Glossary of Archaeological/Anthropological Terms


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HAAB __ One of the three Maya calendars, and the one which corresponds most closely to ours in length. The Haab is also known as the "Vague Year" by archaeologists, since it is 365 days in length, or about a quarter day short of the actual solar year.

HABITAT __ The specific area where a species lives. 

HABITATION AREA __ A generalized term for a house or tent floor, or the remains of any other type of aboriginal shelter.

HABITATION SITE __ An archaeological site which served as a residence. Evidence pointing toward this function might include remains of dwelling structures and cooking areas.

HABITUS __ As defined by Bourdieu, a culturally specific way not only of doing and speaking, but also of seeing, thinking and categorising. Habitus tends to be"naturalized" in that it is taken for granted or assimilated into the unconscious so that habitus is a necessary condition of action and shared understanding.

HADES __ The underworld and also the name of the Greek god of the underworld. The Romans called the god Hades, Pluto.

HADITH __ A collection of sayings and acts of Muhammad and the first Muslims. They are the record of the Prophet's Sunna, which is second only to the Quran in authority for Muslims.

HADRIAN __ Roman emperor from 117 to 138 CE.

HAFT __ The handle of a knife, the shaft of a spear, etc.; to equip with a haft.
HAFTING __ The process of equipping a blade (sense 2) with a handle; the handle itself together with the bindings.

HALF LIFE __ The time elapsed when half the atoms in a sample of a radioactive isotope (such as C14 or K40) have decayed, or disintegrated.

HAMMERSTONE __ A rounded cobble, sometimes equipped with a groove to facilitate hafting. Signs of use may include pecking facets or battering at the working end.

HAND AXE __ A core tool flaked on both sides, generally fist-size, and commonly manufactured in the later portion of the Lower Paleolithic and Middle Paleolithic periods.

HAND LEVEL __ A small, simple, hand-held surveying instrument for establishing horizontal lines-of-sight over short distances. 

HAND-MAUL __ A carefully manufactured unhafted stone hammer.

HANGING GARDENS OF BABYLON __ Huge step pyramids covered with lush vegetation, built about 600 B.C. by King Nebuchadnezzar for his wife in Mesopotamia, which is now modern Iraq. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Hanging Gardens no longer exist.

HANNA __ A corner-notched. expanding-stemmed, concave-based projectile point style of the Middle Prehistoric Period in the Northern Plains. Hanna points are included within the McKean Complex (Wheeler l954).
HARDNESS __ The quality of being resistant to scratching or deformation. Hardness is considered to be a diagnostic attribute of pottery and is measured by means of the Moh Scale. Aboriginal pottery in Manitoba ranges from 2 to approximately 3.5 on this scale of l0.

HAREM __ A subunit of a larger social group consisting of a male associated with two or more females.

HARPOON __ A spear with a (frequently) barbed, detachable head. Upon striking the prey, the main shaft falls away and the harpoon head, with a line attached, remains in the animal.

HARPOON HEAD __ The arming tip of a harpoon. generally classifiable into 2 main forms - toggling and barbed - each of which may be composite or single-piece, and may or may not carry additional cutting-blades or side-blades. Always have line-guards or other means of line attachment.
HASP __ A fastening device.

HATSHEPSUT __ Queen of New Kingdom Egypt from 1479 to 1458 B.C., first alongside her half-brother, Thutmosis II (who became her husband), and then alongside her nephew, Thutmosis III. A great builder and leader, she is often thought of as Egypt's greatest woman ruler.

HEARTH __ A fireplace; an open area within which a fire has been deliberately kindled for cooking, light or warmth. Such a feature may be defined on the basis of ash, charcoal, blackened earth, an encircling ring of cobbles, fire-broken rock, burned bones or a baked clay floor.

HEAT TREATMENT __ An aboriginal process by which the flaking properties of a rock were improved by controlled heating in a fire. 

HEDJET __ A white crown. This was the crown of Upper Egypt (southern).

HEEL TOE STRIDE __ A method of progression characteristic of humans in which the heel strikes the ground first and the person pushes off on the big toe. 

HEGEMONY __ Preponderant influence or authority of one individual or social group over another. 

HELIOCENTRIC __ A sun-centered model of the universe.

HELLENISTIC PERIOD __ Historic period that begins after the death of Alexander the Great. His empire was broken up and ruled by dynastics mostly descended from his generals and were strongly influenced by Greek culture.

HEMATITE __ A red to black oxide of iron having variable hardness and commonly used as a point by Native North Americans. Hematite is also known as red ochre, particularly in its softer forms or after having been

HEPHAISTOS __ Greek god of fire and blacksmithing, known as Vulcan by the Romans.

HERA __ Wife of Zeus and Greek goddess of family and marriage. The Romans called her Juno.

HERAEA GAMES __ The female version of the Greek Olympic Games. The games honored the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus, and featured foot races for three different age groups along a 525-foot track. The women ran in a tiny tunic (a chiton), which was cut to expose one breast. Like men in the Olympic Games, winners of the Heraea Games received trophies.

HERAKLES __ Greek mythological hero, son of the god Zeus and the mortal Alkmene. Known for courage and great strength. Called Hercules by the Romans.

HERCULANEUM __ Less famous than Pompeii but much better preserved, Herculaneum was also buried by the A.D. 79 eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. The city lies two miles northwest of Pompeii and was home to about 5,000 people. The city has been difficult for excavators to uncover, because it lies under a substance harder than concrete and because much of the modern Italian city of Ercolano was built right on top of it.

HERCULES __ The legendary hero of Greek and Roman mythology forced to perform Twelve Labors in order to make the Gods happy and pay for the crime of killing his wife and children. Hercules is one of the most commonly shown figures in ancient art. Called Herakles by the Greeks.

HERM __ Sculpted stone pillar topped with a head.

HERMENEUTICS __ Principles of interpretation; the term is often used with reference to the study of Jewish and Christian scriptures.

HERMES __ Greek god who was herald and messenger of the other gods. Known as Mercury to the Romans.

HESPERIDES __ Nymphs who guarded the golden apples, the stealing of which was the last of Hercules labors.

HEWN __ Wood shaped by heavy cutting or chopping blows struck by hand tools such as axes or adzes.

HIERATIC __ Cursive Egyptian script derived from hieroglyphs. Word comes from Greek hieratikos (priestly).

HIEROGLYPHS __ The earliest Egyptian script, introduced about 3000 B.C. and used until about A.D. 4. It was used for important inscriptions, although it was also often painted or written on papyrus rather that carved.

HIGH ALTITUDE MOUNTAIN SICKNESS __ A condition that includes shortness of breath, physical and mental fatigue, rapid pulse rate, headaches; occurs in persons not acclimatized to high altitudes.

HIGH PRIEST __ The head of the local priesthood.

HIGHER TAXA __ Taxa above the species level, such as family, order, class, phylum, and kingdom

HINDUISM __ The third largest religion in the world (behind Christianity and Islam). Hinduism is native to and predominantly practiced in India. Followers of the Hindu religion are known as Hindus. Hinduism is a diverse body of religion, philosophy, and cultural practice. Unlike Christianity or Islam, Hinduism has no founder. Hindus believe in a supreme soul called Brahman, who has no real shape or form. Different aspects or characteristics of Brahman are represented by the gods and goddesses of Hinduism. Hinduism's three main gods are Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the protector; and Shiva, the destroyer.

HINGE FEATURE __ A kind of cleavage produced by a flake which does not run its full length. The point of termination is abrupt, and the flake is rounded on its ventral face and sharp on its dorsal face at the distal end.

HISTORIC ARCHAEOLOGY __ The archaeology of a people for whom there are written records. In North America therefore historic archaeology is the archaeology of people after European contact. 

HISTORICAL LINGUISTICS __ The study of how languages change over time. 

HISTORICAL PARTICULARISM __ A detailed descriptive approach to anthropology associated with Franz Boas and his students, and designed as an alternative to the broad generalizing approach favored by anthropologists such as Morgan and Tylor.

HISTORICAL RECORD __ Artifacts, particularly documents and photographs, retained within an adaptive system.

HISTORIOGRAPHIC APPROACH __ A form of explanation based primarily on traditional descriptive historical frameworks. 

HOARDS __ Deliberately buried groups of valuables or prized possessions, often in times of conflict or war, and which, for one reason or another, have not been reclaimed. Metal hoards are a primary source of evidence for the European Bronze Age. 

HOLISM __ The philosophical view that no complex entity can be considered to be only the sum of its parts; as a principle of anthropology, the assumption that any given aspect of human life is to be studied with an eye to its relation to other aspects of human life.

HOLOCENE __ The most recent epoch of the Quaternary; that period of time since the end of the Pleistocene or "Ice Age" (l0,000 or l2,000 years ago) until the present. According to some, the Holocene is not a separate epoch at all -- it is simply a brief warm spell within the Pleistocene. The Holocene is also known as the Recent Epoch.

HOME BASE __ A location to which males and females return in human societies. 

HOMER __ Greek poet who composed the Iliad and the Odyssey.

HOME RANGE __ The area occupied by an animal or animal group. 

HOMEOSTASIS __ A term used in systems thinking to describe the action of negative feedback processes in maintaining the system at a constant equilibrium state.

HOMINID __ Human. Part of the family of Hominidae, which includes both extinct and modern forms of humans.

HOMINIDAE __ Family of the superfamily Hominoidea that includes humans. 

HOMINOID __ A member of the superfamily Hominoidea, which includes apes and humans.

HOMINOIDEA __ Superfamily of the suborder Anthropoidea that includes the apes and humans.

HOMO ERECTUS __ Meaning "upright man." This Early Stone Age hunter colonized new habitats throughout Africa, Europe, and southern Asia. Bigger and brainier than Homo Habilis or Australopithicus, Homo Erectus had the thickest skull of any member of the human species. Its strong muscles joining its neck to the rear skull bump stopped its heavy head from sagging forward. Average height was between 5 and 6 ft., and weight, 88 to 160 lbs.

HOMO HABILIS __ Meaning "handy man." This was the first known species of our genus, Homo. Homo Habilis had a larger brain, but a smaller face and jaw and a more rounded head, than Australopithicus. Homo Habilis was about 5 feet tall, weighed about 110 pounds, and had a brow ridge, flat nose, and projecting jaw. This species lived about 1.52 million years ago, perhaps longer. Its hand and foot bones suggest that it was bipedal (walked upright) and had a strong yet sensitive grip.

HOMO SAPIENS __ The biological class to which all living human beings belong as well as their immediate ancestors including the "Cro-Magnons". Some include the Neanderthals within this species also.

HOMOLOGY __ A similarity due to inheritance from a common ancestor.

HOPEWELL __ A Middle Woodland Period culture (or cult) which occupied (or "influenced") much of eastern North America. Closely related to Adena, this Ohio/Illinois-centered "complex" consisted of log tombs within burial mounds, grit-tempered utilitarian pottery, effigy vessels for inclusion with the dead, elaborate ceramic figurines, stone platform pipes which often incorporated human and animal likenesses, sheet copper ornaments, earspools, finely made ceremonial knives of obsidian and effigy mounds -- the latter in the shape of panthers, bears, birds, turtles, and other animals. Hopewell artifacts which are believed to have been ceremonial in function are very similar over vast areas while utilitarian objects vary regionally. This has led some to believe that Hopewell is simply a religion, cult or belief system shared by a number of groups with different languages and subsistence modes. The sheer ambitiousness in some of the Hopewell earthworks and the fineness of their artworks have suggested to some the ranked society, division of labor, and occupational specialization usually associated with farming societies. Direct evidence, however, is not overly convincing. It seems more probable that Hopewell people made their living by hunting, fishing and gathering a wide variety of resources within a rich environment.
HOPLITE __ A citizen of a Greek city state rich enough to afford body armor and required to serve in a time of crisis.

HORIZON (1) __ A discrete regional cultural period or level of cultural development marked by some easily recognizable criterion or trait. 

HORIZON (2) __ In soil-science terminology, a natural developmental zone in a soil profile such as the "A-horizon".

HORIZONTAL ANGLE __ In mapping, the angle of sight measured on the level or horizontal plane. 

HORIZONTAL CIRCLE __ With major surveying instruments, the graduated horizontal table around which the sighting telescope revolves; used to measure the horizontal angle. 

HORIZONTAL DATUM __ A base measuring point ("0.0 point") used as the origin of rectangular coordinate systems for mapping or for maintaining excavation provenience. 

HORIZONTAL DISTANCE __ The measurement of distance on a true level plane. 

HORIZONTAL MIGRATION __ A nomadic pattern characterized by regular movement over a large area in search of grass; also called plains migration.

HORIZONTAL PROVINIENCE __ The location of an object on a two-dimensional plane surface.

HORTICULTURE __ The science and art of growing fruit, flowers, ornamental plants, and vegetables in small gardens.

HORUS __ Egyptian god associated with the living pharaoh and often portrayed with the head of a falcon, son of Osiris and Isis, opponent of the god Seth.

HORUS NAME __ A Pharaoh's name. It identifies the pharaoh with a form of the god Horus.

HOUSE PIT __ An aboriginally excavated house floor. 

HOUSEHOLD __ A domestic residential group whose members live together in intimate contact, rear children, share the proceeds of labor and other resources held in common, and in general cooperate on a day-to-day basis.

HU (Chinese) __ Wine vessel

HUNTER GATHERERS __ People or societies that are dependent on wild food resources. Hunter-gatherers are usually from technologically simple societies that are highly mobile. Also sometimes called "foragers."

HYDRATION __ Formation of a bond between water and some material.

HYDRIA __ A pot used to bring water to the table. It had two horizontal handles for carrying and a vertical handle for pouring.

HYDROPHYTE __ A damp-loving plant which grows only under water or in very moist soil.
HYKSOS __ People from western Asia (Palestine) who conquered the Nile Delta and ruled Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period. Their expulsion by the Pharaoh Amose may have given rise to the Exodus story. The name Amose in Hebrew is Moses.

HYPOSTYLE HALL __ From the Greek word meaning; "bearing pillars". It is a term used to describe the grand, outermost halls of Egyptian temples. They are believed to represent a grove of trees.

HYPOTHESIS __ A proposition or explanation which is advanced, without assumption of its truth, as a basis for further investigation, validation or rejection.

HYPOTHETICO-DEDUCTIVE EXPLANATION __ A form of explanation based on the formulation of hypotheses and the establishment from them by deduction of consequences which can then be tested against the archaeological data. 

HYPOXIA __ Low oxygen pressure due to being at high altitude. 



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