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Almagro Basch, Martin (1911-1984)
CATEGORY: person
DEFINITION: A Spanish archaeologist who worked on megaliths, on the dating and interpretation of prehistoric Spanish cave art, and on the site of Ampurias / Emporion.
DEFINITION: A large Chalcolithic and Bronze Age site in southern Turkmenistan which is similar to Namazga-Depe. The urban phase of the early 2nd millennium BC has a large artisans' quarter where there is evidence for specialized pottery production. The residential quarter has rich grave goods, including jewelry of precious and semi-precious stones and metals and imported materials. There is a complex of monumental structures which are similar to the ziggurats of Mesopotamia, with three main periods of construction. The settlement declined early in the 2nd millennium BC and was abandoned mid-millennium.
Andean Hunting-Collecting tradition
CATEGORY: culture
DEFINITION: A tradition dating 6000-4000 BC, characterized by seasonal changing of residence and a trend toward specialization in certain regions of the Andes.
Aretine ware
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: A type of terra sigillata, fine Ancient Roman pottery coated in a red slip, dating from the first centuries AD and originating in Arretium in Tuscany, Italy
Arretine Ware
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: terra sigillata ware; Samian ware
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: A type of bright-red, polished pottery originally made at Arretium (modern Arezzo) in Tuscany from the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD. The term means literally ware made of clay impressed with designs. The ware was produced to be traded, especially throughout the Roman Empire. It is clearly based on metal prototypes and the body of the ware was generally cast in a mold. Relief designs were also cast in molds which had been impressed with stamps in the desired patterns and then applied to the vessels. The quality of the pottery was high, considering its mass production. However, there was a gradual roughness to the forms and decoration over the four centuries of production. After the decline of Arretium production, terra sigillata was made in Gaul from the 1st century AD at La Graufesenque (now Millau) and later at other centers in Gaul. Examples having come from Belgic tombs in pre-Roman Britain and from the port of Arikamedu in southern India. The style changes and the potter's marks stamped on the vessels made these wares a valuable means of dating the other archaeological material found with them.
DEFINITION: A site in Cordoba, northwestern Argentina, which has evidence of a transition from Big Game Hunting to a more specialized hunting and gathering economy. The assemblage contains crude, large bifacial willow-leaf projectile points, lithic hunting tools, and tool-making debris in association with manos and milling stones, dating between 8,000-12,000 years ago.
Ayampitin point
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: Bifacially worked stone missile tips of willow-leaf outline found among archaic hunter-gatherer communities of the Peruvian highlands and coasts in 9000-7000 BC. Typical examples are 60-70mm long.
Big Game Hunting tradition
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Big Game Hunting culture
CATEGORY: culture
DEFINITION: Any of several ancient North American cultures based on hunting herd animals such as mammoth and bison; the first indigenous cultural complex of the continent. It may have developed from an earlier hunting culture whose people arrived in North America between 20,000-40,000 years ago in an interstadial (break) in the Wisconsin Ice Age. It is also probable that this culture derived from a migration across the Bering Land Bridge c 13,000-14,000 BC. The remains of these cultures have been found mainly in the North American Plains as well as in the eastern and southwestern regions of North America. Lanceolate projectile points, such as Clovis and Folsom, characterize the tradition. The big-game-hunting tradition began to decline or change after 8000 BC.
Byzantine empire
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Byzantium (later Constantinople, now Istanbul)
CATEGORY: site; culture
DEFINITION: The eastern half of the Roman Empire, based in Byzantium (later Constantinople, now Istanbul), an ancient Greek settlement on the European side of the Bosporus. It was inaugurated in AD 330 by the Emperor Constantine I who transferred the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium. The empire survived the collapse of the Western empire until overrun by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Originally a Greek colony at the entrance to the Black Sea, a typical Roman town was then laid out over it. Remains of the imperial palace lie south of the former Greek city nucleus. The land walls, giving the city an area greater than that of Rome, were built by Theodosius II (408-450 AD) and are among the best-preserved ancient fortifications anywhere. In the 7th century BC Dorian Greeks founded the settlement of Byzantium on a trapezoidal promontory on the European side of the Bosporus channel which leads from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea and separates Europe from Asia. Septimus Severus (193-211 AD) was responsible for restoring the city, re-walling it and beginning the construction of the limestone racecourse, the Hippodrome. In 368 AD, Valens raised his still impressive aqueduct. In 413 Theodosius II built the colossal surviving walls of stone and brick-faced concrete, with 96 variously shaped towers, and the principal entrance at the Golden Gate. The Eastern Christian empire preserved much of Greek and Roman culture and introduced eastern ideas to the west. Byzantium was essentially a Christian church state, preserving its religion against the onslaught of Islam, despite the Arab encroachments on Palestine, Syria, and northern Africa during the 6th-7th centuries AD. The Byzantine period is the time, about the 6th-12th centuries AD, when its style of architecture and art developed. Byzantine architecture is noted for its Christian places of worship and introduced the cupola, or dome, an almost square ground plan in place of the long aisles of the Roman church, and piers instead of columns. The apse always formed part of Byzantine buildings, which were richly decorated, and contained much marble. St. Sophia (532-537), St. Mark's (Venice, 977) and the Cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle (796-804) are of pure Byzantine style. Byzantine painting preceded and foreshadowed the Renaissance of art in Italy. Mosaics are perhaps the supreme achievement of Byzantine art.
DEFINITION: The capital, once Byzantium, chosen by the Roman emperor Constantine I (reigned 306-337 AD). He built the Great Palace which has since been enlarged and altered. Constantinople was the principal residence of Byzantine emperors until about end of 11th c AD. Constantine's choice of capital had profound effects upon the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. It displaced the power center of the Roman Empire, moving it eastward, and achieved the first lasting unification of Greece.
DEFINITION: A Neolithic site in Serbia with occupations of the Early Starcevo and Vinca cultures dating from c 5250-4960 (Starcevo) to c 3900-3300 BC (Vinca). Excavation uncovered seven complete house-plans of the Late Vinca village, including one house containing 100 pots. The subsistence economy was based on cattle husbandry and agriculture. Cult objects included a model ritual scene and many fired clay anthropomorphic figurines.
DEFINITION: An island in the Nile just above Aswan, Egypt, which was the traditional southern boundary between Egypt and Nubia during the Old and Middle Kingdoms. It had famous granite quarries whose stone was used extensively throughout ancient Egypt. Two temples recorded by the archaeologists of Napoleon's expedition have since disappeared. Remains show continual occupation from the Archaic period to the Greco-Roman period.
F-U-N dating
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.
DEFINITION: A site on the upper Ganges in India which revealed important prehistoric stratigraphy. The lowest level, with ochre-colored pottery, was followed by painted gray ware, mudbrick walls, etc. Over this, there was a settlement of mud-brick houses with northern black polished ware and coinage of the later 1st millennium BC. Over this were levels down to the 15th century AD.
CATEGORY: culture
DEFINITION: A late Bronze Age urnfield culture of the North Tyrol and Upper Australia. The Hötting people controlled the huge copper mines of Mitterberg and were probably the principal suppliers of the metal throughout the east Alpine region.
K-Ar dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Absolute dating technique that traces the transformation of one isotope into another - potassium (K) into argon (Ar). Its range is 100,000 years to 1.3 billion years.
Latin script
CATEGORY: language
DEFINITION: Writing using a-z. Based on older forms, it developed during the Roman Empire and is used today in most countries of Europe, the Americas, Africa, Oceania, and some Asian nations.
Les Furtins
DEFINITION: Mousterian cave site in Saone-et-Loire, France, with evidence of a possible cave bear cult.
Levantine art
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: Rock art found mainly in eastern Spain and dating to the Neolithic period. Small red-painted deer, ibex, humans, etc. were used in hunting scenes. The art was once assigned to the Mesolithic.
Martin's Hundred
DEFINITION: Site settled near Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia, on the James River, by English colonists in 1619. Excavations have revealed a massacre by the Indians in 1622 and early colonial life in North America. The center of the plantation was Wolstenholme Towne.
DEFINITION: Village site on Anthony Island, off British Columbia, Canada, with fine in situ examples of Northwest Coast architecture and monumental art. There are standing superstructures, living floors, and mortuary poles, some dating to the early 1800s. The earliest occupation is dated to 360 AD and the village was abandoned in 1888. It was occupied by the Haida.
Old South American Hunting tradition
CATEGORY: culture
DEFINITION: A tradition dating from between 10,000-7000 BC, characterized by its fish-tailed fluted stone projectile points and leaf-shaped lanceolate points. The points' origin may be related to North American pressured flaked points of Clovis and Folsom. Old South American Hunting tradition gave rise to the Andean Hunting and Collecting tradition.
DEFINITION: Principal of the seven hills of ancient Rome, and the favored location in the later Republic and the Empire for magnificent private houses and sumptuous residences of the emperors. It is a four-sided plateau rising 131 feet (40 m) south of the Forum in Rome and 168 feet (51 m) above sea level. It has a circumference of 5,700 feet (1,740 m). The city of Rome was founded on the Palatine, where archaeological discoveries range from prehistoric remains to the ruins of imperial palaces. The modern use of 'palace' is commonly traced back to this period. Tradition said the Palatine Hill was the site of the earliest Roman occupation, associated with mythical Romulus and Remus. Augustus was born on the hill and started a fashion for imperial residence by buying and enlarging the house of Hortensius. This trend was followed with zest by later emperors, and Domitian took over most of the hill for his amazingly extensive Domus Augustiana. Later structures included a special emperor's box overlooking the Circus Maximus, and the Septizonium, a monumental facade built solely to screen the southeast corner of the palace.
Phase II testing
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A thorough investigation of an historic or archaeological site to make recommendations regarding its eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
CATEGORY: culture
DEFINITION: One of the Peoples of the Sea who, repulsed from Egypt c 1200 BC, drove the Canaanites from southern Palestine (name derived from their name) and settled there, marking the beginning of the Iron Age in that region. They were a warlike, seafaring people and adopted the culture of the Canaanites, but introduced new type of pottery decorated with metopes and bird designs. The Philistine tombs at Tell Fara, contained iron weapons and pottery coffins with anthropoid lids. Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gaza, Gath, and Ekron were their five chief cities. The Philistines were eventually absorbed by the Israelites under David c 1000 BC. They are known mainly from documentary sources, appearing in Egyptian records as one of the Peoples of the Sea, and in Biblical accounts as a people who drove the Canaanites out of the coastal plain and eventually became part of the Israelite kingdom.
DEFINITION: Neolithic settlement site on a tributary of the Aiviekste River in Russia, dated to the 3rd millennium BC. The various levels are associated with vegetable- and shell-tempered coarse wares, with barbotine, incised and cord ornament, termed the Piestina style. A rich assemblage of amber buttons, pendants, rings and beads is present, as well as stone, bone, and antler tools and weapons.
DEFINITION: An area in the western Ukraine with several Tripolye sites, the most important being of the early 4th millennium BC and then a late Tripolye site yielding a knot-headed copper pin comparable to early Unetice metalwork of the early 2nd millennium BC. A later site forms the eponymous site of the Ukrainian aspect of the Nova-Sabatinovka-Bilogrudivka culture, a mid-2nd millennium BC culture found also in north Rumania and Podolia. Most settlement sites are unfortified lowland camps, whose large quantities of ash in domestic debris inspired the term 'zolniki' (ash-pits). Timber-framed houses on stone foundations are organized along streets at some sites.
San Agustín
DEFINITION: A locality in the south Colombian Andes highland, with a number of cemeteries, house platforms, ancient fields, stone-built chambers underneath mounds, and also a series of more than 300 stone statues representing mythological personages, some of them with jaguar fangs. The mounds commonly have internal stone-lined passageways and chambers, some of which contain sculpture, suggesting their use as places of worship as well as burial. Sculptures are rendered in a variety of techniques but are usually freestanding stelae and can be up to four meters high. Though stylistic comparisons are often made with Chavin, these themes have strong parallels in Olmec iconography. Occupation extends from about 700 BC almost to the Spanish conquest. The spectacular stonework falls somewhere between 500 BC and 1500 AD. There is also incised and modeled pottery and gold ornaments from the underground burial chambers.
DEFINITION: Area on the east coast of Thailand with sites from the later 1st and early 2nd millennia AD, including Kok Moh, possibly associated with Langkasuka.
DEFINITION: Neolithic ditched village site Syracuse in Sicily, the type site of the Sicilian version of impressed ware, which survives later than elsewhere. Round-based dishes and necked jars have elaborate impressed and, distinctively, intricate stamped designs and multiple excised chevrons filled with white inlay. On some, a pair of stamped lozenges are combined with an applied knob near the lip to suggest a human face. The dates are c 5600-4400 BC.
CATEGORY: geography
DEFINITION: Geographical area of western Asia comprising the southern and northern sections of the Levant, bordered by the Sinai peninsula to the southwest, the Mediterranean to the west, Anatolia to the north, and the Arabian desert and Mesopotamia to the south and east. This eastern Mediterranean seaboard has parallel ranges of mountains and great river valleys and is part of the same geological fault as Great Rift Valley in Africa, leading from Red Sea up to Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley, and Sea of Galilee.
Tating ware
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: Distinctive type of ceramic pitcher probably made in the Rhineland during the 8th century AD. Readily recognizable because it was decorated with applied tin foil. Tating ware was widely traded to sites along the North Sea and English Channel coasts and beyond.
DEFINITION: The name used by the Incas for their empire, literally "the four inextricably linked quarters". By 1532 the Inca state had incorporated dozens of coastal and highland ethnic groups stretching from what is now the northern border of Ecuador to Mendoza in west-central Argentina and the Maule River in central Chile - at least 12 million people.
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: A type of cream-colored Chinese porcelain made in China, mainly in the form of tripod bowls, during the Sung (960-1279 AD) and Yüan (1280-1368 AD) Dynasties. Ting ware may be either plain or decorated with incised, molded, impressed, or carved designs. Characteristic forms include bowls, cups, and dishes. Fired upside down, many pieces, especially bowls, have an unglazed rim banded with metal.
DEFINITION: Series of sites on the edge of a now-dry lake near the Madai Caves in eastern Sabah, Borneo. The pebble and flake industry produced many well-made bifacially flaked lanceolate knives and large tabular bifaces of chert - of a kind previously unknown from Southeast Asia. They are dated c 28,000-17,000 BP.
DEFINITION: Site on the northwest coast of Cornwall, England, with the ruins of a Norman castle stretching across the isthmus. It was built on the site of a Celtic monastery that appears to have existed from c 350-850 AD. Legend has it that King Arthur was born there. The earls of Cornwall occupied the castle in Norman times and built the chapel. Excavations have revealed several complexes of dry-stone buildings and there are large quantities of sub-Roman imported sherds of Mediterranean origin.
DEFINITION: Holocene site in northern Mauritania, Africa, with 50 skeletons of the Mechta-Afalou type.
absolute dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: chronometric dating; absolute dates; absolute chronology; absolute age determination (antonym: relative dating)
CATEGORY: chronology; technique
DEFINITION: The determination of age with reference to a specific time scale, such as a fixed calendrical system or in years before present (B.P., BP), based on measurable physical and chemical qualities or historical associations such as coins and written records. The date on a coin is an absolute date, as are AD 1492 or 501 BC.
absolute pollen counting
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Absolute pollen counting is the determination of the number of grains of each pollen type per unit weight (grains/gram) or unit volume (grains/cm3) of sample. Variation in the rate of sedimentation sometimes makes the number of years represented uncertain; absolute counts for different samples may therefore not be compatible. Pollen analysis is then calibrated with radiocarbon dating to create pollen influx rates figured by the number of grains of each pollen type accumulating on a unit area of lake or bog surface in one year (grains/cm2/year) for each sample.
alternating retouch
CATEGORY: lithics
DEFINITION: Retouch that occurs on an edge of a lithic flake in such a way that it alternates between dorsal and ventral sides from one end to the other of the edge.
amino acid dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: amino-acid dating; aminostratigraphy; amino-acid racemization, amino acid racemization
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method of absolute (chronometric) dating which is hoped to fill the gap between radiocarbon dates and potassium-argon dates. It is used for human and animal bone and other organic material. Specific changes in its amino acid structure (racemization or epimerization) which occur at a slow, relatively uniform rate, are measured after the organism's death. The basis for the technique is the fact that almost all amino acids change from optically active to optically passive compounds (racemize) over a period of time. Aspartic acid is the compound most often used because it has a half-life of 15,000-20,000 years and allows dates from 5,000-100,000 years to be calculated. However, racemization is very much affected by environmental factors such as temperature change. If there has been significant change in the temperature during the time in which the object is buried, the result is flawed. Other problems of contamination have occurred, so the technique is not fully established. It is fairly reliable for deep-sea sediments as the temperature is generally more stable.
archaeomagnetic dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: archaeomagnetic intensity dating, archaeomagnetism, palaeointensity dating, archaeomagnetic age determination
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A chronometric method used to date objects containing magnetic materials - especially for buried undisturbed features such as pottery kilns, earthen fireplaces, and brick walls - which can be compared to known schedules of past magnetic alignments within a region and fluctuations in the earth's magnetic field. Clay and rocks contain magnetic minerals and when heated above a certain temperature, the magnetism is destroyed. Upon cooling, the magnetism returns, taking on the direction and strength of the magnetic field in which the object is lying. Therefore, pottery which is baked in effect fossilizes the Earth's magnetic field as it was the moment of their last cooling (their archaeomagnetism or remanent magnetism). In areas where variations in the Earth's magnetic field are known it is possible to date a pottery sample on a curve. This method yields an absolute date within about 50 years.
argon-argon dating
CATEGORY: chronology
DEFINITION: A high-precision method for estimating the relative quantities of argon-39 to argon-40 gas, used to date volcanic ashes between 500,000 and several million years old
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: A primitive technique of decorating pottery by adding thick slip to the surface of a pot before firing. The term also refers to the creamy mixture of kaolin clay itself, for pottery ornamented with barbotine, and the technique of applying incrustation of this mixture to a ceramic surface for decorative effect. The slip was not applied evenly, but in order to form a thick incrustation in patches or trails. On certain types of pottery, such as the Nene Valley ware, the barbotine decoration may form a picture or a pattern. Sometimes the result is simply a roughened surface, rather like icing upon a cake. The method was particularly popular in Roman Gaul and Britain.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: hammer-and-anvil technique, paddling
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: A technique to thin and even out the walls of coil- or slab-built vessels after they have partially hardened to leather hardness to improve the bonding between coils or add surface texture. One holds an anvil or fist inside the vessel while the outside is struck repeatedly with a paddle which can be wrapped with cord or fabric to add texture to the vessel surface.
bone dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Any of a serious of methods of analyzing bone samples, especially by measuring fluorine, uranium, nitrogen - also called the FUN technique - or by using stratigraphy. Human remains may be compared with animal bone or fossils found in the same strata. Relative dates may be obtained form time-related chemical changes which occur in bone, especially in fluorine, uranium, and nitrogen. Still, the most commonly used is radiocarbon dating because both the collagen and mineral components of bone are dateable.
CATEGORY: geography
DEFINITION: A type of forest consisting of dry, thorny shrubs and stunted deciduous trees found in Brazil, especially in the northeast.
calibrated C-14 dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Dating through the use of the carbon-14 method by means of instrumentation having undergone extensive refinement primarily through calibration by dendrochronology.
carbon-14 dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: radiocarbon dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The occurrence of natural radioactive carbon in the atmosphere allows archaeologists the ability to date organic materials as old as 50,000 years. Carbon-14 is continuously produced in the atmosphere and decays with a half-life of 5,730-year (+/- 40 years). Unlike most isotopic dating methods, the carbon-14 dating technique relies on the progressive decay or disappearance of the radioactive parent with time. This is now a common method for estimating the age of a carbonaceous archaeological artifacts. The radioactivity of an artifact's carbon-14 content determines how long ago the specimen was separated from equilibrium with the atmosphere-plant-animal cycle. The method is based on the principle that all plants and animals, while they are alive, take in small amounts of carbon-14 and when they die, the intake ends. By measuring the loss rate of the carbon 14, the age of the object can be established. Measurement of the carbon-14 activity in a cypress beam in the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Snefru, for example, established the date of the tomb as c 2600 BC.
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: Casting consists of pouring molten metal into a mold, where it solidifies into the shape of the mold. The process was well established in the Bronze Age (beginning c 3000 BC), when it was used to form bronze pieces. It is particularly valuable for the economical production of complex shapes, from mass-produced parts to one-of-a-kind items or even large machinery. Three principal techniques of casting were successively developed in prehistoric Europe: one-piece stone molds for flat-faced objects; clay or stone piece molds that could be dismantled and reused; and one-off clay molds for complex shapes made in one piece around a wax or lead pattern (cire perdue). Every metal with a low enough melting point was exploited in early Europe, except iron and steel, was used for casting artifacts.
casting flash
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: casting jet, casting seam
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: A thin irregular ridge of metal on the outer face of a casting, resulting from seepage of the molten metal into the joint between the separate components of the mould used in its manufacture. A casting jet is similar but is a small plug of metal that originally filled the gate or aperture used to fill the mould. During the final cleaning and finishing of a cast object the jet and flash are usually knocked off and filed smooth.
casting jet
CATEGORY: artifact; geology
DEFINITION: A plug of metal which is knocked out after an artifact is cast and which fits exactly into the opening (aperture or gate) of a mold. When casting metal into a bivalve or composite mold, the aperture through which the metal is poured into the mold becomes filled up with molten metal, and this plug of metal cools and hardens with the object. When the finished artifact is removed from the mold, the casting jet is still attached; in most cases it is knocked off and the scar polished down the metal plug being melted down for re-use. In some cases, however, it may be left on, particularly on neck rings and bracelets. Examples are sometimes in founder's hoards.
casting seam
CATEGORY: artifact; geology
DEFINITION: The place where a small amount of molten metal will run into the joint between the surfaces of the parts of the casting mold. In a bivalve or composite mold, this seepage results in a visible seam when the object is removed from the mold. It is usually filled and polished off; unfinished objects are often found with a visible seam or ridge.
casting-on technique
CATEGORY: artifact; geology
DEFINITION: A method used in a secondary stage of making metal objects for adding handles, legs, and hilts to complex artifacts. A clay mold is placed around part of an existing object and molten metal is then poured in and fuses onto the original object.
cation-ratio dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: cation ratio dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method of direct dating rock carvings and engravings, potentially applicable to Paleolithic artifacts with a strong patina caused by exposure to desert dust. The technique is based on the principle that cations of certain elements are more soluble than others; they leach out of rock varnish more rapidly than the less soluble elements, and their concentration decreases with time. A cation is an ion carrying a positive charge which moves toward the negative electrode/cathode during electrolysis.
chronometric dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: absolute dating; chronometry
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Any technique of dating that relies on chronological measurement such as calendars, radiocarbon dates, etc. and which give the result in calendar years before the present, or B.P. Most of these techniques produce results with a standard deviation, but they have a relationship to the calendar which relative dating techniques do not. Among the most useful chronometric dating techniques are radiocarbon dating, potassium argon dating, and thermoluminescence dating. Dendrochronology, the relationship of dated ancient trees with live trees has no standard deviation and is the most accurate of all, though not universally applicable. Chronometric dating has developed in the last 30 years and has revolutionized archaeology.
chryselephantine statue
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: A type of figurine sculpture made of ivory and gold. The flesh was of ivory and the drapery of gold. These were produced in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Crete, and in Greece from the 6th century BC. They were often colossal cult figures placed in the interiors of major temples, such as that of Minerva by Pheidias, which stood in the Acropolis at Athens and was 40 ft high, and that of Zeus, 45 ft high, also by Pheidias, in the temple of Olympia.
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: Adding a slip, wash, or glaze to the surface of a ceramic item.
DEFINITION: Any nonscientific removal of archaeological materials from a site by non-residents. Although collectors were important to the origins of archaeology, they are now a major cause of the destruction of the world's cultural resources.
compensating error
CATEGORY: measure
DEFINITION: An instance when errors on a sequence of measurements or measurements subject to arithmetical operations tend to cancel out.
continental plate
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: A giant slab of the Earth's crust which is believed to move slowly in relation to other slabs. An example of a continental plate is the North American Plate, which includes North America as well as the oceanic crust between it and a portion of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The other type of plate is oceanic.
contingency table
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A table for classifying elements of a population according to two variables - recording the relationship between two classes of items, each entry counting the number of specific occurrences of the possible combinations. The rows correspond to one variable and the column to the other. The classes compared in such a cross tabulation might be, for instance, sites in different ecological zones, artifacts in different contexts, or the coincidence of different decorative traits and fabric types in a pottery assemblage. Various statistics can be calculated from such a table, especially to test the significance of the observed correlations; the chi-square test is often used to do this.
CATEGORY: measure
DEFINITION: Any interval or ratio scale in which, between any two values, there is an infinity of other values.
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: In lithics, a term that refers to the width of a stem or point that is diminishing in outline.
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A correlation dating technique that can yield a relative or absolute age or chronology. The basis of cross-dating is the occurrence of finds in association. The assumption is that a particular type of artifact, for example a type of sword, when found in an undated context will bear a similar date to one found in a dated context, thus enabling the whole of the undated context to be given a chronological value. The method is based on the assumption that typologies evolved at the same rate and in the same way over a wide area or alternatively on assumptions of diffusion. Many of the chronologies constructed before the advent of chronometric dating techniques were based on cross-dating. New techniques such as radiocarbon dating showed some of the links established by cross-dating to be invalid, so the method has become somewhat discredited. However, its use is still helpful where recognizable products of dateable manufacture are found in undated contexts with no possibility of using a chronometric dating technique. So in the absence of geochronology, two cultural groups can only be proved contemporary by the discovery of links between them. If in culture A an object produced by culture B is found, A must be contemporary with, or later than, B. The term cross-dating ought strictly to be used only when an object of culture A is also found in proved association with culture B, when overlap of at least part of the time span of each is proved. Items having an established date, such as dated coins or buildings, or ceramics of known manufacture are most often used. By itself, a cross-dated chronology does not give absolute dates, but it may be calibrated by reference to other dating methods. A type of cross-dating has always been used in geology and stratigraphical sequences are often correlated by the assemblages of fossils they contain; this is known as biostratigraphy. The archaeological versions of cross-dating may have been developed directly out of the geological method and may have been based on a false analogy between biological fossils and archaeological artifacts.
crucible smelting
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: A technique of separating copper from ore by heating the ore in an open vessel, designed to withstand very high temperatures, rather than in a closed furnace.
cutting blade
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: The piercing element of a composite projectile point or harpoon head. (See also projectile point.)
cutting tool
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: Any tool used for cutting, gouging, shaving, piercing, scraping, and sawing.
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The process by which an archaeologist determines dates for objects, deposits, buildings, etc., in an attempt to situate a given phenomenon in time. Relative dating, in which the order of certain events is determined, must be distinguished from absolute dating, in which figures in solar years (often with some necessary margin of error) can be applied to a particular event. Unless tied to historical records, dating by archaeological methods can only be relative - such as stratigraphy, typology, cross-dating, and sequence dating. Absolute dating, with some reservation, is provided by dendrochronology, varve dating, thermoluminescence, potassium-argon dating, and, most important presently, radiocarbon dating. Some relative dating can be calibrated by these or by historical methods to give a close approximation to absolute dates - archaeomagnetism, obsidian hydration dating, and pollen analysis. Still others remain strictly relative - collagen content, fluorine and nitrogen test, and radiometric assay. Other methods include: coin dating, seriation, and amino-acid racemization. The methods have varying applications, accuracy, range, and cost. Many new techniques are being developed and tested.
deviation-counteracting system
DEFINITION: A system that reaches equilibrium as a result of negative feedback.
direct dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The use of a dating technique directly on the object being discussed, such as the charcoal from a fireplace or a piece of obsidian.
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: Cracking that occurs in a fired ware as a result of thermal stresses; cracking that occurs if a ware is cooled too rapidly or that appears on refiring bisque ware through 400-600 degrees Celsius, with the expansion of quartz
electron spin resonance dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A dating method using the residual effects of electrons' changing energy levels under natural irradiation of alpha, beta, and gamma rays. The technique enables trapped electrons within bone and shell to be measured without the heating that thermoluminescence requires; the number of trapped electrons indicates the age of the specimen. There are a number of factors that may cause errors with the method. Precision is difficult to estimate and varies with the type of sample.
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: A method of plating one metal with another by electrodeposition. The articles to be plated are made the cathode of an electrolytic cell and a rod or bar of the plating metal is made the anode. Electroplating is used for covering metal with a decorative, more expensive, or corrosion-resistant layer of another metal.
CATEGORY: culture; fauna
DEFINITION: A term used for a now-extinct member of the genus Homo, including Homo erectus, who lived in Africa, Asia, and Europe during the Lower and Middle Pleistocene. Erectines walked upright, may have used fire, and are often associated with the Acheulean industries, especially with hand axes.
faunal dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method of relative dating based on observing the evolutionary changes in particular species of mammals, so as to form a rough chronological sequence.
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: The softening or cracking of the working face of a lode of quarrying stone, to facilitate excavation, by exposing it to a wood fire built against it. The fire shattered the outcrops of rock.
fission track dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: fission-track dating; fission track age determination
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A chronometric dating technique based on the natural, spontaneous nuclear fission of Uranium 238 and its byproduct, linear atomic displacements/tracks. The basis for this technique is that a uranium isotope, U 238, as well as decaying to a stable lead isotope, also undergoes spontaneous fission. One in every two million atoms decays in this way. Fission is accompanied by an energy release which sends the resulting two nuclei into the surrounding material, the tracks causing damage to the crystal lattice. These tracks can be counted under a microscope after the polished surface of the sample has been etched with acid. The concentration of uranium can be determined by the induced fission of U 235 by neutron irradiation of the sample. Since the ratio of U 235 to U 238 is known, and is constant, a comparison of the number of tracks from natural fission and the number from induced fission will give the age of the sample. Though the method has been limited in its archaeological use so far, it has already proved a useful check method for potassium-argon dating for volcanic deposits at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, and obsidian, tephra beds, mineral inclusions in pottery, and some man-made glasses have also been dated. A further use of the method is based on the fact that fission tracks disappear if the substance is heated about 500? or so: thus a date achieved for clay (like a hearth), pottery, or obsidian that had been burnt gives the date of burning or firing, since previous fission tracks would have disappeared.
floating chronology
CATEGORY: chronology
DEFINITION: A chronometrically dated chronology which is not yet tied in to calendar years. A floating chronology is a decipherable record of time that was terminated long ago. The most common floating chronologies occur in dendrochronology where climate affects the growth of rings and sequences are local. Local sequences cannot always be tied to the master sequences established in certain areas from the present day back into prehistory, and therefore the local sequences will 'float' until some link with a known historical date is found. Similarly, in magnetic dating many of the sequences will float until some independently dated sites can be entered on the curve. The term is also used in reference to varve chronologies.
fluorine dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A relative dating technique used on bone. Bone absorbs fluorine from groundwater at a rate proportional to the time since burial - if groundwater migration rates remain constant. Fluorine concentrations are chemically analyzed by the gradual combination of fluorine in groundwater with the calcium phosphate of the buried bone material. Bones from the same stratigraphical context can be dated relatively by comparison of their fluorine content. The Piltdown forgery was finally exposed by this method.
CATEGORY: structure
DEFINITION: A wall section below the basal stones. A footing is not a continuation of the wall masonry and its materials usually differ in size and shape from those used in the wall. Often, a footing is laid in a trench.
formula dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Absolute dating using artifact attributes, especially applied to pipe stems and ceramics.
geophysical prospecting
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: geophysical survey
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The location and recording of buried sites by detecting variations in the magnetic properties or resistance to an electrical current of the soil. Many archaeological surveying techniques designed to identify features without excavation use instruments that measure physical properties of surface materials.
glass layer counting
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A dating technique for glass based on the idea that the layers present in the surface crust of ancient glass were added annually and that counting them would yield a chronometric date. Research showed different numbers of layers on different parts of the same piece, and for some pieces of known date, not enough layers to suggest annual growth. Therefore, an understanding of the processes which lead to the formation of the layers is necessary before the technique can be used with any confidence.
graphite painting
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: A surface treatment for pottery involving the application of powdered graphite before firing. As in hematite coating, the mineral may have been applied by mixing with a slip and applied as 'paint'. The resulting surface is silvery-gray and shiny.
ground-penetrating radar
DEFINITION: A remote sensing device used in subsurface detection that transmits a radar pulse into the soil and records differential reflection of the pulses from buried strata and features. When a discontinuity is encountered, an echo returns to the radar receiving unit, where it is recorded.
CATEGORY: lithics
DEFINITION: The manner in which a projectile point or other stone tool is attached to a handle or shaft.
DEFINITION: The practice of removing and preserving human heads. Headhunting arises in some cultures from a belief in the existence of a material soul. Headhunting may go back to Paleolithic times, as in deposits of the Late Paleolithic Azilian culture found at Ofnet in Bavaria. In Europe, the practice survived until the early 20th century in the Balkan Peninsula.
heat treating
CATEGORY: lithics
DEFINITION: The process of baking a flint or chert nodule at a high temperature (350-500 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30-50 hours in order to increase the workability of the stone
hematite coating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: haematite coating
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: A surface treatment for pottery involving the application of powdered hematite iron ore before firing. Hematite may have been mixed with a slip and then applied, or painted on as a suspension in water. When fired the surface normally appears red, although under reduced firing conditions it may turn black.
hypothesis testing
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The process of examining how well various hypotheses explain the actual data, eliminating those that are invalid, and identifying those that best fit the observed phenomena. A successful hypothesis is found to be the best approximation of truth given the current state of knowledge. In archaeology, the primary standard for accepting a hypothesis is compatibility with available data and other criteria include predictability, parsimony, completeness, and symmetry.
ideographic writing
CATEGORY: language
DEFINITION: A form of figurative writing, derived from pictographic writing (which only refers to objects); its symbols (ideograms) can also express an abstract concept or idea.
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: Impressing of material into the surface of a ceramic object.
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: The production of a high-quality metal tool or weapon by repeatedly forging out a blank form, folding the metal over and forging it again so that qualities of malleability and hardness can be combined.
law of cross-cutting relationships
DEFINITION: A principle of stratigraphy that says a feature that cuts across or into a bed or stratum must be younger than that bed or stratum.
law of original continuity
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: principle of original continuity
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: The principle that each stratigraphic layer originally extended spatially as a whole, uninterrupted sheet or lens and that any discontinuities or edges that now exist are the result of erosion, faulting, and other processes that dislocate or remove portions of the layer.
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: In wheel-throwing pottery, a vessel that involves using hands or fingers to squeeze the vessel walls thinner and higher as the body rotates.
DEFINITION: Any unscientific and illegal act of plundering archaeological sites for profit. Looters destroy evidence that archaeologists rely upon to understand the past.
magnetic dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: paleomagnetic dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Any theoretically chronometric dating technique which uses the thermo-remanent magnetism of certain types of archaeological material. These methods use the known changes have taken place in the direction and intensity of the earth's magnetic field. Magnetic minerals present in clay and rocks each have its own magnetic orientation. When heated to the so-called blocking temperature, the original magnetic orientation of the particles is destroyed, and they will take on the orientation of the earth's magnetic field in a fixed alignment - which does not alter after cooling. These methods are most suitable for kilns and hearths. Once the direction of the archaeological sample has been determined, it may be possible to date it by fitting it to the secular variation curve established for the local area. There is no universal curve, since not only the earth's main field varies, but there are also local disturbances. Since the dating of the curve has to be constructed through independent dating techniques, and these are not available for every area, there are not established curves for every region. As a dating technique, it is strictly limited to those areas where dated curves have been established. A more recent dating technique using thermo-remanent magnetism is palaeointensity dating (archaeomagnetic intensity dating). The principle is that the thermo-remanent magnetism in burnt clay is proportional to the intensity of the magnetic field acting on the clay as it cools down. The measurement of its intensity, and a comparison with the intensity revealed by reheating in today's magnetic field, gives a ratio for the past and present fields which can be used to establish a curve of variation in the earth's magnetic field intensity. The method promises to be useful since direction in situ is not required and it can therefore be used for pottery and other artifacts as well as hearths and kilns.
DEFINITION: An exchange system that often involves currencies and generally extends beyond kinsmen and a small group of trading partners; marketing involves sellers minimizing their costs and maximizing the return to make a profit.
matrix sorting
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The hand-sorting of processed bulk soil samples to find very small artifacts and ecofacts
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: The method of incising a cross-hatched pattern on metal to create a dull area.
mean ceramic dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: mean ceramic dating formula, mean ceramic date
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A statistical technique devised by Stanley South for pooling the median age of manufacture for temporally significant pottery types at American Colonial sites. It is especially applicable to 18th-century sites, where many distinctive ceramic types may be expected to occur in large numbers. The mean ceramic date is found by multiplying the sum of the median dates for the manufacture of each ceramic type of the frequency of each ceramic type and dividing this figure by the total frequency of all ceramic types. The median date for each type is arrived at from documentary evidence. One shortcomings is that the supposition that the median date coincides with the period of maximum use; another is the use of a count of sherds rather than whole vessels.
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: The point at which a metal liquefies. This point must be reached if a metal object is to be cast. In antiquity, gold, silver, copper, and lead were all melted and cast, but the melting and casting of iron was not achieved until the medieval period. Melting points are as follows: tin, 232? C; lead, 327? C; silver, 960? C; gold, 1063? C; copper, 1,083? C; iron 1,525? C.
multiple fluting
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: A technique of fluting that involved the removal of two short lateral flutes in preparation for the removal of a longer flute.
negative painting
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: resist dyeing; resist-dye
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: A technique of pottery decoration used in many parts of the Americas in which a design area is covered with a paint-resistant substance (wax, gum, clay) and then dipped in paint or dye, dried, and fired. The pot might be either smoked or dipped into a black wash. The dark coating is unable to reach those areas of the surface protected by the resistant substance, and when the resistant substance is removed, the pattern stands out in the original color against the black background.
netting needle
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: A needle for making and mending nets, often forked at both ends, and with a hollow centre in which the thread or twine being used can be conveniently wound.
nitrogen dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A relative dating technique used on bone, based on the gradual reduction of nitrogen in bone as collagen is broken down into amino acids and leached away. Bone collagen decomposes, releasing nitrogen, at a fairly uniform slow rate. Nitrogen is present in bone in a proportion of approximately 4 percent. The relative ages of bones in similar burial environments can be compared by looking at the remaining nitrogen content; it is relative since the rate of decline is affected by local environmental factors such as temperature or chemical constituents in the find deposit. Nitrogen concentrations are determined by chemical analysis.
obsidian hydration dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: obsidian hydration layer dating, obsidian dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method of dating in which the age of an obsidian artifact is established by measuring the thickness of its hydration rim (layer of water penetration) and comparing that to a known local hydration rate. The hydration layer is caused by absorption of water on exposed surfaces of the rock. The surface of obsidian starts to absorb water as soon as it is exposed by flaking during manufacture of an artifact. The layer of hydrated obsidian is visible when a slice of the artifact is examined under an optical microscope at a magnification of x 500. Hydration varies geographically, and several factors such as climate, chemical environment, and physical abrasion also affect the thickness of the layer, so that most studies are locally or regionally based. Obsidian may also be dated by the fission track dating technique. Dates have been obtained in Japan extending back as far as c 25,000 BC.
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: Artwork first found on rocks in Europe and Africa, created with charcoal, lime, and iron oxide of various colors mixed with animal fat or marrow. European paintings are in caves and date back to early Aurignacian times 70,000-80,000 BC; if created purely for art, though, they would not have been done in the depths of the cave. It is thought that they must have been of religious, magical, or ritual significance. There is proof that schools of painting were held in some caves. Polychrome paintings were made at the peak of Palaeolithic Art, mid-Magdalenian times, about 10,000 BC.
parting agent
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: A material like sand, ash, or dry clay, sprinkled over a mold or working surface to prevent wet clay from sticking
parting vessel
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: A container, usually square or rectangular, used in metal processing for separating metals one from another, usually silver from gold.
CATEGORY: artifact; geology
DEFINITION: The outermost layer of an artifact, which may differ in color, texture, luster, or substance from the inner part of the artifact due to physical, biological, or chemical alteration due to environmental conditions. The term also refers to any thin, colored film or layer formed on the surface of flint or other rock as a result of alkaline conditions. It is a porous bluish or white weathering; possibly becoming stained with brown or yellow due to contacts with iron compounds in percolating water. Similarly, the green patina on bronze objects is a product of corrosion. The amount of patination is sometimes used as a very rough indication of age; the longer the exposure the deeper is the patination.
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: The altered surface and coloring of an artifact made by natural weathering or exposure to soil acids.
penetrating excavation
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: An excavating technique that exposes the vertical face of a site. This type of excavation is designed to reveal the vertical and temporal dimensions within an archaeological deposit - the depth, sequence, and composition of buried data.
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.
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: The coating a metal or other material such as plastic or china with a hard, nonporous metallic surface to improve durability and beauty. Gold, silver, stainless steel, palladium, copper, and nickel are formed by dipping an object into a solution containing the desired surface material, which is deposited by chemical or electrochemical action. While much plating is done for decorative purposes, still more is done to increase the durability and corrosion-resistance of softer materials.
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: A very heavy, precious, silver-white metal that is soft and ductile and has a high melting point and good resistance to corrosion and chemical attack. It is found in the Transvaal, South Africa, among other places.
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Mapping on the horizontal square or site plan; a graphic record of data.
point counting
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: Categorizing individual grains of sediment exposed by thin sectioning by size and sometimes by shape and then counting.
pollen dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Using local pollen sequences to provide a relative date for a site.
positive painting
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: The direct application of a design by use of pigments, as in painting pottery.
potassium-argon dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: K-A dating; potassium argon dating; radiopotassium dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: An isotopic method of dating the age of a rock or mineral by measuring the rate at which potassium-40, a radioactive form of this element, decays into argon. It is used primarily on lava flows and tuffs and for ocean floor basalts. Potassium, which is present in most rocks and minerals, has a single radioactive isotope, K 40. This decays by two different processes into Calcium 40 and Argon 40. Though 89% decays to Calcium 40, it is not suitable for measurement since most rocks contain Calcium 40 as a primary element, and the amount caused by the decay of K 40 cannot be determined. The remaining 11% decays into the gas Argon 40, and this can be measured, along with the amount of potassium in the sample, to get a date. Dates produced by using this technique have been checked by fission track dating. The technique is best used on material more than 100,000 years old - such as the dating of layers associated with the earliest remains of hominids, notably in the Olduvai Gorge. Lava flows embedded with the deposits containing archaeological material have been dated.
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: Illegal artifact collecting
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: A bronze alloy with a high tin content, between standard bronze and speculum. It was used particularly for a type of coinage current in western Europe and in India in the first centuries BC and AD with a tin content between 7-27%.
potin coin
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: Type of British or Gaulish coin made from potin from the early 1st century BC onwards. Potin coins are unusual in that they are cast rather than struck. The earliest examples are the first kinds of coin made in Britain and are found mostly in southeastern counties. Derek Allen has traced the origins of the potin coin series back to the bronze coinage of Massalia some time in the 2nd century BC, the prototypes for the British series probably coming via Gaul. Also called Kentish cast bronze coins.
proportional pollen counting
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A type of pollen analysis carried out by determining the proportion of different pollen types in each sample. Proportions are usually expressed as percentages of total tree (arboreal) pollen. This method is fairly quick as only a fraction of the grains present in a sample need be counted. Its main disadvantage is that percentages can never indicate actual numbers of grains falling to earth, which is solved by Absolute Pollen Counting.
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: Decorations made using a pointed implement to press designs into ceramics, sometimes making holes in an object.
radiocarbon dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: radioactive carbon dating, radiocarbon age determination, carbon-14 dating; radiochronometry; RC
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: An absolute radiometric dating technique for determining the age of carbon-bearing minerals, including wood and plant remains, charcoal, bone, peat, and calcium carbonate shell back to about 50,000 bp. The technique is based on measuring the loss of radiocarbon (carbon-14) that begins disintegration at death at a known rate. It is one of the best-known chronometric dating techniques and the most important in archaeology presently. It can be used for the dating organic material up to 75,000 years old. It is based on the theory of Willard F. Libby (1947); his radioactive-carbon dating provided an extremely valuable tool for archaeologists, anthropologists, and earth scientists. When organic matter dies it ceases to exchange its carbon, as carbon dioxide, with the atmosphere, so its C14 dwindles by decay and is not replenished. Determination of the radioactivity of carbon from a sample will reveal the proportion of C14 to C12, and this will in turn, through the known rate of decay of C14, give the age of, or more accurately the time elapsed since the death of, the sample. Two things in the method have to be allowed for: first, the 'date' given is never exact. The +/- figure, which should always be quoted, is a statistical one, meaning that there is a 2 to 1 chance that the correct date lies within that bracket. Secondly, the rate of decay of C14 is based in all published examples on a half-life of 5730 +/- 40 years (after 5730 years, one half of the C14 will have disintegrated, after another 5730 years one half of the remainder, and so on). Correction tables are used to correct 'raw' radiocarbon dates (quoted as years ad or BC) into true dates (AD or BC). The method yields reliable dates back to about 50,000 bp and under some conditions to about 75,000 bp. One of the basic assumptions of the technique is that the amount of radiocarbon in the atmosphere has remained constant through time. It has now been established, with the dendrochronological sequence for the bristlecone pine, that the C14 concentration has fluctuated. The reasons for the fluctuation are not yet fully understood. The calibration of radiocarbon dates is therefore necessary in order to achieve an approximate date in calendar years. Dates quoted in radiocarbon years, before calibration, are written BC or bp (before present), as opposed to calibrated dates, written BC or BP. The original half-life for radiocarbon of 5,568 ? 30 years has been revised to 5,730 ? 40 years, though dates are normally published according to the old half-life in order to avoid confusion (the date can be adjusted for the new half-life by multiplying the old date by 1.029). All radiocarbon dates are quoted with a standard deviation. Ideally, a series of dates should be obtained for any deposit as a series may cluster around a central point. New refinements continue to improve the technique's accuracy as well as extend the range of dates which can be achieved. A previous limit of 50,000 years on the age of material which could be dated, set by the limits on the ability of the proportional counter used to record beta particle emissions, has been extended to 70,000 years by the use of isotopic enrichment, the artificial enrichment of the C14 to C12 ratio.
radiometric dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: radiometric assay; radiometrics
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Dating by measuring processes which involve the decay of radioactive isotopes and yielding absolute age estimations. Radiocarbon, potassium/argon, and uranium series dating employ the known rate of decay, expressed by their half-lives. Fission track dating similarly employs spontaneous nuclear fission, which also occurs at a known rate.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: conjoining, rejoining
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The reassembling of stone debitage and cores to reconstruct ancient lithic technologies. It is any attempt to put stone tools and flakes back together again, which provides important information on the processes involved in the knapper's craft. The refitting or conjoining of artifact or ecofact fragments, especially those of struck stone flakes to recreate the original core, allows definition of cumulative features, such as the lithic artifact and debitage scatters. The technique allow may allow reconstruction of ancient manufacture and use behavior.
relative dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: relative dates; relative dating techniques
CATEGORY: technique; chronology
DEFINITION: Dating methods where phases or objects can be put into a sequence relative to each other, but which are not tied to calendrically measured time. It is the sequencing of events or materials relative to another but without linkage to ages in years bp (before present) or calendar years. A relative date is a date which can be said to be earlier than, later than, or contemporary with an event but which (unlike an absolute date) cannot be measured in calendar years. When archaeologists say that event A occurred before or after event B, they have a relative date for A. Before the advent of chronometric dating techniques, all dating was relative except where links with historical events could be proved. Some of these techniques, mainly stratigraphy and seriation, are still useful where chronometric dates cannot be obtained. Theoretically, floating chronologies which cannot be tied to an absolute date (e.g. certain dendrochronological sequences) are relative chronologies even though the techniques are essentially chronometric.
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: A technique used to decorate pottery. In Greek pottery-making, it began in the early 4th century BC. A strip of metal was applied to the pot as it was turned on the wheel, leaving a band of even decoration on the inside; it was more accurately called chattering. Alternatively, a cogged wheel was rotated over the soft clay of a pot to leave a series of impressed dashes at right angles. That method was used especially on Roman pottery and was found on the exterior of vessels, especially on the rim. In India, the technique was used on pottery of rougher fabric and on forms derived from Northern Black Polished wares, possibly beginning in the late 1st millennium BC. The pre-Columbian civilization of the Chavín also used rouletting on its pottery.
sequence dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method developed by Sir Flinders Petrie (for Egyptian predynastic cemeteries) for dating a group of similar objects according to their archaeological sequence. By studying the typology the changing forms of certain artifacts, they may be set into sequence. Petrie used it to arrange undated graves into a hypothetical (relative) chronological order according to the typology and association of the artifacts found in them (based on a stylistic seriation of Egyptian pre-dynastic tomb pottery). Artifacts found at other sites were then correlated with the sequence and given a sequence date. The technique can only be used to determine whether one type of artifact is earlier or later than another; it cannot show length of time between two. This type of seriation, when combined with cross-dating, is still useful in the absence of other dating methods.
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: A magnesium-rich silicate mineral occurring in a number of forms and used for decorative work as they vary widely in color and take on a high polish. Sources are known in the British Isles, Ireland, Canada, US, New Zealand, and Afghanistan. Serpentine minerals were also used in making fine stone tools and vessels as well as jewelry and architectural decoration.
single fluting
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: Projectiles or tools which have one flute per face.
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: The separation of metal from ore, usually by heating in a hearth or furnace. It is a major process in metalworking, producing the usable metal for the making of artifacts. After smelting, copper can be cast and iron can be forged. The main chemical reaction in smelting most of the ores used in antiquity is that of reducing a metal oxide. If the ore was not already in the oxide form, then it was converted by a preliminary process. Careful control of the amount of air entering the furnace would be required for successful smelting. Remains of the smelting process include ingots, slag, tuyères, hearths containing slag and cinder, and more sophisticated furnaces.
stone setting
CATEGORY: feature
DEFINITION: A setting of stones marking out a grave, known in various shapes, including ships.
thrusting spear
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: A handheld spear used for stabbing rather than throwing.
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: A malleable, comparatively scarce metallic element which is used as a constituent in alloys, notably bronze. In the Old World, ancient sources are known in England, Spain, and Bohemia - with others probably in central Italy and eastern Turkey. Though the New World had no Bronze Age, some tin was used in Mexico for vessels and ornaments, and it was alloyed with copper in Middle America and the Andean countries. Tin is extracted from cassiterite.
tin glaze
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: The process of adding tin oxide to other ingredients during the glazing of pottery to produce an opaque, white-enameled effect. It was used from c 1000 BC by the Assyrians; in the 8th-9th centuries AD, Persian and Islamic potters rediscovered the technique and it was transmitted to Spain, Italy, France, and Holland. Tin glaze was probably first used to hide faults of color in the body, for most clays contain a variable amount of iron that colors the body from buff to dark red. Tin-glazed wares look somewhat as though they have been covered with thick white paint.
tinder box
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: A box containing tinder, any dry inflammable material, usually also contains flint and steel for lighting fires.
CATEGORY: artifact
DEFINITION: A variation of a color produced by adding white to it, characterized by low saturation
transfer printing
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: Colored paper impressions derived from inked templates applied to the surface of unfired or partially fired pottery.
trapped charge dating
CATEGORY: chronology
DEFINITION: A form of dating relying on the fact that electrons are trapped in minerals' crystal lattices as a function of background radiation; the age of the specimen is the total radiation received, divided by the annual dose of radiation
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: A compact, light-colored limestone (calcite) deposition formed by limestone in solution. It has been much-used in architecture. Stalactites and stalagmites in caves are formed from travertine. Fossils and other remains may be found in travertine deposits and dense travertine may sometimes be dated through uranium series dating and isotopic analysis.
tree-ring dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The use of annual growth rings in trees to date archaeological sites.
uranium dating
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: uranium series dating, uranium series disequilibrium dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method of dating based on measuring the rate of radioactive decay of uranium isotopes in bone and other organic remains to the stable isotope of lead. It has proved particularly useful for the period before 50,000 years ago, which lies outside the time range of radiocarbon dating. Each of the isotopes decays through a series of radioactive daughter isotopes until a stable isotope of lead is reached. Three daughter isotopes are created and decay with half-lives useful for dating: ionium, proactinium, and radium. Several uranium dating methods exist and material datable by these methods includes: aragonitic coral, speleothem, travertine, mollusk shell, marl, bone, teeth, caliche, calcretes, peat, wood, and detrital sediment.
varve dating
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A technique for producing chronometric dates based on the annual formation of layers of sediment on lake and river beds in glacial regions. Seasonal fluctuations in particle size and speed of sedimentation take place. During the winter, ice melting is very slow, melt-water streams do not contain much water, and they flow slowly, carrying little material. During the summer, melting accelerates, melt-water streams flow faster and carry more material. The supply of sediment to the ice-marginal lake varies with the season. A varve chronology, similar to a tree-ring chronology may be set up. But as with tree rings (see dendrochronology) the varves will vary from year to year, depending on the rapidity of the thaw, quantity of summer rain, winter snow, etc., the variations showing some correlation with the sunspot cycle. Such varve chronologies have been built up for Scandinavia and are used to date the retreat of the Weichselian ice-sheet. Varve dating has a greater significance than just for local dating, since frequently there is enough organic material to allow radiocarbon dates to be calculated. There is therefore the possibility of using the calendrical varve chronology to calibrate radiocarbon dates. Its use for archaeological dating is rather limited in that sites have to be related to the geological changes (the ice-sheet moraines or changing Baltic sea-levels) before their dates can be determined. Swedish pioneer Baron Gerard de Geer discovered in the late 19th century that these could be counted and correlated or linked over long distances, which gave him a timescale of 12,000 years and fixed the end of the Ice Age at about 10,000 years ago.
warranting argument
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: An argument used to support assumptions about the way the world works, employed by archaeologists to support interpretations of empirical observations.
CATEGORY: language
DEFINITION: Any system for symbolizing the symbols of a language. Writing was developed independently several times in different places and both the writing materials and the types of script show great variation. The earliest true writing developed in southern Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC Uruk culture. The writing material was clay; it was first inscribed and later impressed with a stylus to produce the wedge-shaped cuneiform signs. The earliest signs were pictograms ('picture writing', in which the signs represent stylized pictures of the objects in question), but these rapidly developed into ideograms (the signs indicated not only the original object, but also associated objects or concepts). The Egyptian hieroglyphic script, used for inscriptions on stone, painting on walls, and also writing on papyrus, appears well before 3000 BC. There is dispute as to whether the Egyptians developed writing independently or whether the art was diffused from Mesopotamia. The Harappan Civilization of the Indus Valley had a writing system of its own, dated to the second half of the 3rd millennium BC and is found almost exclusively on stamp seals and seal impressions. It has not been deciphered. The first true alphabet, with signs for individual letters, seems to have developed in the Levant, probably in the first half of the 2nd millennium BC. The first definite evidence comes from Ugarit in the mid-2nd millennium BC. The Phoenicians spread the alphabet throughout the Mediterranean and theirs is ancestral to most of the alphabets in use today. In China, writing developed independently, first appearing on oracle bones of the Shang dynasty. In Europe the only pre-Classical writing occurs in the Aegean in the 2nd millennium BC - the hieroglyphic and Linear A scripts of the Minoans, as yet undeciphered, and the Linear B of the Mycenaeans, used to record an early form of Greek. The development of writing in the Americas occurred only in Mesoamerica - the glyphic writing of the Maya and related groups, found in inscriptions carved on monuments, and the pictographic writing of Post-Classic groups such as the Mixtecs and Aztecs, found on manuscripts of bark or deerskin known as codices.

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