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Prehistoric Archaeology

Archaeological study of the past before written records begin

Classical archaeology

Archaeological study of Ancient Greece and Rome


Archaeological study of Ancient Egypt

Near East Studies

Archaeological study of the Middle East, generally the maximum area encompassed by the Ottoman Empire

Historic/Post-Medieval Archaeology

Archaeological study of the material past over the last 500 years

Ethno Archaeology

Ethnographic study of peoples for archaeological purposes

Nautical Archaeology

Discipline of archaeology that specifically studies human interaction with the sea

Stylistic attributes

Usually involve the most obvious descriptive characteristics of an artifact believed to reflect choices of its maker

Stylistic attributes


Form attributes

Includes overall 3-dimensional shape of the artifact and aspects of that shape

Form attributes

-Measurable dimensions/metric attributes

Technological attributes

-Include the characteristics of the raw materials used to make artifacts (constituent attributes)
-Any other traits that reflect the manufacturing process

Constituent attributes

Characteristics of the raw materials used to make the artifact

Formulation, Implementation, Data Gathering & Processing, Analysis, Interpretation, Publication

Research Process



Data Gathering and Processing

-Surface collection
-Survey, Excavation, and Lab


-Publication of all primary data
-Publication of results of data analysis
-Publication of their interpretation of said data


Study of rock/sediment layers

Law of Superposition

Sedimentary layers are deposited in a time sequence, with the oldest on the bottom and the youngest on the top


The assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe

Harris Matrix

Each stratigraphic layer (stratification) is assigned a letter. The layers are arranged in a vertical tree, with the bottom-most (oldest) layers appearing on the bottom of the tree, and subsequently higher (newer) layers moving vertically upwards. Concurrent layers are arranged horizontally to each other.

To reveal the form of the past; to discover function; to understand culture processes; to understand the process by which similar political, social, and behavioral changes occur through time and space; to preserve, manage, and administer global heritage resources

Goals of archaeological research

Seriation (indirect)

Dating technique in which artifacts or other data are ordered chronologically according to stylistic similarities or frequency of appearance

Radiometric dating (direct)

Dating of an object based on observed abundance of naturally occurring isotopes and its decay products using known decay rates

Radiometric dating (direct)

Includes radiocarbon and K-Ar dating

Fluorine Dating (direct, relative)

-Dating the period an artifact has been underground by the amount of fluoride ions that has been absorbed
-Relatively impractical method of dating

Dendrochronology (indirect)

Method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree-rings

Archaeomagnetism (direct)

Dating using the study and interpretation of the signatures of Earth's magnetic fields at past times recorded in archaeological materials

Thermoluminescence (direct)

Dating technique in which levels of accumulated radiation since the archaeological material was last heated or exposed to sunlight

Vertical Excavation

-Understand the total occupational sequence of a site (Diachronic)
-Recover representative cultural materials for different periods of occupation
-Understand preservation conditions for all periods of occupations

Vertical Excavation

-Not able to understand detailed temporal relationship between structures
-Not able to understand temporal relationships for the entire site

Horizontal (Clearing) Excavation

-Understand the relationships of features, structures, and houses from a single occupation (Synchronic)
-Recover representative cultural materials from a single period
-Understand the social, economic, and political relationships within communities

Horizontal (Clearing) Excavation

-Not able to understand total occupational history of site
-In general, excavation limited to the last major occupation of a site
-Excavations are much slower compared to vertical excavations


Any portable object made, used, or modified by humans


An object found at an archaeological site that has been previously unhanded by humans
Ex.: Seed


A collection of one or more contexts representing some human, non-portable activity that generally has a vertical characteristic relative to site stratigraphy


A group of different artifacts found in association with one another (within the same context)


Association of artifacts denoting a particular form of prehistoric activity practiced by a group of people

Activity area

A patterning of artifacts in a site, indicating that a specific set of tasks or operations took place there

Looting, Warfare/Colonialism, Construction

Causes of archaeological site destruction

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