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Geographic Information Systems
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Computer-generated mapping systems that allow archaeologists to plot and analyze site distributions against environmental and other background data derived from remote sensing, digitized maps, and other sources. It is computerized technology for storage, analysis, and display of geographically referenced information.
Global Positioning System
DEFINITION: A satellite-based system used in determining the location of archaeological sites by triangulation from orbiting satellites. The Global Positioning System has 18 satellites, six in each of three orbital planes spaced 120? apart. The GPS is designed to provide fixes anywhere on Earth to an accuracy of 20 meters and a relative accuracy 10 times greater.
Long Count system
DEFINITION: A means of recording time in the Mesoamerican Preclassic period, the only one to refer to an initial fixed date, which was perhaps the equivalent of 3113 BC. Passage of time recorded in decreasing units equaling x times 144,000 days (day is 'kin'), x times 72,000 days, x times 360 days, x times 20 days, and x times 1 day. In Maya lowlands in south, the Long Count system was used between c 300-900 AD but Mayas are not thought to have invented this system of calculation. The units of measure are kin, uinal, tun, katun, and baktun - mainly progressing by 20s.
Midwestern Taxonomic System
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: midwestern taxonomic system; McKern taxonomic system
CATEGORY: term; technique
DEFINITION: A hierarchical framework devised by William McKern in 1939 to systematize historical sequences in the Great Plains area of the United States, using the general principle of similarities between artifact assemblages. It was used to organize artifacts and sites in North America before World War II and is still in widespread use in modified form. One occupational unit of a particular culture was called a component. Related components were grouped into a focus, representing a culture unit approximating a tribe. Related foci constituted a pattern, and related patterns constituted a base, the highest level in the system. Classification was based strictly on similarities between compared units without regard to their respective ages. Many of the names of cultures are still called foci and the standard definition of a component is a single unit of occupation. Most units formerly called foci are now called phases, which have temporal as well as descriptive meaning.
Three-Age System
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: three-age sequence, Three Age System
CATEGORY: chronology
DEFINITION: The division of human prehistory into three successive stages - Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age - based on the main type of material used in tools of the period. The system was first formulated by Christian J. Thomsen in 1819 as a means of classifying the collections in the National Museum of Denmark. The scheme became progressively elaborated by dividing the Stone Age into Old and New, the Palaeolithic and Neolithic. A Middle Stone Age or Mesolithic was later added. The further subdivisions Early, Middle, and Late of the Palaeolithic (Lower, Middle, and Upper) were introduced, and a Copper Age was inserted between New Stone and Bronze. The Ages are only developmental stages and some areas skipped one or more of the stages. At first entirely hypothetical, these divisions were later confirmed by archaeological observations. It established the principle that by classifying artifacts, one could produce a chronological ordering.
closed system
DEFINITION: A system that is isolated and internally self-regulating, receiving no feedback or information from external sources, nor matter, light, heat, or energy from its environment.
collector system
DEFINITION: A lifeways system in which people obtain food in bulk and store it.
context, systematic
CATEGORY: term; technique
DEFINITION: Artifacts and features as they functioned in the behavioral system that produced or used them.
cultural system
DEFINITION: The nonbiological mechanism that relates the human organism to its physical and social environments. It is a perspective that thinks of culture and its environment as a number of linked systems in which change occurs through a series of minor, linked variations in one or more of these systems.
deviation-amplifying system
DEFINITION: A system that continues to change as a result of positive feedback.
deviation-counteracting system
DEFINITION: A system that reaches equilibrium as a result of negative feedback.
CATEGORY: flora; fauna
DEFINITION: The complex of living organisms, their physical environment, and all their interrelationships in a particular unit of space; the total living community of a single environment - the flora, fauna, insects, and man himself - and the interactions of the constituent parts as well as their relationship with the non-living environment. The flow of energy through an ecosystem leads to a clearly defined structure, biotic diversity, and system of exchange cycles between the living and nonliving parts of the ecosystem.
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially by using scientific reasoning to evaluate its validity.
exchange system
DEFINITION: Any system for exchanging goods and services between individuals and/or societies. This term also refers to the trade or transfer of ideas.
foraging system
DEFINITION: The movement of people to search for resources.
general systems theory
DEFINITION: A theory that human society can be studied as a system broken down into many interacting subsystems, or parts. It is the premise that any organization may be looked at to discover how its parts are related and how changes in either parts or their relationships produce changes in the overall system. In archaeological terms, the system might be the whole of a society's culture, or some part of it such as the economy or even a single settlement. Systems can be regarded as either open or closed; the latter have no input of energy or matter from the outside, tend to reach a state of stable equilibrium in which small changes can be offset, and eventually stagnate and disintegrate, while open systems have an input of energy from the outside, reach a state of unstable equilibrium in which any small change can produce significant transformations in the system as a whole, and are characterized by growth and change. The process by which a system tends to maintain equilibrium in the face of changed surroundings is termed homeostasis, while morphogenesis is the process by which the structure is changed or elaborated.
ideological system
DEFINITION: A component of culture based on the use of ideas or beliefs as part of their cultural adaptation; the knowledge or beliefs used by human societies to understand and cope with their existence.
lot system
DEFINITION: A method of archaeological recordkeeping in which all artifacts and ecofacts found together in a single horizontally and vertically defined unit are combined into one group (lot) for the purposes of collection and analysis.
lot-locus system
DEFINITION: A method of archaeological recordkeeping that adds a secondary horizontally and vertically defined unit (locus) to the lot system, such that the artifacts and ecofacts found in each locus are collected in separate lots.
open system
DEFINITION: In archaeology, cultural systems that interchange both energy, matter, and information with their environment. The system changes due to sources either internal or external to the system.
pipe stem
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: pipestem, pipe-stem
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: The hollow stem or tube of a pipe used for smoking tobacco, etc.
pipe-stem dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method of calculating the date of American Colonial assemblages based on the variation in hole diameters in clay pipe stems. J.C. Harrington first drew attention to the fact that there is a general reduction in hole size from 1620-1800. Lewis Binford then developed a regression equation, thus: [ y = 1931.85 - 38.26x ] where y is the mean date for the group and x is the mean pipe-stem diameter for the sample. ("A New Method of Calculating Dates from Kaolin Pipe Stem Samples" Lewis R. Binford) The formula works well for the period 1680-1760 but fails to produce satisfactory results for post-1780 assemblages.
point-plot system
DEFINITION: A basic method of recording context where every artifact or ecofact is individually recorded (point-plotted) according to its horizontal and vertical location.
regional system
CATEGORY: chronology
DEFINITION: Any system of time divisions such as those used in the Americas, based on major technological or social changes that produced regional cultures rather than local ones.
sample selection, systematic
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method of selecting a sample in which the first element is drawn randomly and the others are selected at predetermined intervals. Samples are arranged in a regular pattern to ensure even coverage with only the starting point chosen randomly.
settlement system
DEFINITION: The entire set of settlements used by a community - for example, all the camps used by a band of hunter-gatherers.
social system
DEFINITION: One of the three basic components of culture, the means by which human societies organize themselves and their interactions with other societies.
sociocultural system
CATEGORY: culture
DEFINITION: The merging of the concepts of society and culture into a holistic systems view of human populations and their social phenomena. A sociocultural system is a complex cultural structure consisting of a definable population within a more or less determinable locus, or territory, characterized by shared, interrelated ways of life including beliefs, norms, values, and technologies, transmitted to different degrees within the population, through various subgroups, from generation to generation.
space-time systematics
DEFINITION: An attempt to delineate patterns in material culture over time and space
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: The extension of the base of a projectile point or knife which was designed for hafting or gripping. Stems can occur in various shapes. hafting method at base where flint extends in a central column
stem-and-leaf plot
CATEGORY: measure
DEFINITION: A graph used in exploratory data analysis that mimics a histogram without losing any information.
stemmed point
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: notchless point, shouldered point
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: A projectile or blade that has a stem which was designed for hafting or holding. A projectile or blade that has a stem which was designed for hafting or holding.
stratified systematic sampling
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A probabilistic sampling technique which combines elements of simple random sampling, stratified random sampling, and systematic sampling - in an effort to reduce sampling bias.
DEFINITION: Any organization that functions through the interdependence of its parts; a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole.
system of communication
DEFINITION: The underlying rationale of language, to communicate information among individuals.
systematic random sampling
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method of random sampling in which only two random numbers are used - a random starting number and a random interval number.
systematic sample
CATEGORY: measure
DEFINITION: The sample that results from dividing the population into portions equal to the sample size and selecting one element or observation from each.
systematic sampling
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: systematic sample
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A probabilistic sampling technique which uses a grid of equally spaced sample units, for example, selecting every other square. It is a refinement of random sampling in which one unit is chosen, then others at regular intervals from the first. The sample incorporates randomness and determinacy by specifying that the random selection of a case example has to occur within a certain group of cases.
systematic settlement survey
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The reconnaissance of an archaeological site based on a sampling design which is intended to ensure that all types of areas within the region will be surveyed.
systematic survey
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A less subjective form of survey, in which the survey area is divided into sectors or grids and these are walked systematically, thus making the recording of finds more accurate.
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The definition of a system of classification for archaeological units for a particular purpose.
systemic context
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Behavioral system wherein artifacts are part of an ongoing system of manufacture, use, reuse, and discard
systems thinking
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method of formal analysis in which the object of study is viewed as comprising distinct analytical subunits. In archaeology, it comprises a form of explanation in which a society or culture is seen through the interaction and interdependence of its component parts. These system parameters may include population size, settlement pattern, crop production, technology, etc.
systems-ecological approach
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: An approach to archaeology that involves three models of cultural change: systems models, cultural ecology, and multilinear evolution.
total system approach
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Archaeological research based on the assumption that in order to reconstruct an ancient culture, all parts of it must be examined.
unsystematic survey
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A simple walking survey across each part of the area, scanning the strip of ground along one's path, collecting or examining artifacts on the surface, and recording their location together with that of any surface features.
world system
DEFINITION: A larger functioning economic unit of a trade network that extends far beyond the boundaries of individual political units (states). An economically and politically integrated social system spanning the globe.

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