Archaeology: is the study of past people through objects they left behind with the goal of understanding and describing the past.
Artifact: objects made or used by past people.
Archaeological Site: a cluster of archaeological material such as artifacs and features. It is a place that was used by people in the past for a variety of activities.
Artifact Style: the shape of the object or the decoration pattern on the object.
Ceramic: objects made of fired clay. Also known as pottery, which can be a container of some kind, like a plate or bowl, that can be used for cooking, storage, and/or serving food.
Excavation: the main method of finding archaeological information (sites, artifacts, features), which involves the systematic removal of soil and other materials. Excavation is done through the use of hand tools such as shovels, trowels, brushes, and dental picks to expose materials left behind by past people.
Feature: non-portable (in the ground) archaeological remains that cannot be removed from the soil without destruction. These can be the remains of a pit used for storage or cooking, or evidence of a building that is no longer standing. Features can also contain artifacts and other evidence of past activities.
Ground Penetrating Radar: a method of finding below-ground features and artifacts without excavation. Short radio pulses are sent down into the soil, and when they echo back it shows changes in soil conditions, such as the presence of building remains.
Level: a thin layer of soil excavated within a test unit. Commonly, levels are between 5 and 20 centimeters thick, depending on the project. All levels excavated within a test unit are dug at the same thickness.
LIDAR: Light Detection and Ranging is a remote sensing (non-excavation) method to find archaeological sites. A LIDAR instrument is commonly used from a plane and sends light down to the surface in the form of a laser beam. It records the time it takes for the light to reflect back to the instrument to create a map.
Lithic: an adjective for stone. Any material or object that is made of stone is lithic. In archaeology, things like arrow heads and other stone tools are often called lithics.
Magnetometry: survey of below ground features using a tool called a magnetometer, which detects variations in earth's magnetic field.
Organic Artifacts/Materials: are made of things that were once part of living creatures, including products of plant, wood, bone, horn, ivory, or animal hide.
Paleontologist: a scientist that studies the past through fossils.
Pedestrian Survey: a type of archaeological survey that involves walking and scanning the ground for the presence of archaeological materials like artifacts.
Precontact: an adjective that describes a site, culture, artifact, feature, etc. that dates to before the arrival of Europeans into the Americas.
Preservation: process that keeps organic objects and other materials from decomposing. It can be thought of as the ability of objects to survive the passage of time and many natural processes that can cause destruction.
Projectile Point: a sharp piece of (commonly) stone that can be attached to a wooden shaft and is used as a weapon by throwing or shooting.
Provenience: the precise location where an artifact was recovered. Provenience typically includes information like project name, site name, test unit or feature number, and level number/name.
Shovel Test Survey: also known as a STP, is a excavation method using shovels to dig small round holes at regular distances over the area of interest to find any buried archaeological deposits or to find out the size of an archaeological site.
Stratigraphy: one way that archaeologists tell time in the past. The main idea behind stratigraphy is that older things will be buried below more recent things, making it possible for archaeologists to say generally that some types of objects or sites came before or after others.
Test Unit: a square or rectangular area within an archaeological site that is carefully excavated.