure the relative association between any two variables. This statistical technique calculates the relative importance of a set of factors that together are assumed to influence some observed set of values or properties.
CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: Flotation in which the separation is enhanced by using a liquid to which a frothing agent, such as a detergent, has been added and bubbling air through it, forming a froth in which certain lightweight materials collect. Soil samples agitated in froth flotation, such as seeds and charcoal fragments, can be more easily separated from the matrix by this method.
indirect age determination
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: indirect dating CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: The determination of the age of archaeological data by association with a matrix or an object of known age. When object A is found clearly associated with object B, whose date is known, the date of B is given to A.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: kitchen midden CATEGORY: feature DEFINITION: Any large refuse heap, mound, or concentration of cultural debris associated with human occupation. The term includes such materials as discarded artifacts (e.g. broken pots and tools), food remains, shells, bones, charcoal and ashes, -- and may include the material in which the debris is encapsulated and modifications of this matrix. Midden debris usually contains decayed organic material, bonescrap, artifacts (broken and whole), and miscellaneous detritus. Middens are a valuable source of archaeological data. The long-term disposal of refuse can result in stratified deposits, which are useful for relative dating. Sometimes the midden is a dump or trash pile separate from the residential area, but more commonly among hunters and gatherers the houses are on top of the midden itself. Some of the largest shell middens were accumulated by shore-dwellers in Mesolithic Denmark.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: mould CATEGORY: geology DEFINITION: A matrix for casting metal. Molten metal poured into a concavity will solidify into a corresponding shape. The concavity has only to be given the shape of the required artifact. Such molds can be made of stone, pottery, or metal with a meltingpoint higher than that of the alloy being cast. Molds were also used for making figurines and relief-decorated pottery. The simplest type of mold is a one-piece or open one, from which the casting emerges with one flat face, requiring further hammering to give it a symmetrical form. Two-piece molds allowed bifacial tools and weapons to be cast -- a third piece, or core, being added if a socket was required. These technical advances had been made before the end of the Early Bronze Age. Multi-piece molds were used in Shang China. Molds were used to produce the elaborate asymmetrical vessels of the Mochica and Chimú styles. The earliest molds for casting metal were made of stone. During the Late Bronze Age, piece molds began to be formed of clay.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: mosaic work CATEGORY: artifact DEFINITION: A technique of decoration used mainly on floors or walls involving the setting of small colored fragments of stone, tile, mineral, shell, or glass, each called a tessera (plural tesserae), in a cement or adhesive matrix. Mosaic also refers to a tesselated area, often of complex designs and, possibly, inscriptions. Mosaic floors were made from small squares, triangles, or other regular shapes up to an inch in size. They were laid in cement to form designs, figures of animals, or classical figures representing the seasons, etc. Old limestone would be used for white and various reds, browns, or grays from baked clays. Glass, too, was sometimes incorporated. The earliest known mosaics date from the 8th century BC and are made of pebbles, a technique refined by Greek craftsmen in the 5th century BC. Greek mosaics were simple pebble floors and then became more complex and sophisticated under Macedonian kings. Mosaics are known from Pompeii and Rome, Tivoli, Aquileia, and Ostia -- as well as Africa, Antioch, Sicily, and Britain. Under the Roman Empire, the achievements of the 5th-6th century Byzantine artists at Ravenna are impressive. An excellent collection of mosaics from Pompeii may be seen in the Mueo Nazionale at Naples, and a good selection of Imperial Roman provincial work may be seen at the Museum of Le Bardo, outside modern Tunis, Tunisia. Pre-Columbian American Indians favored mosaics of semiprecious stones such as garnet and turquoise and mother-of-pearl. These were normally used to encrust small objects such as shields, masks, and cult statues. Mosaic as an art form has most in common with painting. It represents a design or image in two dimensions. It is also, like painting, a technique appropriate to large-scale surface decoration.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: New Archaeology; processual archaeology CATEGORY: branch DEFINITION: A movement which began in America in the 1960s, aimed at making archaeology more scientific, now more often called processual archaeology. It was suggested that explanations be based on carefully designed models of human behavior and emphasized the importance of understanding underlying cultural processes. This new approach was controversial and is commonly associated with Lewis R. Binford and his students. Binford's New Perspectives in Archaeology" in 1968 stressed the following ideas: the use of new techniques such as the computer for statistical and matrix analyses of data and concept of the ecosystem for the understanding of the economic and subsistence bases of prehistoric societies; an evolutionary view of culture; the use of models of cultures viewed as systems incorporating the evolutionary view of culture and a close relationship between archaeology and anthropology. Although the proponents of the new archaeology have been criticized by more traditionally minded scholars their basic principles are now widely accepted."
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: sectioning, section drawing CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: In excavation, the exposing of a deposit vertically to reveal the stratigraphy of a site or details of a particular feature. A balk is left across a feature or a complex of features, or a hole is cut out of a feature and trimmed to a flat face in which layers and changes in soil color may be examined. Sections automatically occur when the grid method of excavation is used, on all four sides of each trench. The term is also applied to the drawing of the vertical record of the stratification of a site or feature. A section drawing is a two-dimensional rendering, at a constant scale, depicting archaeological data and matrix as seen in the wall of an excavation. Advocates of open-area excavation prefer not to have standing sections on the site; instead of drawing sections after the whole area has been excavated, they record the profile of each deposit as it is excavated and construct what are known as 'cumulative' or 'running sections'.