Agriculture: the cultivation of domesticated plants, such as corn, beans, and squash, as primary sources of food.
Anthropologist: a scholar who practices anthropology–the comparative study of human culture, behavior, and biology, and of how these change through time.
Anthropology: the comparative study of human culture, behavior, and biology, and of how these change through time. Archaeology is often considered a specialty within anthropology.
Archaeobotanist: a specialist who studies seeds and other plant remains from archaeological sites in order to understand the relationships between plants and people in past cultures.
Archaeologist: a scientist who seeks to understand past human cultures by careful study of the artifacts and other evidence from archaeological sites.
Archaeology: a method for studying past human cultures based on material evidence (artifacts and sites). Archaeology is often practiced as a subfield of anthropology.
Archaic period: the period in North Carolina between 8000 BC and 1000 BC. During this period, Native Americans lived in small nomadic bands and made their living principally by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild foods.
Artifact: any object made, modified, or used by humans; usually this term refers to a portable item.
Atlatl: a tool used to throw spears faster and with more accuracy; also called a spearthrower. It consists of a short pole with a handle at one end and a hook (for engaging the spear) at the other.
Attribute: a characteristic or property of an object, such as size, color, or shape.
Awl: a sharp pointed tool used to punch holes in skins and other materials.
Barrier islands: a line of islands that run parallel to the mainland coast and are separated from the mainland by a body of water known as a sound.
Base camp: A relatively larger, more stable camp site that serves as a base for a wide range of activities within a group’s territory. It may serve as a staging area for far-flung food-collecting, hunting, or quarrying expeditions.
Bast: fiber from the inner bark of trees.
Beringia: the name of the land bridge that connected Asia and North America during the last Ice Age.
Cambium: the thin layer of living, dividing cells just under the bark of trees; these cells give rise to the tree’s secondary growth.
Carbonize: to turn a seed or other organic item into charcoal through burning.
Cartesian coordinate system: two- or three-dimensional grid based on intersecting, perpendicular incremented lines or planes.
Ceramic: an item or material made from soft, moist clay that is first shaped and then fired at high temperatures. Pottery is a ceramic material.
Chronological: pertaining to chronology, which is an arrangement of events or periods in the order in which they occurred.
Chronology: an arrangement of events or periods in the order in which they occurred.
Classification: a systematic arrangement in groups or categories according to established criteria.
Clay: a type of soil whose particles are too small to be seen or felt. When wet, clay is sticky and plastic.
Climate: the general weather conditions of an area.
Context: the relationship artifacts have to one another and the situation in which they are found.
Continental Shelf: the part of the continent beyond the current shoreline that is submerged in relatively shallow seas.
Cordage: several strands of fiber twisted together; string or rope.
Cross-dating: the principle that a diagnostic artifact dated at one archaeological site will be of the same approximate age when found elsewhere.
Crossmend: to fit together fragments of a single artifact that have been found in different soil layers or features; crossmending provides clues that allow one to infer relationships among various parts of a site.
Cultivate: to promote or improve the growth of a plant or crop by labor and attention.
Cultural relativism: understanding other cultures in their own terms without making judgments about them.
Culture: the set of learned beliefs, values, styles, and behaviors generally shared by members of a society or group.
Data: information, especially information organized for analysis.
Datum: something to use as a basis for measuring; a reference point for a grid or a map.
Deface: to spoil or mar the surface or appearance of something.
Dendrochronology: the study of the growth rings in trees to reconstruct climate variations and to determine the age of trees, beams and other timbers.
Diagnostic artifact: an item that is indicative of a particular time and/or cultural group; a computer would be a diagnostic artifact of our time and culture.
Dialect: a regional variant of a particular language. A dialect can sometimes be so different in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation that it is not understood by speakers of another dialect of the same language.
Domesticate: to modify, by selective breeding, the characteristics of plants or animals for human use.
Ethics: the rules of conduct or right and wrong behavior recognized by a society or a profession.
Ethnocentrism: the attitude that one’s own traditions, customs, language, and values are the only right and proper way, and that those of other cultures are inadequate or wrong.
Ethnographic analogy: a method for inferring the use or meaning of an ancient site or artifact based on observations and accounts of its use by living people.
Ethnography: the study or description of cultures based on observation of and interaction with living people.
Ethnohistoric analogy: a method for inferring the use or meaning of an ancient site or artifact based on information from ethnohistoric sources.
Ethnohistory: the study of past cultures using oral traditions and written documents, particularly documents written by outside observers (e.g., European descriptions of 18th-century Indian tribes).
Evidence: data that are used to support a conclusion.
Experimental archaeology: a method of studying ancient artifacts that involves making and using replicas of those artifacts.
Feature: a human-made disturbance in the ground, such as a pit or basin; it is often marked by a distinctive stain in the soil.
Fiber: a slender, threadlike strand.
Flake: a thin piece of stone removed by striking a larger piece with a hammer (usually made of antler or stone). Flakes have sharp edges and were sometimes used as cutting implements. Flakes also were further shaped into tools or were left as waste by-products of flintknapping.
Flintknapping: the technique of making chipped-stone tools.
Flotation: a method used to recover seeds from archaeological sites. Soil is placed into a large container of water. The soil falls to the container’s bottom, while the seeds remain floating on the water’s surface.
Function: the use of an object.
Geomorphologist: a scientist who studies the characteristics, origins, and development of landforms, including soil.
Gorget: an ornament worn on the chest, suspended from the neck.
Grid unit: a specific square or rectangular area on the Cartesian coordinate system, designated by the coordinate in one corner (often the southwest corner).
Haft: a handle, especially of an edged tool.
Hemp: known as common dogbane, one of various plants that have a tough, strong fiber (called sisal) in the stem; the sisal is used to make rope.
History: the study of past events and cultures using written records, oral traditions, and archaeological evidence as sources of information.
Hominid: the family consisting of humans and their ancestors.
Horticulture: the cultivation of gardens whose foods supplement those obtained from some other primary source, such as hunting, gathering, fishing, or shellfishing.
Hypothesis: a proposed explanation or interpretation that can be tested by further investigation.
Hypothesize: to propose a hypothesis, an explanation, or interpretation that can be tested by further investigation.
Increment borer: a hollow instrument used to drill into the center of a tree to remove a long narrow cylinder of wood (called a core sample).
Inference: a conclusion derived from observations.
Kinship: the way in which a society defines how people are related to each other and which people make up a family. Kinship systems vary greatly from one society to another.
Language: the words, their pronunciation, and ways of combining them used and understood by a broad community of people.
Language family: a group of related languages, which developed from a common ancestral language.
Lifeway: how a group of people live.
Loam: a rich soil containing a relatively equal mixture of sand and silt, and a smaller proportion of clay.
Maize: another name for corn.
Mend: to fit together broken fragments of an artifact, such as a pottery vessel.
Midden: an area used for trash disposal; a deposit of refuse.
Munsell Color Chart: a book whose pages contain color chips that are used to determine soil color.
Naturalist: a person who studies plants or animals.
Nomadic: a way of life in which a group of people have no permanent residence, but move from place to place.
Nomenclature: a set or system of names or terms.
Observation: the act of recognizing or noting a fact or occurrence; or the record obtained by such an act.
Palisade: a walled enclosure built around a village or town; a stockade.
Pendant: an ornament hung on a cord around the neck and worn as a necklace.
Permanent village: A settlement that is continuously occupied by people throughout the year.
Petroglyph: a design chiseled or chipped out of a rock surface.
Pictograph: a design painted on a rock surface.
Posthole: a circular soil discoloration caused by decay of a wooden post where it had been buried upright in the ground.
Potter: someone who makes pottery.
Pottery: a ceramic item or material made of fired clay, usually in the form of a vessel.
Prehistory: the period of human experience prior to written records; in the Americas, prehistory refers to the period before Europeans and their writing systems arrived, covering at least 12,000 years.
Projectile point: a pointed implement (usually made from chipped stone) that was attached to the end of a spear or an arrow. This is a general term that includes both spear points and arrowheads.
Proportion: the amount of a portion or a constituent in relation to the whole.
Replication: the act or process of reproducing artifacts, structures, or use patterns.
Rim sherd: a piece of the rim or border of a broken vessel.
Ritual: an established procedure for a ceremony.
Rock art: a general term for the pecking, incising, or painting of designs onto rock surfaces.
Rock art panel: a group of rock art figures.
Sand: a type of soil whose particles are large enough to be easily seen and felt. Sand particles do not adhere or stick to one another, and grate against each other when rubbed together.
Scale drawing: a representation used to show something too large or too small to be drawn full size, in which the proportions (but not the size) are accurately preserved.
Sea level: the water level of the sea at a point midway between low and high tide.
Seed: a fertilized plant egg that has the capacity to produce a new plant.
Semi-permanent village: a settlement occupied by people for several months each year, but not year round.
Sherd: a broken piece of pottery; a shard.
Short-term camp: A camp occupied for a relatively brief period of time.
Silt: a type of soil whose particles are too small to be easily seen with the naked eye. Particles of silt are intermediate in size between those of clay and sand.
Sinew: an animal tendon prepared for use as a cord or thread.
Site: a place where human activities occurred and material evidence of these activities was left.
Site datum: a stable or permanent feature established as an arbitrary reference point from which the entire site is measured and recorded.
Soapstone: a type of stone which is soft and easily carved; also called steatite.
Soil triangle: a chart used by archaeologists and geomorphologists to determine soil texture.
Spatial: concerned with space.
Strata: layers (the plural of stratum); in archaeology, this term usually refers to layers of earth.
Stratify: to form or place in layers.
Stratigraphy: the layering of deposits in an archaeological site. Cultural evidence and natural sediments become buried over time. The layer on the bottom is the oldest; the layer on top is the youngest.
Stratum: layer (the singular of strata); in archaeology, this term usually refers to a layer of earth or human-generated debris.
Style: the combination of shape and decoration distinguishing a group of artifacts, such as pottery, found in specific geographic areas and dated to certain times; a particular way of doing something that is associated with a specific culture or cultural tradition.
Subsistence: the means of supporting life, usually referring to food and other basic commodities.
Surface treatment: the way the outside surface of a pottery vessel has been finished by the potter. On ancient Native American pottery from North Carolina, surface treatments typically consisted of stamped or impressed designs made by cordage, nets, fabric, or carved wooden paddles pressed into a vessel’s surface while the clay was still wet.
Suspension: a state or condition where particles of a substance are mixed with a fluid, but are not dissolved.
Symbol: a thing or design that represents something else.
Technology: the technique or means for making or doing something, often associated with tool making.
Temper: material, such as sand or crushed shell, mixed with clay to make pottery stronger and to reduce the risk of it breaking.
Temporal: concerned with time.
Timeline: a visual representation of events in chronological order.
Tradition: a particular technology or way of life that persists over a long span of time.
Tree rings: the concentric circles visible in cross sections of tree trunks and limbs; each pair of light and dark rings represents a year’s growth.
Tuscarora: a North Carolina Indian tribe whose traditional territory extended from the western coastal plain to the eastern Piedmont. Their traditional language is Iroquoian. Most modern-day Tuscarora live in New York state. They migrated north after a war with European colonists and allied Indians in 1711-1713. They became the sixth member of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Values: established ideas about the way life should be lived; that is, the objects, customs, and ways of acting that members of a given society regard as desirable.
Vandalism: willful or malicious defacing or destruction of public or private property.
Vessel: a hollow or concave utensil for holding something.