Archaeology terms, definitions & comments

We have been publishing archaeological articles for years on this website yet it is doubtful that we have put up a glossary of terms. We are going to do so today and add a few comments under some of the terms for a better perspective on their use.

There is no particular order to these terms and we will only be able to cover a few of them. We will post links to web pages that have more terms for you to look at and learn. We are also going to copy and paste those definitions to ease our work load

Archaeology– the scientific study of the past human cultures through their material remains.

{keep in mind that science is the gathering of knowledge through experiments and observations. Some times you will see the words truth and facts as part of a scientific definition but those facts and truths are highly subjective and rarely objective in nature}

Absolute Dating– a dating method that is used to determine an object’s approximate age in calendar years

{funny thing is that absolute and approx. are not synonyms. And these absolute dates can change depending on more information or recalibration efforts on the part of scientists. There is nothing absolute about them}

BP– means before present and the year used as the marker for the present is 1950.

{Unfortunately for archaeologists, etc., 1950 no longer remains the present and its events are discussed as history. It is a very inaccurate marker and does not take into consideration the 70 years that have come and gone since that year. AD & BC are better markers but that calendar is off by a few years as well. Jesus was born during the time of Herod about 6 to 10 years prior to year 0}

Excavation unit– A square hole of predetermined uniform size that is excavated from an archaeological site

{this is also known as the Wheeler-Kenyon method of excavating an archaeological site. The weakness of this system is that valuable artifacts, manuscripts and other data are left buried for future generations. This method allows holes in the information discovered from a given archaeological site and there is no guarantee that the information left buried will not disappear before those future generations dig it up}

In Situ– Refers to an artifact that has been found in its original context

{This may be the original place the archaeologist found the artifact or scroll but it may not be the original place the artifact was left in. Due to many different factors the artifact could have been moved from its original place by grave robbers, or other people. Earthquakes and other natural disasters could have a hand in moving the artifact. Also, there are no ancient manuscripts dug up with the artifacts to provide any information as to why the item was made, who made it and who used it. For all the archaeologist knows the item could have been a treasured family heirloom passed down for man y generations The archaeologist has a lot of freedom to read into what they discover because of this void}

Prehistoric– the period of time before written records; the absolute date for the prehistoric period varies from place to place

{This is a convenient tool in the archaeologist’s toolbox. It helps them shape the past the way they want it to be and not the way it was. No one knows when writing first was invented and with this label they get to manipulate the facts as they see fit. Just because an archaeologist doe snot find MSS. At his excavation does not mean the society was illiterate and did not possess the knowledge to read and write. There are too many factors why the archaeologist did not find any written material- they looked in the wrong place or the material did not pass the test of time are just 2 of those factors}

BCE – Before Common Era. & C.E.- Common Era

{Replacements by unbelieving people who do not want to us AD or BC as their calendar marker}

Provenance – The origin, or history of ownership of an archaeological or historical object.

{many archaeological magazines, journals and other publications refuse to publish articles on unprovenanced artifacts. The reason for this is that they do not know the history of the artifact or where it was found and consider them forgeries. To give them a little credit that is the case for some discoveries but unfortunately that attitude nor conclusion should apply to all the items that comes to the attention of an archaeologist. If it was then the Nag Hammadi library would have been discarded and lost forever As would many amateur finds would}

Pictogram – A picture or symbol that represents a word or group of words

{Sometimes these items are not languages and may simply just be pictures drawn, carved or painted. Again without any contemporary corroboration it is hard to determine if it is a language, a group of symbols with their own set of meanings or just pictures called in today’s world artists’ conception}


The sources for these archaeological terms come from 3 different websites. #1. Glossary of Archaeological Terms; #2. Archaeology Section; and #3. Archaeological Institute of America