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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.



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.


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