A dry river or stream bed, that may or may not seasonally fill with rain or mountain run off.

An area of contrasting properties in data that stands out from the background.  Meg likes to think of it as similar to Sesame Street’s “one of these things is not like the other…"

The Clovis people are thought to be the first humans to come to the Americas via the Bering Land Bridge roughly 13,000 years ago. This long-accepted theory is now being challenged as new archaeological evidence suggests humans may have been in the Americas long before.

Conductivity Survey
Conductivity is recorded through inducing electromagnetic waves into the earth and measuring the response of subsurface soils and features to that induced field.  Conductivity is the quadrature-phase of this process and measures a soil’s ability to conduct and electrical current.  Conductivity maps features similar to resistance survey, ditches, compacted surfaces, and walls.

Petrified or preserved human excrement. Considered "gold" to the modern archaeologist for the wealth of information they provide when they are re-hydrated and the contents are analyzed.

The by-product of making stone tools, a common artifact associated with Native American sites.

Electrical Resistivity Imaging
Resistivity survey measures the resistance to an electrical current that is sent into the ground through an array of electrodes.  ERI are used to determine the depth and geometry of the subsurface in vertical sections.  Data are collected along a series of transects with increased spacing between electrodes along individual transects that provide a slice into the earth that identifies changes in stratigraphy and potential archaeological features.

Experimental Archaeology
A way to better understand past technologies by recreating structures, tools or other artifacts using traditional methods.

An artifact that cannot be taken to the lab, such as a rock wall or fire pit. Read More

Geofizz is lang for geophysics, this remote ground sensing technology allows archaeologists to look at what lies beneath the soil. Read More

Giddings Probe
A vehicle mounted hydraulic drill mechanism that is able to extract soil samples vertically into the earth.  These soil samples provide a profile of stratigraphy and can help identify archaeological sites and site boundaries.

Great Kiva
A great kiva is a large, circular, usually subterranean or semisubterranean structure that was designed and used by Pueblo Indians for ceremonial and/or political gatherings. Great kivas are one of the earliest examples of what archaeologists refer to as "public architecture," and they are distinguished from domestic, or residential, structures by their large size (more than 100 square meters in area), distinctive floor features (such as foot drums), and artifact assemblages that reflect communal feasting as opposed to everyday food preparation and consumption. (Source: Crow Canyon Archaeological Center)

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) Survey
GPR maps the form of contrasting electrical properties (dielectric permittivity and conductivity) of the subsurface and records information on the amplitude (strength), phase (structure) and time (speed) of electromagnetic energy reflected from subsurface features.   Data are collected as 2D vertical profiles in the earth and combined to form 3D cubes from which we can create and analyze horizontal plan maps.  Features that GPR maps include burials, water table, voids, walls, compacted surfaces, ditches and more.

A geomorphology or geology term for an abrupt or sharp a change in the channel slope of a stream or river, typically caused by erosion.

'Law of Superposition'
Archaeologists rely on the 'Law of Superposition' to help them identify and interpret stratigraphic layers. The Law of Superposition says that, under normal conditions, the layers get older the deeper you get. Soil and sediment build up over time and changes in environmental conditions, human activities or natural disasters can all leave visible evidence in the form stratagraphic layers. Read More

Light Detection and Ranging uses laser scanning to create accurate 3D models.  Airborne sensors create 3D models of the earth called Digital Terrain Models (DTM). Terrestrial sensors create 3D models of structures, landscapes, and objects.  Read More

Magnetic Gradient Survey
Magnetic gradient survey measures contrasting magnetic field strengths across a survey area.  Archaeological features that can be mapped through this method (remanent magnetism) include iron, concentrations of ceramics, hearths, fire-altered soils, stone and (magnetic susceptibility) pits, ditches, and disturbance of surface soils.

Magnetic Susceptibility Survey
Magnetic susceptibility is recorded through inducing electromagnetic waves into the earth and measuring the response of subsurface soils and features to that induced field.  The in-phase component of this process measures a material’s ability to be magnetized.  Examples of archaeological features it can map include activity areas where an accumulation of more magnetically enhanced materials would be deposited.

A geophysics technique that measures variations in the soil's magnetic field and can be used to locate pits, ditches or burned buildings. Read More

Stone tools used for grinding foods like corn, acorns or seeds. The Mano is a hand held grinder or pounder and the Metate is the larger flat or bowl surface the food is ground in.

Essentially an old garbage pile, often containing remains of food or other household debris.

Refers to the early people living in the Western Hemisphere. The Clovis, Folsom, and Pueblo, and Basketmaker people would be one of these groups.

A method used during excavation, where the artifact is left in place and dirt is removed around it. This helps archaeologists see how artifacts are placed in relation to each other.

Pit House
A semi-subterranean house built of stone or wood. Pit houses are commonly found with the Southwest Native American cultures.

The remains of a wooden post in the ground. Usually the wood is long gone, and all that remains is a dark stain (where the post was) in disturbed soil (where the hole was dug for the post). Read More

Refers to an old outhouse. These commonly were used as trash pits after they were abandoned, and often contain large amounts of well-preserved artifacts.

Another geophysics technique that measures soil conductivity and can be used to spot old privies or rock walls. Read More

Resistance Survey
Electrical resistance survey introduces an electrical current into the earth and measures the ease or difficulty of the flow of the current within the soil.  Earth factors that contribute to this survey include the nature of the archaeological features, mineral content and compaction of soils and soil saturation.  Resistance survey can map features such as ditches, walls, privies, and compacted surfaces.

Rock Art
Images painted (pictographs) or carved or pecked (petroglyphs) onto or into rock surfaces that can survive for centuries

Test pits
Small excavation units designed to give archaeologists clues about the archaeological deposits and where best to focus their excavation efforts.

A path along which data is collected in a grid. A survey area is divided into grids, and data are collected along evenly spaced transects, thus enabling archaeologists to accurately map the site.

Seismic Tomography
Seismic tomography is a method where vibrations are sent into the earth and the reflection strength is recorded at a series of points on the ground surface, or geophones.  This method records the velocity, density, and permittivity of earth materials.  This can record an accurate vertical profile of the earth’s subsurface stratigraphy.  Generally used in deeper investigations, the resolution is coarser than that typically defined by more conventional archaeological survey methods.

Shovel Shave
An excavation technique where a sharpened shovel is used almost like a trowel to remove dirt quickly and carefully.

A fragment of pottery. These come in all sizes and shapes and can tell archaeologist many things like who occupied a site, when they were there and how they were eating.

The study of strata, or layers, in the earth. During excavation, archaeologists are not just concerned with what is at the bottom of their unit. They are also keenly interested in their sidewalls, where they can get a profile view of the stratigraphy in the archaeological deposit. Stratigraphy provides archaeologists a useful guide to the environmental and cultural history of an archaeological site. Archaeologists use this to 'read' the past by identifying how layers of dirt or other materials were deposited on a site over time. Read More



Archaeology 101

Archaeology 101

Let's start with the basics

Deciphering the Disciplines

Deciphering the Disciplines

The archaeology family tree