SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: post mold, post hole, post-pipe, post-pit CATEGORY: feature DEFINITION: A hole dug or bored into the ground for holding an upright post. Once the post is installed, the remaining area of posthole is backfilled with earth and sometimes stronger packing material like stone. To archaeologists, postholes are the outline of a deteriorated post, indicating the former location of some structure. Even when the wood has decayed and the hole silted up, or the post has been extracted, the existence of a posthole can be recognized by differences between the color and texture of its fill and those of the earth into which it was dug. A pattern of postholes may provide the only evidence for the size and shape of houses and other wooden structures. They can reveal that a settlement was surrounded by a palisade and presumably had enemies.
CATEGORY: site DEFINITION: A Neolithic open settlement site in northern Luzon, Philippines, dating from c 2500 BC. The occupation had pottery, flakes with edge-gloss, and postholes of small square houses, and items paralleled in Taiwanese Neolithic sites.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: earthlodge CATEGORY: structure DEFINITION: In American Midwest and East cultures, any woodstructure with an earthen covering used for shelter and ceremonies. They have hard-packed floors and/or postholes which are the remains of wall and roof supports.
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.
CATEGORY: site DEFINITION: An early Vincasettlement in Serbia with several occupation levels with pits and postholes. The site is characterized by particularly rich ritual artifacts, including fired clay figurines in the local Kosovo style.
CATEGORY: site DEFINITION: A Neolithic causewayed camp in Devon, England, with radiocarbon dates showing occupation from 4200-3900 BC. It has given its name to the plain pottery (also called Windmill Hill pottery) of the earliest Neolithic in southern England, round-bottomed bowls frequently with lug handles. An Iron Age hillfort was later built and postholes of a circular Neolithic house have been found beneath the Iron Age gate. The Neolithic deposit included greenstone and flint axes and charred speltwheat -- by far the earliest occurrence of this type of wheat in Britain.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: posthole, post hole CATEGORY: feature DEFINITION: The circular remains of a wooden post that was part of a prehistoric structure, often just a dark stain in soil.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: shovel testing, shovel pit testing CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: A subsurface detection technique using either posthole diggers or shovels to quickly determine the density and distribution of archaeological remains. Samples of soil from carefully selected test pits that are sieved for artifacts. Also, a shovel-sized sample taken at various intervals across a site.
CATEGORY: feature DEFINITION: A stain or shadow left in soils under certain environmental conditions by organic or other objects. Silhouettes of timber, for example the shadow of a post in a posthole, are relatively common. Where the soil is too acid to preserve bone, the mineralcomponent of bone may result in an iron manganese stain which frequently has the shape of a skeleton.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: stakehole CATEGORY: feature DEFINITION: The small hole left in the ground after the removal or decay of a stake or post, which would usually have been part of a structure or fence. The cavity becomes filled with soil of a slightly different color or texture from that into which the stake-hole was originally cut, thus allowing its detection by archaeologists. They were put into the ground by hammering. They may be distinguished from postholes mainly by their shape and size.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Thunderbird site CATEGORY: site DEFINITION: Palaeoindian and Archaic campsites at Flint Run, Virginia, with a long-exploited jasperquarry. Core fragments, flakes, and broken or preformed tools show a large flintknappingindustry. Occupations began in Clovis times through the Archaic. Postholes in association with living floors dated to c 9000 BC raises the possibility of this being the site of the earliest house structures in America.
CATEGORY: site DEFINITION: Large wood circle, a sacred monument just northeast of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, and adjacent to Durrington Walls. It consists of a henge-typeearthwork with a wooden structure inside. A central grave was surrounded in turn by six egg-shaped concentric rings of postholes, a ditch, and a bank with a single entrance. The long axis of the oval pointed to the midsummer sunrise; on this axis in the center of the shrine was found buried the skeleton of a three-year-old child, a ritualsacrifice. The pottery was a variant of the groovedwarestyle and Beaker sherds were also found. The monument has a radiocarbon date of c 2230-1800 BC.