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archaeology definitions


undefined, object
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study of fossil animals
an object made by a human being, typically of historical or cultural interest
Homo habilis
the earliest member of the genus Homo, found on sites dating between 2.5 and 1.6 million years ago
studies the contemporary distribution and form of artifacts, with the intent of understanding distribution and movement of ancient population, their social organization, and relationships among them.
works from general laws and models
East African Rift Valley
geological feature stretching from East Africa to the Middle East and is the location of many important early hominin sites
the biological term for a period when there is a rapid increase in the number of species in a single lineage
bringing the data obtained from excavations and analysis to the public
Linguistic anthropology
seeks to understand the processes of human communications, verbal and non-verbal, and the relationship between language and culture
Ardipithecus ramidus
an early hominin dating back to approximately 4.5 million years ago
Postprocessual archaeology
branch that argues that archaeologists should emulate historians in interpreting the past
Absolute dating
state the date absolutely in terms of today's date
Datum point
serves as a reference for all depth measurements
Diachronic studies
changes through long periods of time
Relative chronology
laces assemblages in a temporal sequence not directly linked to calendar dates
the growth and deelopment of an individual organism
one of the earliest hominoids, which lived between thirty-five million and twenty-three million years ago
Molecular clock
allows the timing of the split between lineages to be calculated on the basis of the degree of genetic similarity
the biological family that includes humans, great apes, and gibbons
Postdepositional-process analysis
examines the natural and cultural processes that have affected the formation of archaeological sites
of, relating to, or denoting the Stone Age
between two or more archaeological sites
Absolute chronology
stated in terms of calendar years
Agency theory
theory which stresses the centrality of individuals living in society as the basic unit of archaeology
the members of the human lineage after it split with the chimpanzee lineage
Olduvai Gorge
location in Tanzania where many hominin fossils and archaeological sites have been discovered
Homo erectus
the first member of the hominin lineage to spread out of Africa
in situ
describes material recovered in the place where it was originally deposited
Archaeological theory
consists of the ideas that archaeologists have developed about the past and about the ways we come to know the past
the science of the origin and development of the universe, and the religions that study it
Evolutionary archaeology
involves a range of approaches that stress the importance of evolutionary theory as a unifying theory for archaeology
within a single archaeological site
Regional survey
the attempt to systematically locate previously unknown sites in a region
the earliest well characterized archaeological industry dating between 19 and 1.15 million years ago, its charcteristic tool being the chopper
used to represent the large quantities of material recovered in excavations and surveys
Lower Paleolithic
the period when hominins began producing stone tools, roughly 2.5 million to 200 000 years ago
Harris matrix
a tool used to depict the temporal succession of archaeological contexts and thus the sequence of deposition on a "dry-land" archaeological site
Tai forest
location where chimpanzees used stone hamers and anvils as tools to break open nuts
non-artifact natural remains with cultural importance
objects that were believed to be formed when lightning struck the earth
Primary context
acquisition, manufacturing, use & deposition occur in one location and is not disturbed
the act of identifying the age of sites/artifacts using various methods
the evolutionary history of a species
the analysis of order and position of layers of archaeological remains
Systems theory
views society as an interconnected network of elements that together form a whole
involves drawing inferences on the basis of available data
species characterized by massive molars and muscles for chewing, dating from 2.5 to 1.4 million years ago
Postdepositional processes
the events which take place after a site has been occupied
Mitochondrial DNA
located outside of the cell nucleus, combines DNA from each parent
the characteristic tools of the African Acheulian, invluding handaxes and cleavers
Three-age system
divided prehistory into the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages
Paleolithic (Old Stone Age)
the period during which humans lived with now-extinct animals
the science or technique of dating events, environmental change, and archaeological artifacts by using the characteristic patterns of annual growth rings in timber and tree trunks
a list of artifact types for a particular archaeological context
the study of the processes that affect organic remains after death
Neolithic (New Stone Age)
the period in which there are polished stone tools
study of human beings
a discrete layer in a stratigraphic sequence
Soil micromorphology
field that observes the attributes of the soil within various soil horizons and their arrangements
site for the infamous discovery of australopithecine footprints
Synchronic studies
within a single time period
location in Kenya with stone tools dating back to 2.3 million years ago
a method used to recover charred botanical material (wood and seeds) by mixing sediments with water and allowing the charred remains to float to the surface
a particular characteristic of an artifact
Law of superposition
in an undisturbed depositional sequence, each layer is younger than the layer beneath it
concept which views our knowledge of the past as a continual process of interpretation
the exposure, processing and recording of archaeological remains
Horizontal excavation
excavation of a broad area to expose the remains of a single point in time
Vertical excavation
excavation to expose the record of a sequence of occupation
New archaeology
a concerted effort to develop archaeological theory firmly on the basis of scientific method
Wet screening
in which water is sprayed onto sediments as they pass through a screen—it is often used to recover very small artifacts and bones
measures reversals in the earth's magnetic field
Biological anthropology
seeks to understand the physical human being through the study of human evolution and adaptability, population genetics, and primatology
scientists who study the evolutionary history of the hominoids
Geographical Information System (GIS)
software applications that allow spatial data to be brought together and consolidated
Depositional unit
material deposited at a particular point in time
the act of gaining as much data as possible from an excavation and organizing it into a coherent body of information
Middle-range research
looks at processes that can be observed in the present and that can serve as a point of reference to test hypotheses about the past
Relative dating
comparatively placing events on a timeline without specific dates
earliest-known primate, which lived between ninety and sixty-five million years ago
Anthropogenic deposits
deposits that are the result of human activity
industry in Africa which dates between 1.7 million and approximately 200,000 years ago, characteristic tool being the biface
Argo dating
identifies the time of a volcanic eruption
Obsidian hydration
measures the decay of the surface of obsidian artifacts
a group of organisms that can produce fertile offspring
region of Ethiopia where the Gona site is located, with the oldest-known stone tools found dating back to 2.5 million years ago
looking at styles of similar objects comparatively
the spatial and temporal relation of archaeological material
non-portable human made remains that cannot be removed from an archaeological site
Nuclear DNA
located in the cell nucleus, combines DNA from each parent
location where archaeological materials (artifacts, ecofacts, fossils, features) exist in context
Cultural anthropology
the investigation of the culture and social organization of a particular people. (this is often comparitive)
Radiocarbon dating
measures the decay of carbon isotopes
Site survey
the attempt to systematically locate features of interest within a site
Sahelanthropus tchadensis
one of te earliest-known members of the hominin lineage, dating to 7 million years ago
Feminist archaeology
focuses on the way archaeologists study and represent gender, as well as bringing attention to gender inequities in the practice of archaeology
species dating between 4 and 2.5 million years ago, providing the first evidence of being bipedal; famously named "Lucy"
Miocene era
23 to 5 million years ago, this period saw an explosion in the number of hominoid species
species dating back to 3.5 million years ago, discovered in northern Kenya
Secondary context
has been moved naturally
patterning of related archaeological sites across a landscape
Luminescence dating methods
measures the uptake of radioactive material

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