Glossary of Archaeological/Anthropological Terms - Home
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ULU __ A half-moon shaped Eskimo woman's knife. Typically, it is made of ground slate, and is fitted with a wooden handle.
UMIAK __ A large, open, flat-bottomed boat consisting of walrus hide over a spruce frame and used primarily by Eskimo women.
UNCONFORMITY __ The surface of a stratum that represents a break in the stratigraphic sequence.
UNDERWATER ARCHAEOLOGY __ The process of excavating archaeological material covered by fresh or seawater.
UNDERWATER RECONNAISSANCE __ geophysical methods of underwater survey include (1) a proton magnetometer towed behind a survey vessel, so as to detect iron and steel objects which distort the earth's magnetic field; (2) sidescan sonar that transmits sound waves in a fan-shaped beam to produce a graphic image of surface features on the sea-bed; (3) a sub-bottom profiler that emits sound pulses which bounce back from features and objects buried beneath the sea floor.
UNDERWORLD BOOKS __ A textual and pictorial compositions that is found in New Kingdom tombs. It follows the daily passage of the sun god across the sky and through the underworld.
UNIFACE __ A lithic artifact which has been worked or retouched on one face only.
UNIFACIAL FLAKING __ The removal of secondary flakes from only one surface of a stone nucleus.
UNIFORMITARIANISM __ The principle that maintains that processes seen operating today also operated in the past.
UNILINEAL DESCENT GROUP __ A kin group in which membership is inherited only through either the paternal or the maternal line, as the society dictates.
UNILINEAL EVOLUTION __ A pattern of cultural progress through a sequence of evolutionary stages; the basic premise of the early cultural evolutionists.
UNIT __ One of the squares excavated on an archaeological site; a pit.
UNIT PRODUCTION __ The manufacture of an artifact by a craftsman who performs all the operations in its production.
UNSTRUCTURED INTERVIEW __ An ethnographic data-gathering technique usually used in the early stages of one's fieldwork in which interviewees are asked to respond to broad, open-ended questions.
URAEUS __ A symbol of Egyptian kingship. A rearing cobra was worn on the king's forehead or crown. The cobra was associated with the "eye" of the sun. It was a protector of the king, spitting out fire.
URANIUM SERIES DATING __ A dating method based on the radioactive decay of isotopes of uranium. It has proved particularly useful for the period before 50,000 years ago, which lies outside the time range of radiocarbon dating.
URBANIZATION __ The proportionate rise in the number of people living in cities in comparison to the number living in rural areas.
URBANIZED SOCIETY __ A society in which a majority of people live in cities.
URN __ A pottery vessel, usually rather large, deep, and without handles. Urns were most often used for holding the ashes and bones of the dead and were sometimes buried.
USE LIFE __ The average time that artifacts of a particular type remain in use.
USE WEAR __ The gradual attrition or accumulation of materials that occurs on an artifact during use.
USHABTI __ Literally translated it means "to answer." It is a small mummiform figure placed in tombs to do work in the afterlife on behalf of the deceased. In some tombs of the late New Kingdom whole gangs of ushabti workers were included with different tools for doing different work. A complete collection would consist of 401 ushabti: one for each day of the year, 365 plus 36 foreman.
UTILITARIAN __ Pertaining to the characteristics of an artifact determined by the physical requirements of the job it was made to perform.
U.T.M. abbreviation for Universal Transverse Mercator; a rectangular grid system found on all standard military maps which has been advocated for use in site designation and location by some archaeologists.
VALDERS __ a re-advance of Wisconsin ice in the Lake Superior and Michigan basins at approximately ll,800 B.P.
VANDALISM __ The malicious and intentional destruction or defacing of property.
VARIABLE __ Any property that may be displayed in different forms.
VARNAS CASTE __ Groups in Hindu India associated with certain occupations.
VENTRAL __ l. the flat or concave face of an artifact. 2. that face of an artifact which was nearest to the center of the core from which it was manufactured. 3. of or pertaining to the front of the body; towards the belly.
VENUS __ Roman name for Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty.
VENUS FIGURINES __ Small Upper Paleolithic statues characterized by exaggerated breasts and buttocks and very stylized heads, hands, and feet.
VERTEBRATE __ A member of the subphylum Vertebrate; possesses a bony spine or vertebral column.
VERTICAL ANGLE __ In mapping, the angle of sight measured on the vertical plane.
VERTICAL CIRCLE __ With major surveying instruments, the graduated vertical table around which the sighting telescope rotates; used to measure the vertical angle.
VERTICAL CLINGING AND LEAPING __ A method of locomotion in which the animal clings vertically to a branch and moves between branches by leaping vertically from one to another. The animal moves on the ground by hopping or moves bipedally.
VERTICAL DATUM __ A base measurement point from which all elevations are determined.
VERTICAL DISTANCE __ The measurement of distance (or elevations) on a true vertical plane.
VERTICAL PROVENIENCE __ The vertical position of objects within a site determined in relation to a vertical datum or datum plane, as well as to the local ground surface.
VICTORIAPITHECIDAE __ Family of Early and Middle Miocene Old World
monkeys from north and east Africa.
VIKINGS __ A culture originating in Scandinavia (now Norway, Denmark and Sweden) around the mid-8th century A.D. The Vikings were fierce conquerors, brave explorers, and skilled craftspeople; they invaded and settled countries throughout Western Europe. They were the first Europeans to discover America (in about A.D. 1000), almost 500 years before Columbus.
VIROLOCAL __ Pertaining to the pattern in which a newlywed couple takes up residence in the home, village or territory of the husband's family. Virilocality generally results in patrilocality.
VISION PIT __ A subterranean pit in which a youth would wait while on a vision quest. Some Thunderbird Nests may have served essentially the same function.
VISION QUEST __ Among some native North American peoples, a puberty rite in which young boys would seek visions and/or a spirit helper. Physical hardships such as lack of water, food or sleep and inadequate clothing in the winter were commonly part of the experience.
VITREOUS __ Pertaining to, or resembling glass.
VIZIER __ High ranking official in the ancient Egyptian government.
VOLCANIC ASH __ Layers of airborne pumice resulting from violent volcanic eruptions. Provide valuable dating markers when found in sites.
VULCAN __ Roman god of fire. Called Hephaistos by the Greeks.