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OBELISK __ From the Greek word meaning; "a spit". It is a monumental
tapering shaft usually made of pink granite. Capped with a pyramidion at
the top. Obelisks are solar symbols similar in meaning to pyramids, they
are associated with an ancient stone called benben in Heliopolis. They
were set in pairs, at the entrances of temples, and to some Old Kingdom
tombs. (e.g. Cleopatra's Needle in New York City) Modern obelisks
include such things as the Washington Monument and are still popular as
memorial markers in many parts of the world.
OBESITY __ A condition in which a person's weight is 20 percent greater than
a sex- and age-specific weight-for-height standard.
OBOL __ Greek coin worth one sixth of a Drachma.
OBSERVATION __ Looking at and critically noting the details of a site, an
artifact, or cultural behavior.
OBSIDIAN __ A volcanic glass which is one of the finest raw materials for the
chipping of stone tools.
OBSIDIAN HYDRATION DATING __ A technique in which the age of an obsidian
artifact is determined from the thickness of the layer of hydration.
OBVERSE __ The "head" side of a coin.
OCCUPATION SPAN __ The length of time a settlement is occupied.
OCCUPATION SURFACE __ A boundary layer between depositional strata upon which
activities were carried out (also called a living floor)
OCHRE __ A general term for any of the clays or earths containing ferric
oxide, silica and alumina. Ranging in colour from yellow through red to brown,
ochre was widely used as a prigment for decorative and ceremonial purposes
throughout much of prehistory
OCOTILLO __ This plant, also called the coach whip, is characterized by
clumps of straight, thorny whip-like stems with no branches. When there is
adequate rainfall, the ocotillo leafs out, but loses its leaves when the soil
dries. The plant has brilliant red flowers that occur at the tips of its many
stems. Ocotillos occur below 5000 feet, from west Texas to southeastern
California and northern Mexico.
OFF-SITE DATA __ Evidence from a range of -information, including scatters of
artifacts and features such as plowmarks and field boundaries, that provides
important evidence about human exploitation of the environment.
OLD COPPER __ A late Archaic complex or culture, centered in the western Great
Lakes region characterized by well-made copper artifacts. These include socketed,
"rat-tail", lanceolate, conical and stemmed projectile points, large crescentic
shaped objects, woodworking and hideworking tools, fishing equipment, and
occasionally, ornamental objects. Associated artifacts include concave-based
side-notched projectile points with square basal edges termed either Raddatz or
Osceola, scrapers, drills, "burned" hornstone blades (sense 2), "turkey-tail"
blades, bannerstones, triangular cache blades, ground axes, shell beads, bone
awls, antler points, notched swan bones, elk antler axes, shell gorgets and
antler shaft wrenches. Much of our information on this complex comes from
cemeteries and as a consequence, the mortuary pattern is quite well-known. Both
primary and secondary (bundle) single and multiple, flexed and extended
interments are reported and these may occur in either oval or rectangular pits.
Ochre, copper, lithic or faunal grave goods may accompany the deceased and the
graves may have been ceremonially burned over. The grave escort or "retainer"
phenomenon is also known for this culture. Old Copper peoples appear to have
employed a diversified economy eccompassing the collection of nuts, acorns and
perhaps wild rice in the fall, fishing in the spring, summer and early fall, the
taking of wildfowl in the spring and fall, the trapping of small fur-bearing
mammals throughout the year and the hunting of moose and deer. Old Copper
artifacts have been found over much of southern Manitoba although they seem to
be most common in the forests of the southeastern quarter of the province. The
association of finished artifacts, "ingots" of unmodified copper, and waste
fragments from tool manufacture suggests that these people imported copper for
tool production, rather than receiving finished tools from outside the province.
Radiocarbon dates on copper sites argue for a considerable time-depth and a
substantial antiquity although most would agree that the period from 3000 B.C.
to l000 B.C. marks the peak of Old Copper usage in its "heartland". Radiocarbon
dates from eastern Manitoba fall between 2000 and l700 B.C. although it seems
clear that Old Copper implements were made and used for a much longer period
OLD KINGDOM __ Egyptian chronological term for dynasties 3-6.
OLD WORLD/NEW WORLD __ The Old World includes the continents of Europe, Asia,
Africa, and Australia and all their associated land. The New World includes the
continents of North and South America and their associated land.
OLDUVAI GORGE __ One of the most important sites for understanding both human
evolution and the development of the earliest tools. (around 1.9 million years
OLIVELLA __ A genus of small marine snails native to the Pacific coast of North
America and elsewhere which were used prehistorically as ornaments and as a
medium of exchange.
OLMEC __ A highly elaborate Mesoamerican culture on the Mexican gulf coast
which was at its height from 1200 to 600 B.C. The Olmec influenced the rise and
development of the other great civilizations of Mesoamerica, such as the Maya,
and were probably the first to develop large religious and ceremonial centers
with temple mounds, monumental sculptures, massive altars, and sophisticated
systems of drains and lagoons. The Olmec were probably also the first
Mesoamericans to devise glyph writing and the 360-day calendar.
OLYMPIA __ Site of Greek sanctuary to Zeus and home of the Olympic Games.
OLYMPUS __ Mountain in the north of Greece believed to be the home of the
OMNIVOROUS __ Feeding on both animal and vegetable matter.
OPEN SITES __ Any site not located in a cave or rock shelter.
OPENING OF THE MOUTH __ This Egyptian ceremony was performed at the funeral
to restore the senses of the deceased. The ceremony was done by touching an adze
to the mouth of a mummy or statue of the deceased, it was believed to restore
the senses in preparation for the afterlife.
OPPOSABLE THUMB __ An anatomical arrangement in which the fleshy tip of the
thumb can touch the fleshy tip of all the fingers.
OPTICAL EMISSION SPECTROMETRY __ A technique used in the analysis of artifact
composition, based on the principle that electrons, when excited (i.e. heated to
a high temperature), release light of a particular wavelength. The presence or
absence of various elements is established by examining the appropriate spectral
line of their characteristic wavelengths. Generally, this method gives an
accuracy of only 25 percent and has been superseded by ICPS (inductively coupled
plasma emission spectrometry).
ORAL HISTORY __ Verbally transmitted information about past events. Although
often providing information about non-written events, such history is subject to
the vagaries of human perceptions and mental recall.
ORDEAL __ A painful and possibly life-threatening test inflicted on someone
suspected of a wrongdoing.
ORDER __ A major division of a class, consisting of closely related
ORGANIC SOLIDARITY __ The unity of a society formed of dissimilar,
specialized groupings, each having a restricted function (Durkheim).
ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS __ As members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, this branch
of Christianity is a product of Middle Eastern, Hellenic, and Slavic history and
culture. It is seen as holding to traditional teachings and values born in
ORTHODOX JUDAISM __ The branch of Judaism that is committed to keeping its
contract with the past. It stresses commitment to Jewish law and observance of
all of the Jewish commandments and obligations.
ORTHOGRADE __ Vertical posture.
OSIRIS __ Egyptian god of the underworld and judge of the dead.
OSSIFICATION __ The process of bone formation.
OSTEODONTOKERATIC CULTURE __ an archaeological culture based upon tools made
of bone, teeth, and ivory.
OSTEOLOGY __ The scientific study of the development, structure and function
OSTRACON __ From the Greek word meaning; "potsherd". A chip or shard of
limestone or pottery used as a writing tablet. Ostraca are known from all
OUTBUILDINGS __ A term used to refer to all nonresidential structures on a site.
These include animal pens, storage buildings, sheds, barns, etc.
OUTCROPS __ A term designating the surface exposure of rock layers, which have
not been decomposed into soil.
OUTWASH __ Rubble (sand, gravel etc.) deposited by water derived from melting
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