Glossary


archaeology
the study of past human cultures through the analysis of their material and physical remains.

artifact
any object manufactured or modified by humans (e.g., pottery, bottle, clothing, mound, building).

biomass
a calculation of the meat weight of an animal based on the relationship between supportive tissue weight (bone) and total body weight.

cacique
an Arawakan word meaning ruler or chief; it was brought to Florida from the Carribean by the Spanish who used it to refer to the chiefly rulers of local native groups.

chert
a flint-like stone formed throught the replacement of limestone by silica contained in mineral-rich ground water.

ethnography
a written description of a culture based on anthropological field work; usually the anthropologist lives with the people for a period of time in order to observe the culture in action.

excavation
the systematic removal and recording of prehistoric or historic artifacts, features, and associated materials (e.g., soil samples) from the ground; may involve a wide variety of techniques ranging from the use of small, specialized picks, brushes, and trowels to the use of heavy equipment to remove overburden and dig profile trenches.

feature
an area or group of objects deserving of special attention during excavation (e.g., a hearth or firepit, postmolds, a cluster of artifacts).

grid system
the orderly arrangement of excavation squares atan archaeological site.

hamlet
a small, permanent or semi-permanent settlement cosisting of several family groups.

hammock
a more or less elevated piece of land, often rising out of a swamp or wetland; usually contains rich, organic soil and either palm or hardwood vegetation.

history
period of time since the advent of written records; in Florida this is generally considered to begin at the time of Spanish contact in the early 16th century.

lithic
a synonym for stone.

midden
an area where people lived and disposed of their garbage; ususally consists of food remains (e.g., animal bone and shell), but may also contain features and discarded artifacts.

mound
a puposefully constructed circular earthwork built by prehistoric and early historic people; used primarily for the interment of the dead although some may have functioned as foundations for living structures.

Muskogee
a family of languages originating with the Creeks which was spoken by many native peoples in the southeastern U.S.

quarry
a source of lithic raw material, such as a chert outcrop, where native peoples obtained stone for use in manufacturing tools.

Paleo
a prefix meaning old or ancient (e.g., Paleo-Indian, paleoenvironment).

prehistory
period of time before written records; in Florida this is considered to be prior to the time of Spanish contact in the early 16th century.

profile
a scaled drawing of the various soil strata at a site.

projectile point
general term tha refers to all stemmed or lanceolite-shaped stone projectiles that were hafted to a shaft (e.g., spear points, arrowheads).

sherd
a piece or fragment of pottery; not to be confused with "shard" which refers to a piece of broken glass.

site
any area that contains evidence of past human activity ranging from large mound and midden complexes to a single artifact.

stadia rod
a graduated rod used with a transit to determine distances and elevations; graduations may be in meters and centimeters or in feet and tenths of feet; sometimes referred to as a leveling rod.

survey
the systematic examination of an area for the purpose of locating and recording archaeological resources.

temper
material intentionally added to clay to prevent shrinkage (and hence cracking) when fired; the more general terms nonplastic or aplastic are often used to encompass materials that occur naturally in clay or are introduced accidentally; in Florida the most common tempering materials were sand, limestone, small fragments of pot sherds (grog), and plant fibers.

temple mound
large, flat-topped pyramidal structure composed of sand, shell, or sand and shell, and often possessing a rampway leading to its summit; used for ceremonies and other special functions by prehistoric and historic native peoples.

transit
an instrument used to accurately measure horizontal and vertical angles, extend straight lines, measure distances, and when used with a stadia rod, determine elevations above mean sea level; essentially a telescope mounted on a tripod that can be adjusted so that the instrument is perfectly level.


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