Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Glossary of Selected Archaeological Terms (a work in progress)

Like any other profession, archaeology uses specific industry language that can be difficult to understand. Archaeologists use many technical terms and unique jargon in their work to describe particular periods, techniques and artifacts. Although I initially attempted to explain these terms at the end of some blog posts, I thought it might be more useful to add an archaeology Glossary to this weblog for better ease of reference. The subject of archaeology should be made accessible to everyone and, in my last couple of posts, I emphasized the importance of stimulating public interest in order to promote awareness for our cultural resources and heritage preservation. For more information, see my previous articles here and here. As an advocate for archaeology education, I feel it is my duty to help the uninitiated reader have a basic understanding of the concepts and terms that are frequently used within the archaeological profession. The purpose of this Glossary therefore is to help the user better understand archaeological terminology, no matter the level of interest possessed. Whether you are a professional in the heritage sector, an educator, a student, an avocational archaeologist, or someone who has just embarked on the subject, you should be able to comprehend this information. 

Using the Glossary

(a) Each term defined in this Glossary is shown alphabetically in bold font.
(b) Terms may be single words or longer phrases and may include domain-specific jargon or abbreviations.
(c) Within the text of definitions, supplementary terms defined elsewhere in the Glossary are shown in italics for ease of cross-referencing.
(d) Within the text of each new blog post, the terms available for access in this Glossary will be shown in bold font.
(e) Glossary entries are provided primarily in US English although UK English is also included where appropriate.

Scope of Glossary

Please note that this Glossary does not provide a comprehensive list, as the terminology specific to the discipline of archaeology is seemingly infinite. Further, this Glossary is a work in progress and entries may increase as new blog postings are added. It is also not intended as a study guide for students, although a mastering of this “archaeological vocabulary” may enhance some courses taken in archaeology. The Glossary’s main purpose is to provide a quick and easy reference to the meanings of popular terminology used in the field of archaeology. For further information about the terms defined, it is recommended that the reader consult external sources such as those listed in the Bibliography below.

Documents and publications of relevant sources used for the formation of this Glossary are included in the Bibliography. This Glossary is a work in progress and any errors found are my own (I do not have an editor for this weblog). Readers are invited to submit new terms, suggest changes or request the addition of abbreviations. You may comment in the box below or send an email to:

I hope you will find this Glossary useful! 


Sections of this Glossary were assembled with the help of a number of sources. Valued references include:

Lord, J. W. 1993. The Nature and Subsequent Uses of Flint. Volume 1: The Basics of Lithic Technology. John W. Lord.

Renfrew, C and Bahn, P. 2004 (4th edn.) Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. Thames & Hudson

Rice, P. C. 1998. Doing Archaeology: A Hands-On Laboratory Manual. Mayfield Publishing Company.

Zimmerman, Larry J. and Molyneaux, B. L. 1996. Native North America. University of Oklahoma Press.


  1. I have more interest to read your all updates. Great work and rare archaeology collections are here.Always i follow your blog.Now i will add your blog link in our archaeology excavation blog. If you like our blog updates please provide our blog link in your blog.

  2. Thank you. I'm pleased you enjoy my posts and hope you find them useful. Thank you also for informing me of your "Archaeology Excavation" blog (very interesting). I look forward to reading the updates on your site, as well as on your "Great Archaeology" website, which I have included within my related web links. I would be interested to hear more about your work (I had trouble locating your name, research history, etc. on your profile).


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