CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: The location (provenience) of a specific object at an exact point on a site.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: provenance CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: The source, origin, or location of an artifact or feature and the recording of same. It is the position of an archaeologicalfind in time and space, recorded three-dimensionally. The horizontal reference system is usually some form of gridtied to a reference datum; the vertical dimension is reference to a vertical datum. I.e., the three-dimensional position of an archaeologicalfind in time and space and recorded from a known datum point at an archaeological site.
CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: A defined spatial area, in either two dimensions (for surface data) or three dimensions (for excavated data), used as a minimal unit for provenience determination and recording.
CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: A method in which observable architectural zones of predefined structures are excavated as a single horizontal provenience. An example of this is a room in a palace being treated as its own excavationarea.
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.
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: tool DEFINITION: A small spirit-bubble designed for suspension from a string; often used to lay in horizontal lines across an archaeological site. It is not as accurate as transit-defined vertical provenience.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: petrological analysis, petrological microscopy CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: The study of the mineral constituents of stone with a petrological microscope, involving the examination of thin sections of stone artifacts to determine the provenience of the rock used to make them. A number of artifacts containing minerals can be investigated in this way: pottery, stone axes, querns, building stones, etc. The technique is based on the optical behavior of polarized light as it passes through the thin section of stone. Minerals refract the light in different ways because of their different crystallattice configurations, allowing their identification. Detailed petrological analysis of the material of Neolithic polished stone axes have enabled archaeologists to establish the location of prehistoric ax factories and trade routes. It is also now possible to study the prehistoricdistribution of obsidian through petrological analysis. Spectrographic analysis is an extension of the technique.
CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: A set of regularly spaced intersecting north-south and east-west lines, usually marked by stakes, providing the basic reference system for recording horizontal provenience (coordinates) within a site.
CATEGORY: tool DEFINITION: A specially prepared map for recording the horizontal provenience of artifacts, food remains, and features -- keyed to topographic maps. Such a map may be designed to depict a specific detail within a site, usually a single feature or group of features.