The Buried Past: An Archaeological History of Philadelphia

By John L. Cotter; Daniel G. Roberts et al. | Go to book overview


Archaeological / Geological

alluvial: Clay, sand, gravel, or rock material deposited by running water.

anthracite coal: Hard, lustrous natu- ral fuel, longer-burning and hotter than bituminous coal because it con- tains less volatile matter.

anvil stone: A stone with a flat or cupped surface on which seeds or nuts are cracked or ground with a hand-held smooth stone.

argillite: A compact rock metamor- phosed from clay cemented by silica.

artifact: Object made or adapted by man.

atlatl: Flat or rounded shaft with a hook in one end to receive the hol- lowed end of a projectile shaft, en- abling the holder to propel the weapon with great force.

balk: Unexcavated area between exca- vated grid units at a site, left to pro- vide a stratigraphic section.

biface: Worked on both sides to fash- ion an object, here of stone.

bituminous coal: A soft coal that yields less heat and burns more quickly than anthracite coal.

bola stone: Two or more round stones tied together and thrown at an animal so as to entangle it and bring it down.

carbon 14 (radiocarbon dating): Iso- tope of carbon rendered radioactive in the high atmosphere, which, falling to earth, is found in the remains of or- ganic substances. Because its half-life is known, C can be used to date a substance by measuring its dimin- ished radioactivity.

celt: Stone implement with a ground edge, usually hafted in a wood shaft like a mattock or chisel, and used prin- cipally to trim or hollow out wooden objects, here by the Amerindians.

chalcedony: Translucent, colored quartz stone with the properties of flint—e.g., conchoidal (shell-like) fracture.

chert: A flint-like rock characterized by conchoidal fracture, rendering it useful in making artifacts by flaking, like the chalcedony of which it is mainly composed.

city datum: In Philadelphia, an ele- vation reference 2.25 feet above mean high water mark at the foot of Chest- nut Street, with reference to the Dela- ware River.

cross-mend: Sherds from different strata or site locations matched to in- dicate portions of a single vessel.

dolomite: A limestone or marble rich in magnesium carbonate.

ecology: The pattern of relationships between organisms and their environment.

ethnology: The analytical and com- parative study of historic human groups.

fall line: The line joining the rapids on rivers falling to the sea and marking the limit of navigability for each river.

feature: Soil disturbance or man- made (or adapted) construction.

flint: Hard siliceous stone, occurring in nodules in limestone formations, that is characterized by a conchoidal fracture ideal for making aboriginal flaked tools and gunflints, and for producing sparks when struck by iron or steel.

gabbro: A granular igneous rock corn- posed of calcium carbonate, ferrous magnesium, and other minerals.

gneiss (Baltimore gneiss): Foliated granitic rock.

grade: An original surface before deposition or erosion has changed it. In archaeology, a historical surface of reference.

granite: A hard igneous rock with a crystalline texture used for building.

grave offering: Artifacts buried with the dead.

grid system: Method of excavation in which features, artifacts, and exca- vation areas are related to the coordi- nates of the grid.

Holocene: Recent. Generally, after the glacial age.

hominid: Any of a family of primates comprising the ancestors of modern man.

Homo sapiens: Species name of mod- ern man: Homo for the genus, sapiens a specific epithet meaning wise— sometimes doubled to sapiens sapiens.

indenture: A contract binding one person to work for another for a given period of time in exchange for keep and training.

jasper: An opaque, compact, variety of stone stained with various colors (red, green, yellow, etc.) and having the conchoidal fracture characteristic of flint, making it useful for flaked arti- facts.

limestone: A water-deposited rock formation consisting of the calcium carbonate of shells and corals; may be cut for building stone or crushed and burned to make lime for mortar.

lithic: Stone, as applied here to mate- rials used for making artifacts.

longhouse: Long communal dwelling of the Late Woodland Amerindians extending into the time of contact, notably among the Iroquois.

longitudinal profile: A section through the longest axis of an archaeological feature.

matrilineal: Tracing of descent through the mother's line.

mean ceramic date: The midpoint be- tween the earliest and latest ceramic dates at a site, based on the known


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