Glossary of Archaeological/Anthropological Terms


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EARED __ Used in the description of projectile points the ear-shaped or "tab-like" projections at the basal corners produced by the combination of a concave base and deep, wide side-notches.

EARLY MAN __ In the New World this term refers to the oldest known human occupants - i.e. prior to ca. 8,000 B.P.

EARLY PREHISTORIC PERIOD __ The most ancient of the periods of human occupation in North America and closely equivalent in meaning to Paleo-Indian. In Europe, the Mideast and elsewhere, the time preceding the beginnings of agriculture.

EARLY SIDE-NOTCHED POINT TRADITION __ A grouping of early Middle Prehistoric Period complexes characterized by side-notched projectile point styles (generally the first side-notched styles in the region) which have been given a number of different names: Mummy Cave, Bitterroot, Salmon River, Logan Creek, Simonsen, etc. These are by-and-large restricted to the Northern Plains and neighboring regions and coincide with the Altithermal or Atlantic Climatic Episode. A number of radiocarbon dates in excess of 8000 years clearly indicate that the authors of this tradition were contemporary with the Palaeo-Indians. Where preservation is good, these materials tend to be associated with the remains of now-extinct species of bison.

EARTHENWARE __ A type of pottery made from common clay and fired at a temperature of less than l000 C. The resulting vessel is soft and porous and requires a glaze to render it waterproof.

EARTHWORK __ A fortification, burial mound or other construction fashioned by the excavation and/or heaping of earth. 

EASTER ISLAND __ An island in the South Pacific (Polynesia), which has also been called Rapa Nui since 1860, where giant statues called "moai" are found.

EASTERN CROSS TIMBERS __ A relatively narrow, north-south strip of forested land that divides the Grand Prairie to the west from the Blackland Prairie to the east in North Central Texas. The Eastern Cross Timbers are associated with the sandier soils of the Woodbine geologic formation.

ECCENTRIC FLINT __ Flint cut in a pattern.

ECCLESIASTICAL CULT __ A highly complex religious system headed by a full-time priest. 
ECHO-SOUNDING __ An acoustic underwater-survey technique, used to trace the topography of submerged coastal plains and other buried land surfaces.

ECOFACT __ An object or substance found in a site which is of natural origin but which nonetheless provides information pertinent to archaeology. Examples might include fauna, flora, pollen and soil.

ECOLOGICAL DETERMINISM __ A form of explanation in which it is implicit that changes in the environment determine changes in human society.

ECOLOGICAL NICHE __ The function or position of an organism in a community of organisms.

ECOLOGY __ The study of interrelationships of organisms and their environment.

ECONOMIC ANTHROPOLOGY __ A subdiscipline of anthropology that attempts to understand how the schedule of wants and demands of a society is balanced against the supply of goods and services available, withthe recognition that economic processes cannot be interpreted without culturally defining the demands and understanding the conventions that dictate how and when they are satisfied.

ECONOMIC CLASS __ A group that is defined by the economic position of its members in relation to the means of production in the society--the wealth and relative eocnomic control they may command. 

ECONOMIC SYSTEM __ The ideas and institutions that people draw upon and the behaviors in which they engage in order to secure resources to satisfy their needs and desires. 
ECOSYSTEM __ A group of organisms with specific relationships between themselves and a particular environment. 

ECTOTHERM __ An animal that derives much of its body heat from external heat sources.

EFFIGY __ A likeness of a person or animal.

EFFIGY BOWL __ A vessel crafted in the shape of a person or animal.

EFFIGY MOUND __ An earthwork constructed in the shape of an animal or bird. Those of the upper Mississippi are the most well-known in North America. Of probable Hopewell affiliation, these may only be a metre or two in height but may be over l00 m. in length. Occasionally, human burials have been found within them.

EFFIGY PIPE __ An aboriginal smoking pipe shaped to resemble a human or animal form.

EFFIGY VESSEL __ A container fashioned in the likeness of a human or animal.

EGALITARIAN SOCIETY __ A society that recognizes few differences in wealth, power, prestige, or status. 

ELECTRICAL RESISTIVITY __ Electrolysis A standard cleaning process in archaeological conservation. Artifacts are placed in a chemical solution, and by passing a weak current between them and a surrounding metal grill, the corrosive salts move from the cathode (object) to the anode (grill), removing any accumulated deposit and leaving the artifact clean. 

ELECTRON PROBE MICROANALYSIS __ Used in the analysis of artifact composition, this technique is similar to XRF (X-ray fluorescence spectrometry), and is useful for studying small changes in composition within the body of an artifact. 

ELECTRON SPIN RESONANCE __ A chronometric dating technique based upon the behavior of electrons in crystals exposed to naturally occurring radioactivity; used to date limestone, coral, shell, teeth, and other materials. Enables trapped electrons within bone and shell to be measured without the heating that thermoluminescence requires.

EL DORADO __ A Spanish phrase, meaning "the Gilded One" or "the Golden Man," which refers to a legendary South American king who covered himself in gold. European adventurers (mostly Spanish) became obsessed with finding the legendary treasures of El Dorado, and searched for a city filled with gold throughout the 16th- and 17th-centuries. 

ELECTRUM __ A mixture of gold and silver.

ELEVATION __ A measurement of vertical distance in mapping.

ELUVIATION __ The process by which fine particles of soil are moved downward through the soil profile by rain water thus leaving the coarser particles nearer the surface.

EMBALM __ Process of preserving a dead body.

EMIC __ A perspective in ethnography that uses the concepts and categories that are relevant and meaningful to the culture under analysis. 

EMPATHETIC METHOD __ The use of personal intuition (in German Einfuhlung to seek to understand the inner lives of other people, using the assumption that there is a common structure to human experience. The assumption that the study of the inner experience of humans provides a handle for interpreting prehistory and history is made by idealist thinkers such as B. Croce, R.G. Collingwood and members of the "postprocessual" school of thought. 

EMPERICAL __ Received through the senses (sight, touch, smell, hearing, taste), either directly or through extensions.

EMPERICISM __ Reliance on observable and quantifiable data.

EMPIRE __ The behavioral component of regional systems tied together by trade and political and military activities.

EMULATION __ One of the most frequent features accompanying competition, where customs, buildings, and artifacts in one society may be adopted by neighboring ones through a process of imitation which is often competitive in nature.

ENCULTURATION __ The process by which the young learn their own culture.

ENDOGAMY __ The restriction of choice of spouses to members of one's own group.

ENDOTHERM __ An animal whose body heat is regulated by internal physiological mechanisms.

END SCRAPER __ A stone tool formed by chipping the end of a flake of stone which can then be used to scrape animal hides and wood.

ENGINEERS LEVEL __ An optical surveying instrument designed to obtain accurate level lines of sight and turn.

ENNEAD __ A group of 9 Egyptian deities that are associated with a major cult center. The best known is the great ennead of Heliopolis, It consists of Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys.

ENTREPRENEURS __ Individuals who are willing to take risks and break with traditional practices in order to make a profit. 

ENTREPRENEURSHIP __ Economic innovation and risk taking.

ENVIRONMENT __ The sum of the external conditions and influences which surround an object or organism -- particularly the ecological and social settings in which people work and live.

ENVIRONMENTAL ARCHAEOLOGY __ A field in which inter-disciplinary research, involving archaeologists and natural scientists, is directed at the reconstruction of human use of plants and animals, and how past societies adapted to changing environmental conditions. 

ENVIRONMENTAL CIRCUMSCRIPTION __ An explanation for the origins of the state propounded by Robert Carneiro that emphasizes the fundamental role exerted by environmental constraints and by territorial limitations.

ENVIRONMENTAL FORMATION PROCESS __ Biological, chemical, and physical aspects of the environment responsible for forming and modifying the archaeological record.

ENVIRONMENTAL ZONE __ Regional plant-animal associations that are climatically determined.

EOLITHS __ Very crudely chipped or shaped stones that were first thought to be tools. Some scholars have thought they were natural pieces of stone, not shaped by humans.

EPIDERMIS __ The outermost layer of the skin. 

EPOCH __ A unit of geological time; a division of a period.

ERIKSON, LEIF __ Leader of the Vikings (also called Norsemen) who came from Europe and discovered North America in A.D. 1000, 492 years before Columbus.

EROS __ Greek god of love. Known as Cupid by the Romans.

EROSION __ The wearing away of soil, rock and other deposits by natural forces such as wind, flowing water or ice; weathering.
ERRATIC __ A rock which from its shape or composition is entirely foreign to the place where it is found, having been transported by glacial activity.

ESKER __ A sand or gravel ridge formed by water flowing beneath a glacier.

ESKIMO __ l. the Native inhabitants of Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland. Traditionally, the Eskimo lived in small bands and followed a seasonal round of activity. These people are known for their remarkable technological and behavioral adaptations to one of the world's most trying environments. 2. the language of these people.

ETHNIC CLEANSING __ The systematic elimination of a particular ethnic group from a region or society, by means including deportation, forced emigration, or genocide.

ETHNIC GROUP __ The behavioral components of groups of households that recognize a very general common ancestry.

ETHNO_ARCHAEOLOGY __ The approach to archaeology which makes use of observations of the "archaeological" remains of living non-literate peoples in an attempt to gain understanding of the nature of the material evidence associated with specific activities. This contrasts with the study of prehistoric activity areas and the derivation of plausible inferences to define them.

ETHNOCENTRISM __ The judging of other cultures by the standards of one's own culture. This common human tendency almost inevitably leads to the conclusion that other cultures are inferior to one's own.

ETHNOGRAPHIC INFORMATION __ Information obtained from the anthropological study of living peoples.

ETHNOGRAPHY __ The by-and-large descriptive, non-interpretive, non-comparable study of another culture.

ETHNOHISTORY __ The study of the development of a culture by means of archaeological, anthropological and documentary evidence.

ETHNOLOGY __ The scientific, interpretive, comparative study of other cultures.

ETRUSCANS __ People who ruled Etruia (modern Tuscany), prior to being absorbed by the Romans.
EVIDENCE __ Data proving a point or contributing to a solution.

EVOLUTION __ The gradual process by which living organisms have developed since the start of time.

EXCAVATION __ Systematic digging and recording of an archaeological site.

EXOGAMY __ The practice of marrying outside of one's community.

EXPERIMENTAL ARCHAEOLOGY __ Scientific studies designed to discover processes that produced and/or modified artifacts and sites.



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