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Archaeology Dictionary

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The initials A.D. (used with or without periods) is an abbreviation for the Latin "Anno Domine", which translates to "the Year of Our Lord," referring to years after the birth of Jesus Christ.


A.H. (Anno Hegirae)

A.H. (Anno Hegirae) is the calendar designation for the Muslim religion.


Aachen (Germany)

A modern day city in Germany, Aachen (or Aix-le-Chapelle) is reputed to be the birthplace of Charlemagne; it was the capital of his empire, and it is where he is buried.


Abbasid Dynasty

The Abbasid Dynasty ruled the Arab world between 758-1258 AD, and so is considered the medieval period for Islamic culture. (Arabic: العبّاسدين al-ʿAbbāsidīn) was the dynastic name generally given to the caliphs of Baghdad, the second of the two great Sunni dynasties of the Muslim empire, that overthrew the Umayyad caliphs. It seized power in 750, when it finally defeated the Umayyads in battle, and flourished for two centuries, but slowly went into decline with the rise to power of the Turkish army they had created, the Mamluks. Their claim to power was finally ended in 1258, when Hulagu Khan, the Mongol general, sacked Baghdad. They continued to claim authority in religious matters from their base in Egypt where the Mamluk Sultans maintained them as titular Caliph. In 1517, the last Abbasid is said to have ceded the title to the Ottoman Sultan. Traces of the Abbasid dynasty can still be found in modern day Iraq, Kuwait, and in northern areas of Pakistan.


Aboriginal Peoples

The term aboriginal peoples or, more simply aborigines, is an anthropological term referring generally to the native people of an area, in contrast to invading or colonizing peoples.


Abric Romani (Spain)

The rock shelter of Abric Romaní is located in a cliff outside of the village of Capellades, 50 kilometers west of Barcelona, Spain.


Abu Ghurab (Egypt)

Abu Ghurab is a 5th dynasty (Old Kingdom, 2465-2323 BC) Egyptian pyramid and solar temple complex on the Saqqara plateau.


Abu Hureyra (Syria)

Abu Hureyra is an archaeological site in the Euphrates valley of northern Syria, dated 9000-6000 BC, before, during and after the introduction of agriculture in the region.


Abu Simbel (Sudan)

Abu Simbel is a temple built by Ramses II (Pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty of the New Kingdom, who ruled 1279-1213 BC) in Nubia, now the Sudan.


Abydos (Egypt)

Abydos is an Early Dynastic city and necropolis in Egypt, built ca 3150 BC by Seti I and sacred to Osiris.


Achaemenid Dynasty

The Achaemenids were the ruling dynasty of Cyrus the Great and his family over the Persian Empire, from 550-330 BC, when it was conquered by Alexander the Great.


Acheulean Tradition

The Acheulean Tradition is an Old World Lower Paleolithic culture, dated from 1.4 million years ago to 100,000 years ago.


Acoma Culture

The Acoma is the name of a Native American pueblo culture of the American southwest, which arose at the end of the Great Drought in the 14th and 15th centuries AD.


Acropolis of Athens (Greece)

The Acropolis of Athens is located on the top of a steep rock outcrop in the middle of the ancient city, which covered with Classical Period temples and structures and topped with the Parthenon.


Adena Hopewell Civilization

The Hopewell civilization (also called Adena in some regions) is a prehistoric culture of the American middle west.

For reasons that are not yet clearly understood, Late Woodland cultures did not continue the Hopewell practice of building large geometric earthworks or importing large quantities of exotic raw materials such as obsidian and mica. Cultures in different regions began to diversify, probably because of the decline in interregional trade and travel.


Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation is an independent political body of the United States government created under the National Historic Preservation Act, to advise the President and Congress on historic preservation issues.



adze is a stone wood-working tool, like an axe, except that the blade is at right-angles to the haft.



Aegean Cultures

The term Aegean Cultures refers to the Bronze Age civilizations (ca 3100-1100 BC) which were located on islands in or near the Aegean Sea.


Afanasievo culture

The Afanasievo culture is an Eneolithic (the period between the Neolithic and Bronze ages) culture of southern Siberia.


Afar Triangle

The Afar Triangle is the name given to the region of Ethiopia, Africa, known for the identification of very old hominid remains, especially the Australopithecus afarensis.


Afontova culture

The Afontova culture is the name given to the Upper Paleolithic culture in Siberia, 22,000-14,000 years before the present.


A-Group Culture

The A-Group culture is an early farming (Neolithic into early Bronze Age) culture of Lower Nubia, 3900-2900 BC.


Aguateca (Guatemala)

Aguateca is a Late Classic period Maya site, and the largest Maya site in the region of the Petexbatun escarpment in Guatemala.


Ahrensburg Culture

The Ahrensburg culture is the name archaeologists have given to the early prehistoric (transitional Late Paleolithic to Mesolithic) culture of Scandinavia, 12,500-9000 BC.


'Ain Ghazal (Jordan)

The site of 'Ain Ghazal is an early Neolithic village site located along the banks of the Zarqa River near Amman, Jordan.



The Ainu are modern hunter-fisher-gatherer group of the Hokkaido region of northeastern Japan.


Akan Culture

In the 11th century AD the Akan were a West African forest kingdom in what is now Ghana and the Ivory Coast.



Akkad was the historical name of the southern region of Mesopotamia beginning during the 25th century BC


Akrotiri (Greece)

The archaeological site of Akrotiri is the name given to a small Minoan settlement located on the volcanic island of Thera in the Aegean Sea.


Aksum (Ethiopia)

Aksum was the name of a kingdom and capital city in what is now Ethiopia of the 1st through 6th century AD.


Al Rafiqa (Syria)

The archaeological site of al-Rafiqa is an Abbasid site in Syria


Aleppo Codex

The Aleppo Codex is an early manuscript version of the Judea-Christian bible, dated to about 935 AD


Alexandria (Egypt)

The modern town of Alexandria, Egypt, was the capital city of the Ptolemaic dynasties of Egypt.


Algonquin Culture

The Algonquin was a proto-historic and historic cultural group of the eastern North American continent at the time of the first European settlement.


Alligator Mound (USA)

The Serpent Mound, or Alligator Mound, located in southern Ohio in the American midwest, is a large earthen spiral structure in the shape of a partially coiled serpent (or at least that's our interpretation).


Almoravid Dynasty

The Almoravid Dynasty was a Berber empire located in North Africa during the 11th and 12th centuries AD.


Alpine Lake Dwellings

Alpine Lake Dwellings are a type of archaeological site found at the edge of lakes in the Alps or other mountainous regions.


Al-Rawda (Syria)

The archaeological site of Al-Rawda is an outlier of the northern Mesopotamian civilization located in the dry steppe zone of interior Syria southeast of Aleppo.


Altamira Cave (Spain)

Altamira Cave is the Sistine Chapel of Paleolithic Art, or so it is called.


Amarna (Egypt)

Amarna is the modern name given to the capital city of Akhetaten, the heretic pharaoh of the 18th Egyptian dynasty Akhenaton, built about 1350 BC and abandoned at his death 20 years later.


Amber Trade

An exotic lithic material made from the sap from pine trees some 35-40 million years old, amber was (and still is) a highly tradable item.


American Bottom (USA)

The American Bottom is the name given to the Mississippian culture homeland, a segment of the Mississippi River Valley in Illinois in the central United States.


AMS (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) Radiocarbon Dating

AMS radiocarbon dating is a form of radiocarbon dating that is more precise and requires less carbon than conventional radiocarbon methods.


Anasazi Culture

The Anasazi is the name given to the prehistoric agricultural group who occupied the Colorado Plateau in the American southwest.



The Anatolia region is one of the cradles of urban civilization, and consists of the peninsula of Asia Minor.


Ancient Egypt

is considered to have begun about 3050 BC, when the first pharaoh Menes united Lower Egypt (referring to the river delta region of the Nile River), and Upper Egypt (everything south of the delta).


Andean Civilizations

The Andean Civilizations is a term used by archaeologists to refer to any of several civilizations of the Andes Mountains.


Andronovo Culture

The Andronovo culture is the name given to an Old World sedentary pastoralist society of the Late Bronze Age.


Angkor Civilization

The Angkor Civilization (or Khmer Civilization) is the name given to an important civilization of Cambodia and Thailand.


Angkor Wat (Cambodia)

Angkor Wat is a temple complex and capital city of the Angkor (or Khmer) civilization.


Anglo-Saxon culture

The Anglo-Saxons were peoples who originated in northern Germany and Scandinavia who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD.


Antioch (Turkey)

Founded by Alexander the Great's general Seleucus around 300 BC, Antioch also was the seat of a Roman governor after 64 BC.


Antonine Wall (UK)

The Antonine Wall marks the northern-most border of the Roman Empire in Great Britain.


Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka)

Anuradhapura was founded by the Sinhalese king Pandukhabaya as his capital city in 437 BC.


AnYang (China)

AnYang was the capital of the Shang Dynasty in northern Henan province, China, between 1554 and 1045 BC.


Appenine Culture

The Appenine culture is the name given to an Early Bronze Age culture in Italy, between about 1350-1150 BC.


Aqaba (Jordan)

The site of Aqaba is a medieval Islamic town in Jordan originally called Ayla and occupied from the Chalcolithic period through Roman times.


Aramaean Culture

The Aramaeans were a loose confederation of kingdoms including the people of the Aram region of Syria.


Aramis (Ethiopia)

Aramis is the name of an archaeological site located in the Middle Awash region of Ethiopia.


Arawakan Culture

The Arawaks are a modern Native American tribe of the Peruvian Amazon in South America.



Archaeoastronomy is the study of ancient methods and reasons for studying the stars and planets.



a scientist who studies the remains of past and present humans.



Archaeology is the study of the human past, including everything from yesterday's garbage trip to the landfill to the impressions of footprints in the mud at Laetoli.


Archaeomagnetic Dating

Archaeomagnetic dating is a method of assigning a date to a fireplace or burned earth area using the earth's magnetic field.



Archaeometry is the term given by archaeologists to the application of scientific methods from the physical sciences and engineering to archaeology problems.


Archaic Period

The Archaic period is the name given to generalized hunter-gatherer societies in the North American continent from approximately 8000 to 2000 years BP.



Archeology is an alternative spelling for Archaeology. Both spellings are accepted by most scholars today, although the impeccably stodgy Oxford English Directory insists on the 'ae' form.


Argos (Greece)

The ancient site of Argos is an Early to Middle Helladic settlement and one of the most important Mycenaean city-states of the Peloponnese.


Arikamedu (India)

Arikamedu was a Roman trade center on the southeast coast of India, near the modern town of Pondicherry.


Arlington Springs (USA)

The Arlington Springs site is located on an island in the North Channel Islands off the coast of southern California in the western United States.



An arrowhead is the word used by archaeologists and enthusiasts alike to mean the sharp tip of an arrow, whether made of stone, bone, metal or other material.



An artifact (spelled artefact, if you're in the Old World) is an object or remainder of an object, which was created, adapted, or used by human agency.


Asklepios (Greece)

The archaeological site of Asklepios is a Corinthian sanctuary at Epidauros and the center of an early cult of health and healing.


Asmar (Iraq)

The archaeological site of Asmar is located in the city in modern day Iraq.



Archaeologists use the word 'assemblage' to refer to the collection of artifacts recovered from a single site.



Assyria was an ancient civilization located in Asia during the 14th-7th century BC.


Atapuerca (Spain)

The Sierra de Atapuerca is an ancient karst topography region of Spain, where several caves are located with evidence of very old occupations.



Atlantis is a fictional kingdom described by Plato in two of his dialogues, Timaeus and Critias.


Aurignacian Period

The Aurignacian period (40,000 to 28,000 years ago) is an Upper Paleolithic stone tool tradition.



is one of several species of hominines who may or may not be Homo sapiens direct ancestor.


Avar Culture

The Avar culture is the name given to Slavic nomads living near the Danube River basin from the 6th through 9th centuries AD.


Avebury (United Kingdom)

Avebury is an ancient megalithic site, dated to the Late Neolithic period and located in central south England.



a small pointed hand tool used for piercing holes in leather, wood, and other materials.



An axe is a stone wood working tool, used as modern day axes are, to cut down trees, horizontally slicing through the wood.


Aymara Culture

The Aymara are a modern cultural group of the Andes in Peru, and the descendants of the Tiwanaku Empire in the Lake Titicaca region of Bolivia and Peru (400-1500 AD).


Aztalan (USA)

Aztalan is a large Mississippian site located near Lake Mills in the state of Wisconsin of the midwestern USA.


Aztec Civilization

The Aztec civilization is the collective name given to seven Chichimec tribes of northern Mexico.


Babylon (Iraq)

The archaeological site of Babylon was the capital of a small city state of Mesopotamia, named Babylonia, located in what is now Iraq, near the modern town of Hilla.


Bachwezi Dynasty

The Chwezi Dynasty (also called Bachwezi or Kitara Dynasty) is the possibly mythical, certainly legendary, kingdom of Uganda, who are said to have ruled between 1300 and 1500 AD.


Back dirt

the excavated material from a site, presumed to be of little or no further archaeological significance.


Background Research

The term background research refers to the collection of previously published and unpublished information about a site or region.


Badarian Culture

The Badarian culture is the name archaeologists have given to the Neolithic period in Egypt and the Sudan between 4400-4000 BC.


Baden Culture

The Baden culture is the name archaeologists have given to a culture of the central European Copper Age, related to the Bell Beaker culture and dated between about 3500-3000 BC.


Baghdad (Iraq)

The ancient city of Baghdad, the capital city of modern day Iraq, was a relatively minor settlement in the Middle East until the 8th century AD.


Bagor (India)

The archaeological site of Bagor is a Late Mesolithic (pre-Harappa) archaeological site in the Bhilwara District of the Rajasthan region of western India.


Baker Cave (US)

Baker Cave is a rock shelter located in the Lower Pecos region of southwest Texas of the south central United States, with occupations dated between 9,000-6800 years before the present.


Ballana Culture

The Ballana (or X-Culture) is the name given to a pre-Christian, post-meroitic culture of Egypt and Nubia, dominant in Lower Egypt and Nubia between about A.D. 250-550.


Balma de l'Abeurador (France)

Balma de l'Abeurador is a rock shelter that contains a Mesolithic period site, located fifty kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea in France.


Ban Chiang (Thailand)

The archaeological site of Ban Chiang is a Bronze Age village and cemetery site in Udon Thani province of Thailand.


Ban Na Di (Thailand)

Ban Na Di is a Copper Age settlement and cemetery in Thailand (1313-903 BC), including sixty burials.


Band-e Dukhtar (Turkey)

Band-e Dukhtar is an irrigation works located in the Anatolian plain and likely dated to the Achaemenid dynasty.


Bandkeramik Culture

The Bandkeramik culture is the name given by archaeologists to the first true farming communities in central Europe, dated between 5400 and 4900 BC.


Banner Stone

a stone that was attached to an atl-atl in order to make it a more effective weapon by adding weight and balance


Banpo (China)

The archaeological site of Banpo is a Neolithic village and cemetery on the Wei River in Shaanxi Province, China, belonging to the early Yangshao culture, dated 5000-4000 BC.


Banyan Valley Cave (Thailand)

Banyan Valley Cave is located in Pang Ma Pha province of upland Thailand, with occupations dated beginning in the Hoabinhian period of the late stone age, up into the metal ages (3,500-900 BC).



A barrow is the archaeological term for a specific type of burial mound belonging to the Neolithic period structures in Western Europe.


Bashidang (China)

Bashidang is an early walled settlement belonging to the Pengtoushan culture, dated between 5540 and 5100 BC near Wufu village in the Yangtse River basin, Hunan province in China.


Basilique de St-Denis (France)

The Basilique de St-Denis is the most recent structure of several churches built on the top of a Gallo-Roman cemetery where St. Denis is said to have been buried.


Basketmaker Culture

The Basketmaker culture is the name archaeologists have given to a southwestern United States cultural group, ancestral to the Anasazi.


Bat Cave (US)

Bat Cave is an archaeological site consisting of a complex of rock shelters in New Mexico, in the American southwest, with early evidence for maize agriculture.


Bats'ub/25 Flight Cave (Belize)

The Bats'ub cave is a karst rock shelter located within the Columbian Forest Reserve of Belize.


Battlefield Archaeology

Battlefield archaeology is the archaeological investigations of the sites of military battles.


BC (or B.C.)

The term B.C. is used by nearly everyone in the United States to mean dates in the Julian calendar before the birth of Christ, or at least before the date once thought to be that of Christ's birth (the year 0).


BCE (or B.C.E.)

BCE stands for "Before the Common Era" and it is basically equivalent to "BC", except that it doesn't have the Christian religious connotations of BC.


Beaker Folk

The Beaker folk is the name given to a cultural group widespread throughout western Europe, from the Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age (4000-2000 BC).


Beeches Pit (United Kingdom)

Beeches Pit is the name of a Middle Pleistocene archaeological site located in the East Anglia, England, close to an abandoned channel of the Bytham/Ingham river.


Be'er Sheva (Israel)

Be'er Sheva is a modern town in the Negev Desert of Israel, and also the name of a Chalcolithic settlement dated to the 4th millennium BC.


Behistun Inscription (Iraq)

The Behistun inscription is a "Rosetta stone" for Old Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian language.


Beixin Culture

A precursor to Dawenkou Culture, the Beixin Culture has recently re-dated between 4300-4100 BC


Belkachi Culture

The Belkachi culture is the named given to a Middle Neolithic culture in the northern Baikal region of Siberia, between 5000-3900 years before the present.


Bell Beaker Culture

The culture known as Bell Beaker is the largest portion of the loosely grouped Beaker Folk, named for a very particular type of ceramic vessel, shaped like an upside-down bell.


Benin (Benin)

The modern city of Benin is named after the kingdom in what is now Benin.


Bent Pyramid (Egypt)

The Bent Pyramid is one of the Old Kingdom Pyramids at Giza, Egypt; built in the 4th Dynasty, 2680-2565 B.C. by that wizard of architects, Imhotep.



The Berbers are a modern ethnic group in North Africa and Europe, with a deep history.


Bercy (France)

The archaeological site of Bercy is an Early Neolithic settlement (4500-2000 BC) located on the Seine River within the city limits of Paris, France.


Berry-au-Bac (France)

The site of Berry-au-Bac is a Neolithic site in the Paris Basin of France.


Besant-Sonota Complex

The Besant-Sonota Complex is the name archaeologists have given to Woodland bison hunters in the American Great Plains in Canada and the United States.


Beth Alpha Synagogue (Israel)

The site of Beth Alpha in Israel is believed to be a Jewish synagogue dated to the Byzantine period.


B-Group Culture

The B-Group culture refers to an Early Bronze Age Nubian culture (2900-2000 BC), which is preceded by the A-Group and followed by the C-Group (or Kushite).


Biblical Archaeology

Traditionally, biblical archaeology is the name given to the study of the archaeological aspects of the history of the Jewish and Christian churches as provided in the Judeo-Christian bible.


Bibracte (France)

The archaeological site of Bibracte is an Iron Age site located on Mont Beuvray in France near Autun.


Bigo Bya Mugenyi (Uganda)

Bigo Bya Mugenyi is a late Iron Age settlement in Uganda, the capital of the Kitara or Chwezi Dynasty.


Bilzingsleben (Germany)

Bilzingsleben is a Lower Paleolithic open air site with fabulous preservation, located in Thuringia, eastern Germany and dated between 320,000 and 412,000 years ago.


Bin Bir Kilisse (Turkey)

The site of Bin Bir Kilisse, also called Maden Sheher, was a Byzantine city, described by British archaeologist Gertrude Bell as the "City of a Thousand and One Churches".


Bipedal Locomotion

Bipedal locomotion means walking on two legs in an upright position.


Biskupin (Poland)

The Biskupin site is a fortified settlement in Poland, occupied between the Late Bronze and early Iron ages, and belonging to the Lausitz (Late Bronze age) and Hallstatt C (Early Iron) cultures.



Bitumen is a black, oily, viscous material that is a naturally-occurring organic byproduct of fermented algae; and it was used by humans and our ancestors for any number of very useful things for the past 40,000 years.


Black Death

The Black Death was the name given to an episode of the devastating bubonic plague in Europe between 1348 and 1351.


Black Mesa (USA)

Black Mesa is the name given to a large upland area in the American southwestern state of Arizona, upon which hundreds of archaeological sites have been identified.


Blombos Cave (South Africa)

Blombos Cave is a Middle Stone Age (MSA) site located in the southern Cape, South Africa, that contains excellently preserved MSA deposits that date to older than 70,000 years.


Bodo Cranium (Ethiopia)

The Bodo Cranium is a nearly complete hominin skull recovered from a site in the Middle Awash region of Ethiopia.


Bog Bodies

The term bog bodies is used to refer to human burials, some likely sacrificed, recovered from peat bogs of Denmark, Germany, Holland, Britain, and Ireland.


Boghazkoy (Turkey)

Boghazkoy is the site of a major Hittite capital called Hattusas, in what is now Turkey, some 100 kilometers from the Black Sea and 150 miles from Ankara.


Bonampak (Mexico)

Bonampak is a Classic Maya site in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, occupied from about 650-800 AD.


Boomplaas Cave (South Africa)

Boomplaas Cave (Tree Farm Cave) is located in the Swartberg Range of South Africa, near the southern most tip of the continent.


Border Cave (South Africa)

Border Cave is a rock shelter in the Lembombo Mountains between South Africa and Swaziland, in Kwazulu Natal of South Africa.


Bordesley Abbey (UK)

Bordesley Abbey is a Cistercian Medieval monastery complex, built in the 12th century AD in Warwickshire, England.


Bosutswe (Botswana)

Bosutswe is the name of a deeply stratified Toutswe culture site, located on the Motloutse River (tributary to the Zambezi River) at the eastern edge of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana.


Bourbon Excavations

In 1738, Charles of Bourbon, King of the Two Sicilies and founder of the House of Bourbon, hired antiquarian Marcello Venuti to work at the sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii.


Bouri (Ethiopia)

The paleontological region called Bouri is located within the Middle Awash region of Ethiopia and contains evidence of hominid occupation between 2.5 and 160,000 years ago.


Box Gully (Australia)

Box Gully is the name of a very old archaeological site located on Lake Tyrell, southern Victoria, Australia.


Boxgrove (UK)

The Boxgrove site is a Middle Stone Age site located in a stone quarry in West Sussex England.


Boylston Street Fish Weir (USA)

The Boylston Street Fish Weir is a Late Archaic fish trap located within the town of Boston, Massachusetts.


Boyne Valley (Ireland)

The Boyne Valley in Ireland, called 'Brugh na Bóinne'in Gaelic, is an important region in Europe.


BP (or B.P.)

Archaeologists use the term 'BP' to mean 'years before humans began to screw up the atmosphere by testing nuclear devices'.


Bromme Culture

The Bromme culture is the name given to an early prehistoric reindeer-hunting culture of Scandinavia.


Bronze Age

The Bronze Age is a fairly arbitrary technological stage invented as part of a three-part system (Stone, Bronze, and Iron).


Brook Run

In the piedmont region of northern Virginia, in a grove of cedar trees near the Rapidan River, lays important evidence of rock quarrying by some of the earliest human residents of the region.


Budakalász (Hungary)

The archaeological site of Budakalász is a Baden culture (Bell Beaker, 3500-3000 BC) occupation and cemetery.


Bundle Burial

human bones bundled together in some material and buried.


Burgwall culture

"Burgwall" translates to "castle wall or barrier" in German, and the term refers to the medieval Slavic culture of central Europe of the 11th century AD.


Burial Mound

mound under which a person or group of people were buried.


Burials and Graves in Archaeology

Archaeological research into death include mortuary behaviors, grave goods, cemetery plans, mortality, morbidity, and diet and health.


Burzahom (India)

The site of Burzahom is a Neolithic settlement and cemetery in the Kashmir state of India, occupied between about 3000-1500 BC.



The Bushmen is a collective term for a modern cultural group in sub-Saharan Africa, primarily the Kalahari Desert.


Byzantium (Turkey)

Byzantium is the name of the state, culture and capital city of the eastern Roman empire, which outlived the Roman empire, from Roman times through the 15th century AD.


Cacao in Mesoamerica

Criollo cacao (Theobroma cacao spp cacao) is the name of a small tropical tree with large ovate fruit, native to the northern Amazon of South America but found in ancient planted groves throughout Central America.


Cacao in Mesoamerica

Criollo cacao (Theobroma cacao spp cacao) is the name of a small tropical tree with large ovate fruit, native to the northern Amazon of South America but found in ancient planted groves throughout Central America.


Cacaxtla (Mexico)

Cacaxtla was a Late Classic to Epiclassic (AD 600-900) city in the Puebla Valley, Tlaxcala, Mexico, with a population of about 10,000 at its peak.


Cacaxtla (Mexico)

Cacaxtla was a Late Classic to Epiclassic (AD 600-900) city in the Puebla Valley, Tlaxcala, Mexico, with a population of about 10,000 at its peak.


Cactus Hill (USA)

Cactus Hill is a buried multicomponent site on the Nottaway River of Virginia, with archaic, Clovis and, below the Clovis and separated by sterile sand, an apparent Pre-Clovis occupation.


Caddoan Culture

Caddoan culture is the name given to farmers in the Arkansas River Valley of the central southern United States and southwestward between about 1100-400 BP (years before the present).


Cadiz (Spain)

The modern port city of Cadiz (originally called Gadir or Gardes) in the Andalucia region of Spain was a Phoenician colony of Tyre founded at least by the 9th century BC.


Cahal Pech (Belize)

The site of Cahal Pech is an early Middle Formative to Classic period Maya site in Belize, occupied pretty much continuously between 900 B.C. to A.D. 800.


Cahokia (USA)

Cahokia is a large Mississippian (AD 1000-1600) agricultural settlement located on the American Bottom of the Mississippi River in Illinois.


Cahuachi (Peru)

Cahuachi is a major ceremonial center of the Nasca civilization in Peru, occupied from between AD 1-500.


Cai Beo (Vietnam)

Cai Beo is an archaeological site and the name of the related Hoabinhian period culture in Vietnam.



A cairn is, in essence, an intentionally-laid pile of rocks.


Cairo (Egypt)

The Islamic city of Cairo is, oddly enough, one of the newer cities in Egypt, founded in the 7th century AD as a military outpost.


Cajamarca Culture

The Cajamarca Culture was a small polity in the Peruvian highlands, ca. AD 500-1450


Calico Hills (USA)

Calico Hills is an area of the Mojave Desert in California and the location of the attempts by paleoanthropologists Louis Leakey and Ruth Simpson to find evidence of early humans in the New World.



There are two species of quadruped animal of the deserts of the world, both of which have implications for archaeology.


Can Llobateres (Spain)

Can Llobateres is a Middle Miocene site in Spain, where fossilized remains of the extinct ape Dryopithecus fontani were recovered and have been to between 9-10 million years ago.



Canaan (also called Phoenicia) is the name of a Bronze Age culture and country in what is now Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, and the southern portions of Syria and Lebanon.



Cannibalism refers to a range of behaviors in which one human consumes another or parts of another for survival, dietary, ritual and/or pathological reasons.


Canterbury Cathedral (UK)

The Canterbury Cathedral is probably among the most famous church edifices in the world, partly because of its famous archbishops including St. Augustine, Thomas Cranmer, and Thomas Becket


Capacocha Ceremony

The capacocha ceremony was an important part of the Inca civilization, in which children were sacrificed to celebrate royal events, or to avoid natural catastrophes.


Capelinha (Brazil)

The site of Capelinha is a Paleoindian site in the Ribeira do Iguape Valley of Sao Paulo state in Brazil, and it is a shell midden with six human burials.


Capernaum (Israel)

The town of Capernaum is mentioned several times in the New Testament of the Judeo-Christian bible, as the home of several apostles.


Cardiff Giant (USA)

The Cardiff Giant was a famous nineteenth century hoax, which paid off handsomely to its perpetrators.


Cardinal Directions

north, south, east, west


Carib Indians

Native American group who had the unfortunate honor of being the first to meet Columbus in the New World in 1492. Within a decade, they were reported to have been destroyed by diseases brought by the Spanish explorers; but their ancestors continue to populate the Caribbean Islands.


Carnac (France)

Carnac is a town on the Morbihan coast of the Bretagne region of France, the vicinity of which is known world wide for abundant Neolithic megalithic structures.


Carthage (Tunisia)

Carthage was a Phoenician colony located in what is now the country of Tunisia about 15 kilometers from the capital city of Tunis.


Casas Grandes (Mexico)

Casas Grandes (or Paquimé) was a large, influential capital city of the Casas Grandes polity in the state of Chihuahua, northern Mexico


Casimiroid Culture

The Casimiroid culture is an Archaic period culture of the Caribbean Sea in Central America, with the type site found on the island of Casimira in the Dominican Republic.


Castel del Monte (Italy)

The World Heritage site Castel del Monte is a medieval period castle, built by Frederick II between AD 1229 and 1249.


Castelluccio Culture

The Castelluccio Culture is a Bronze Age (2000-1400 BC) culture of Sicily, and the name of the type site.


Catal Hoyuk (Turkey)

Catal Hoyuk is an Early Neolithic site in Turkey (6300-5500 BC), and so far the oldest civilization on earth.



Another name for pipestone, reddish sandstone used by Native Americans for making pipes



A causeway is an early form of transportation system, consisting of a narrow, man-made earthen or rock structure that bridged a waterway.


Cave Art

Cave art refers to paintings, murals, drawings, etchings, carvings, and pecked artwork on the interior of rock shelters and caves.


Cayönü (Turkey)

Cayönü is an Early Neolithic site (Pre-Pottery Neolithic B) in the upper Tigris valley of southeastern Turkey


Cellular Theory of Prehistory

The cellular theory of prehistory was dreamed up by German pathologist Rudolf Virchow, who believed that if you looked hard enough, you could find the archaeological roots of each particular ethnic group as a segregated, intact whole.



A small axe-like type of stone implement usually held in the hand used for working wooden materials


Celtic Culture

The Celtic culture (or Celts) were a long-recognized cultural group of the Iron Age in western Europe, from about the 11th to the first century BC.



A location where individuals are buried


Ceque System

The word 'ceque' means 'line' in the Inca language Quechua but in reality it meant many things to the Inca, some of which we probably will never understand.


Ceramics and Pottery

The term ceramics or pottery refers to artifacts made of heated earth, including storage and cooking vessels, building material such as adobe brick, and occasionally tools and furniture.



A gathering of people for a program, usually serious in nature, for a specific purpose


Cerén (el Salvador)

The archaeological site of Ceren is a Mesoamerican agricultural village in El Salvador, known as the American Pompeii.


Cerro Lampay (Peru)

Cerro Lampay is a Late Archaic, Caral-Supe civilization site located in the Fortaleza Valley of Peru.


C-Group Culture

The third segment of the terms used by archaeologists to define Nubian culture, the C-Group lasted from about 2000-1700 BC.


Chachapoyas Culture

Chachapoyas culture is the name given to an Andean civilization, located in the Amazon rainforest


Chaco Canyon (USA)

Chaco Canyon is an archaeological site in the state of New Mexico in the American southwest, belonging to the Anasazi culture.


Chaco Culture

Chaco culture was one of three three great ancestral pueblo cultures and regional powers of the American southwest in the late prehistoric times


Chahai (China)

Chahai is the name of an archaeological site in China, near Fuxin in Liaoning Province, Manchuria, and belonging to the early Neolithic Xinglongwa culture.


Chalchuapa (el Salvador)

Chalchuapa is the name of a Maya period site in El Salvador, occupied from about 1200 BC to the Spanish conquest.


Chalcolithic Period

The Chalcolithic is the name given to the period in the Near East and Europe after the Neolithic and before the Bronze Age, between about 4500 and 3500 BC.


Champa Kingdom

The Champa Kingdom was located along the coastal plains of southern and central Vietnam, between about AD 192 and 1832.


Chan Chan (Peru)

The World Heritage archaeological site of Chan Chan is located in the Trujillo province on the north coast of Peru, and it was the capital of the Chimú state between about AD 850 and 1470.


Chang'an (China)

Chang'an is the name of one of the most important ancient capital cities of China.


Chanhu Daro (Pakistan)

The archaeological site of Chanhu Daro is a Jhukar culture site located in Sind province of modern day Pakistan.


Chanka Polity

The Chanka was a small polity in the Peruvian highlands following the Wari empire and a rival to the Inca civilization


Chankillo (Peru)

Chankillo (also spelled Chanquillo) is a ceremonial center and solar observatory located within an area of rock outcrops and sand ramps in the Casma-Schin river valley of arid coastal Peru.


Chantuto Phase

The Chantuto phase is the name given to Archaic period occupation of the coastal tidewaters along the southwest Mexico, dated roughly between 4000-1500 BC.


Chaoxian Cave (China)

The Chaoxian cave is an early hominin site located in eastern Anhui province, China.


Chaoxian Cave (China)

The Chaoxian cave is an early hominin site located in eastern Anhui province, China.


Chaparron Complex

The Chaparron culture in the name given to a group of people who lived in sedentary villages of lower central America, especially Costa Rica, between about 1000-500 BC.


Chaparron Complex

The Chaparron culture in the name given to a group of people who lived in sedentary villages of lower central America, especially Costa Rica, between about 1000-500 BC.


Characteristics of Ancient Civilizations

Ancient civilizations sometimes evolve from simpler societies; this much is apparent. The characteristics which identify increasing complexity include a range of different elements.


Characteristics of Ancient Civilizations

Ancient civilizations sometimes evolve from simpler societies; this much is apparent. The characteristics which identify increasing complexity include a range of different elements.


Chasséen Culture

Chasséen Culture is the name given to a Middle Neolithic Bell beaker culture throughout what is now France between 4500 and 2500 BC.


Chasséen Culture

Chasséen Culture is the name given to a Middle Neolithic Bell beaker culture throughout what is now France between 4500 and 2500 BC.


Chassey le Camp (France)

Chassey le Camp is the Chasséen (middle Neolithic) type site located on the Saone river, a small farming village of between 100 and 400 people, occupied beginning about 1500 BC.


Chassey le Camp (France)

Chassey le Camp is the Chasséen (middle Neolithic) type site located on the Saone river, a small farming village of between 100 and 400 people, occupied beginning about 1500 BC.


Chateau Gaillard (France)

Chateau Gaillard is a Medieval castle in France built by Richard Lionheart of England from 1197-1198, in order to protect his holdings in Normandy.


Chateau Gaillard (France)

Chateau Gaillard is a Medieval castle in France built by Richard Lionheart of England from 1197-1198, in order to protect his holdings in Normandy.


Chatelperronian Period

The Châtelperronian period is the name given to similar Upper Paleolithic Neanderthal (probably) stone tool assemblages, from about 32,000 to 30,000 years ago.


Chatelperronian Period

The Châtelperronian period is the name given to similar Upper Paleolithic Neanderthal (probably) stone tool assemblages, from about 32,000 to 30,000 years ago.


Chauvet Cave (France)

Chauvet Cave is one of the earliest rock art sites in the world, dating to the Aurignacian period in France, about 30,000-32,000 years ago.


Chauvet Cave (France)

Chauvet Cave is one of the earliest rock art sites in the world, dating to the Aurignacian period in France, about 30,000-32,000 years ago.


Chavín Culture

The Chavín culture is the name of a cultural group in Peru, now thought to have been primarily a religious cult, dated from about 400-200 BC.


Chavín Culture

The Chavín culture is the name of a cultural group in Peru, now thought to have been primarily a religious cult, dated from about 400-200 BC.


Chavín de Huántar (Peru)

Chavin de Huantar is an archaeological site of the Chavín culture located on a steep slope of the Andes Mountains of Peru, occupied from about 900-200 BC.


Chavín de Huántar (Peru)

Chavin de Huantar is an archaeological site of the Chavín culture located on a steep slope of the Andes Mountains of Peru, occupied from about 900-200 BC.


Chellean Man (Tanzania)

Chellean man is the name given to a Homo erectus skull with an extremely large brow ridge, found by Louis Leakey in 1960.


Chengbeixi Culture

Chengbeixi culture is the name given to an early developmental Neolithic paddy rice agriculture village culture in the Yangtze River of China, between about 7000-5000 BC.


Chengtoushan (China)

Chengtoushan is a Daxi culture site, located in the Lixian county of Hunan Province, China, with the earliest walled settlement in China.


Chengziya (China)

Chengziya is an archaeological site in Shandong Province, China, consissting of a walled settlement, with occupations primarily dated to the Longshan period (2600-2000 BC).


Chernyakhov (Ukraine)

Chernyakhov is the name given to a Slavic village and cemetery in the Lower Danube region of Ukraine, dated to the 4th century AD.



a fine grained sedimentary rock that is white, pinkish, brown, gray or blue-gray in color. It is often shaped into stone artifacts by chipping.


Chichén Itzá (Mexico)

Chichén Itzá is a large Maya and Toltec village and temple complex on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.


Chifumbaze Complex

The Chifumbaze complex is a widespread Iron Age culture, covering much of southern and eastern Africa.


Chilca (Peru)

Chilca is the name of an early Archaic period site located on the Peruvian coast about 70 kilometers south of Lima.


Chilhac (France)

is the name of a karst cave in the Massif Central region of Auvergne, France, with an early hominid (probably Homo erectus) occupation.


Chimú State

The Chimú state, also called the "Kingdom of Chimor," was an Andean civilization which grew out of the Moche civilization, was established in Peru about 850 AD, and conquered by the Inca in 1470.


Chimú State

The Chimú state, also called the "Kingdom of Chimor," was an Andean civilization established in Peru about 850 AD, and conquered by the Inca in 1470.


Chincha Culture

The Chincha was a small polity on the coast of Peru oriented to living on marine resources, from 1000 AD to 1476 when they were conquered by the Inca


Chinchawas (Peru)

Chinchawas is a small village site, part of the Recuay polity, located on a known transportation route between the coast and the highlands in northern Peru.


Chinchorro (Chile)

The archaeological site of Chinchorro is a cemetery site located on a beach in Arica, in southern Chile.


Chirand (India)

Chirand is a stratified Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Iron Age settlement in the eastern Ganges Valley of Bihar in northern India, between about 2500-AD 30.


Chiripa (Bolivia)

The archaeological site of Chiripa is located in the Lake Titicaca region of Bolivia, associated with the Tiwanaku culture


Chocolate Domestication

Theobroma spp is the official name of several varieties of tropical trees that are native to the northern Amazon region of South America and were cultivated and domesticated in central America to produce the wonderful elixir of the gods, chocolate.


Chogha Mish (Iran)

The archaeological site of Chogha Mish is located in the Khuzistan Province of Iran (Susiana Plain).


Cholula (Mexico)

Cholula is the name of an archaeological site in the Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley of the central highlands in the state of Puebla, Mexico


Chorrera Culture

The Chorrera culture is the name given to the Late Formative period in Ecuador's Andes and coastal areas


Chou Dynasty

The Chou Dynasty (also spelled Zhou) ruled China for over 700 years (1050-256 BC).


Chronological Analysis

Archaeologists use the term 'chronological analysis' to refer to the analysis of an object, set of objects, archaeological site or set of sites in terms of its temporal characteristics


Chwezi Dynasty

The Chwezi Dynasty (also called Bachwezi or Kitara Dynasty) is the possibly mythical, certainly legendary, kingdom of Uganda, who are said to have ruled between 1300 and 1500 AD.


Cimmerian Culture

The Cimmerian culture were nomadic horse-riding people of the Russian steppes beginning about 1200 BC.


Cishan (China)

Cishan is the type site for the Cishan culture, an early Neolithic culture in the Yellow River of China, occupied from about 6500-5000 BC.


Clactonian Tradition

The Clactonian Tradition refers to the stone tools of the Lower Paleolithic period (ca. 500,000 to 100,000 BP) in Europe, made by Homo erectus.


Classical Archaeology

The term classical archaeology generally refers to the study of ancient Greece and Rome and their immediate forebears.



A fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet and hardens when heated, consisting primarily of hydrated silicates of aluminum and widely used in making bricks, tiles, and pottery.


Cliff Dwellings

The term "Cliff dwellings" generally refers to Anasazi culture sites such as Mesa Verde, Colorado in the United States that have residences built right into the sheer cliffs of mountains.


CLIMAP Project

The CLIMAP Project was developed in the 1970s by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Clovis Culture

The Clovis culture is the earliest well-established human culture in the North American continent.


Clovis point

large stone projectile point used by early American hunters to kill large game animals


Cobá (Mexico)

Cobá is the name of a large lowland Maya city located between two large lakes in east central Quintana Roo, Mexico.


Cochise Culture

The Cochise culture is the name given to preceramic cultures of the American southwest, particularly Arizon, between 12,000 and 2,000 years ago.



A codex (plural codices) is the technical name for an ancient book or manuscript


Cognitive Archaeology

Cognitive archaeology is a theoretical underpinning of archaeological research that is interested in the material expression of human cognitive concepts.


Coles Creek Culture

The Coles Creek culture is the name given to sites created by a group of pottery-making farmers in the Lower Mississippi Valley of the United States.


Colha (Belize)

The archaeological site of Colha is a Maya occupation located in Belize about 60 kilometers north of Belize City.


Collections Management

Collections management attempts to identify the best method of keeping archaeological material preserved and accessible to archaeologists for further study, and/or the general public for educational purposes.


Colonial Williamsburg (USA)

The town of Williamsburg, Virginia is important because of its role in United States history; and its role in presenting concrete images of the past to the public.


Commercial Archaeology

Commercial archaeology focuses on the material culture aspects of commerce and transportation.


Compass rose

used to show direction on a map


Compound mound

mounds that are made up of conical mounds connected by linear mounds


Conical mound

a cone or oval shaped mound that usually contains human burials


Constantinople (Turkey)

Constantinople is the old name for Istanbul, the great city located in what is now Turkey.


Copán (Honduras)

The archaeological site of Copán is located in western Honduras, and represents a major Classic period Maya temple and regional center.


Copper breast ornament

a piece of pounded natural copper


Coptic Christianity

The Coptic church is a form of Christianity developed in Egypt, said to have been started by one of Christ's apostles, Mark, in the 1st century AD


Corded Ware Culture

The Corded Ware culture or complex is the name given to a wave of people in the Neolithic period, originating from the Carpathian mountains and the area now called the Baltic States.



A core, in the archaeological sense, is the basic raw material building block for a stone tool.


Corinth (Greece)

The archaeological site of Corinth was an ancient capital city of Greece, first occupied during the Neolithic period, and most famous for its Greek and Roman occupations.


Corlea Trackway (Ireland)

Corlea Trackway is an Iron Age roadway that measures one kilometer long and four meters (12 feet) wide, and was built of massive oaken planks


Cortaillod-Est (Switzerland)

The site of Cortaillod-Est is an Alpine Lake palisaded village in a lake in Switzerland, dated to the Late Bronze Age (1009-955 BC).



Cosmology is the intersection between astronomy and religion; many if not most prehistoric cultures studied the movement of the stars and planets as part of a religious rituals.



steep sided valleys found along the Upper Mississippi Waterway


Coxcatlan Cave (Mexico)

Coxcatlan Cave is a rockshelter in the Tehuacan Valley of Mexico, and it was occupied by humans for nearly 10,000 years.



burials that are made from the remains of burned human bones


Cremation ashes

fragments of charred human bones


Crickley Hill (UK)

Crickley Hill is an important Neolithic and Iron Age site in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.



Cro-Magnon is a now-outmoded word meaning early Homo sapiens sapiens, circa 35,000 to 10,000 years before the present.


Ctesiphon (Iraq)

Ctesiphon is the name of a very old city at the confluence of the Tigris and Diyala rivers near Baghdad in what is now Iraq.


Da But (Vietnam)

The archaeological site called Da But is an early Neolithic cemetery and shell midden in coastal region of Thanh Hoa province of Vietnam, recently radiocarbon dated to 5085 BC.



An earthlodge is the name given by archaeologists to refer to a kind of permanent house, built of wattle and daub construction and covered over with sod.



Faience is a completely manufactured material created (one assumes) to imitate the bright colors and gloss of hard-to-get gems and used in jewelry throughout Egypt and the Near East beginning about 5500 years ago.


Gallagh Man (Ireland)

Gallagh Man is the name given to an Iron Age (ca 470 and 120 B.C.) bog body recovered from a peat bog in Castleblakeney, County Galway.


H3, Al Sabiyah (Kuwait)

The region of As-Sabiyah in what is now Kuwait is the home of nearly sixty archaeological sites belonging the Mesopotamian period, including evidence of early sailing at the Ubaid period site at As-Sabiyah, known as H3.


Iceman (Italy)

The Iceman was found in the Tyrolean Alps in 1991, a Bronze Age hunter lost in a storm between 3350-3300 BC.


Jaguar Cave (USA)

Jaguar Cave is a karst cave located in north central Tennessee, where about 300 human footprints were found, possibly dated to 4500 years ago.


Kaletepe Deresi 3 (Turkey)

The site of Kaletepe Deresi 3 is located in the Göllü Dag region of central Turkey, and it contains at least three Middle and Lower Paleolithic archaeological components.


La Ferrassie Cave (France)

La Ferrassie Cave is a Neanderthal site located near the modern town of Les Eyzies in the Dordogne Valley of France.


Maguey Plan

A 16th Century Map of an Aztec City. The Maguey Plan (Plano en papel de maguey) is the name of a 16th century map of part of a city within the Aztec empire, drawn on paper made of maguey (or agave).


Na'aran (Israel/Palestine)

Na'aran was a Byzantine settlement and synagogue during the 5th and 6th century AD, located about four kilometers from Jericho.


Oasis Theory

The Oasis Theory is a core concept in archaeology, referring to one of the main hypotheses about the origins of agriculture.


Pachacamac (Peru)

The archaeological site of Pachacamac, Peru contains pyramids and other constructions belonging to both the Huari and Inca states.


Qandahar (Afghanistan)

The archaeological site of Qandahar is located near the modern city of Kandahar in south central Afghanistan.


Race and Racism

The plague of racism was at first enhanced, and then debunked, by the study of anthropology. Too bad we can't seem to convince people that the idea that some people are better than others ought to be permanently shelved.


Sa Huynh Culture

The Sa Huynh Culture is the name given to an urnfield (jar burials) culture on the coastal plains of central and south Vietnam


Taima Taima (Venezuela)

The site of Taima-Taima is located within deeply buried, stratified beach sand deposits in northern Venezuela, and consists of lithic tools (including paleoindian-era El Jobo points) in contact with a mastodon skeleton.


Uan Muhuggiag (Libya)

The cave of Uan Muhuggiag contains an occupation and rock art, located in the Acacus massif of the central Saharan desert of Libya.


Valcamonica (Italy)

Valcamonica is the name of a valley in northern Italy that is home to numerous rock art sites, some as early as the Upper Paleolithic and into the Iron Age.


Wadi Feinan (Jordan)

Wadi Feinan is the name of a wadi, or dry valley, in Jordan, where a number of important Chalcolithic and Bronze Age sites are located.


Yanshi (China)

Yanshi is an early Shang dynasty capital city, located in the modern town of Yanshi, Henan Province, China.


Zhou Dynasty, China (1046-221 BC)

The Zhou Dynasty (also spelled Chou) conquered the Shang rulers and ruled major parts of what is now China for over 700 years (ca 1046-221 BC).


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