LITHICS-NET's Glossary of
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The LITHICS-Net Glossary is an ongoing, never-ending, living document in
progress. The Glossary
was begun in June 3, 1995, first published
on the internet in 1997 and was last updated on February
For many years
archaeologists have shown great concern with projectile typology
and a standardization of terms for projectile-point studies has
been the focal point of innumerable efforts since the early
1900's. It is rather surprising that now, as we approach the year
2010, there is, as of yet, no real accepted standard terminology
and certainly no standardized attribute list for the comparison
of projectile point forms. I would highly suggest that any person
who wishes to fully study the lithic terms in this glossary first
obtain and study the wonderful work of Lewis R. Binford and his
paper "A Proposed Attribute List For the
Description and Classification of Projectile Points". Mr.
Binford's paper was published in the book, Miscellaneous
Studies in Typology and Classification,
1963, Museum of Anthropology, The University of
Michigan, Ann Arbor, No. 19.
Other fine sources for
terminology are: "A Comparative Study of Some
Unfinished Fluted Points and Channel Flakes from the Tennessee
Valley", 1961, James W. Cambron and David C.
Hulse, Journal of Alabama Archaeology, Vol. VII, No. 2,
Alabama Archaeological Society, University of Alabama; "Principles
of Stratigraphy", 1960, Amadeus
W. Grabau, Dover Publications; the paper "Glossary
of Archaeological Terms", T. M. N. Lewis, Tennessee
Archaeologist, Vol. 16, No. 1, Tennessee Archaeological
Society; Handbook of Alabama Archaeology, Part 1
Point Types, 1964, 1965, 1969, James W. Cambron
and David C. Hulse, edited by David L. DeJarnette, Archaeological
Research Association of Alabama; Flaked Stone
Projectiles, Tools and Ceremonials of the Southeastern States,
1995, Winston H. Baker, Williams Printing.
The beginning student
is directed to the book titled, Adventures In
Stone Artifacts, 1997, Sandy Livoti & Jon
Kiesa, Adventure Publications. This book contains a nice glossary
of terms and explains all facets of stone artifact collecting and
Should this LITHICS-Net
glossary of terms be used or printed in any manner, the
above resources and people should be cited in a bibliography as well
Thank You, Art Gumbus, LITHICS-Net.
A native human inhabitant of a country or
geographic area. For Example, in North America, the Native North
- Abrading Stone
- A stone, typically sandstone or limestone that was used
to smooth or sharpen antler, bone, wood and other stone.
- Acute Severe short
angles coming to a sharp point.
- Accretion A process in which
the size of something (mineral deposits on an artifact, patina) gradually increases
by the steady addition over time.
- A.D. Represents years
in the Christian Era. Anno Domini.
- Adaptation The
process of change to better conform with environmental
conditions or other external stimuli.
- Adena The major
cultural group of the Woodland period. The Adena had
cultural influences in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New
York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The Adena are
regarded in modern times as being accomplished craftsmen.
- Adze A tool,
typically made from stone, that was presumed to be used
like a modern woodworker's chisel to work wood.
- Agate A
semi-precious chalcedony formed as quartz fossils of a
previous geological age. The colors of agate can be
clouded, clear or banded.
- Alternate When
used in reference to a flaked projectile or tool,
alternate implies the opposite face of opposing edges was
The scientific and humanistic study of man's
present and past biological, linguistic, social, and
cultural variations. Its major subfields are archaeology,
physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, and
- Anvil A rock that
was used as a level base for chipping other stone into
tools, blades or projectile points. Typically part of a
flint knapper's toolkit.
- Argillite A metamorphosed shale.
It lacks bedding planes and breaks into annular or blocky
fragments. Unweathered it is gray-black and weathered it is
(also sometimes spelled Archeology) The
scientific study of the physical evidence of past human
societies recovered through the excavation. Archaeology
not only attempts to discover and describe past cultures,
but also to formulate explanations for the development of
- Archaeologist Anyone
with an interest in the aims and methods of archaeology.
A professional archaeologist usually holds a degree in
anthropology with a specialization in archaeology and is
trained to collect archaeological information in a
"proper" scientific way.
- Archaic Period
A time frame in North American pre-history spanning 7,000
years between 10,000 B.P. to 3000 B.P. after Paleo and
before Woodland times. The 7,000 years is further defined
as Early, Middle and Late Archaic which are also defined
elsewhere in this glossary.
- Arrowhead or
Arrowpoint A weapon point or tip made of
stone, bone, metal or other material which in general is
less than 1 inches in length (25 mm) and weighs under 15 grams
and is attributed no earlier than the Woodland phase of North American
Aborigine prehistory. Larger points are regarded as dart points, spear
points or knife blades and are associated with spear and
dart atlatl or hand thrown delivery systems or hafted
- Artifact An old,
authentic object used, crafted or manufactured by the
application of human workmanship or activity, especially
one of prehistoric origin that may have archaeological
significance especially if found in an undisturbed
context. Common examples include projectile points,
tools, utensils, art, food remains, and other products of
- Assemblage A
group of artifacts which represent a culture or archeological unit. A group of
artifacts related to each other based upon some recovery
from a common archaeological context. Assemblage examples
are artifacts from a site or feature. Examples: Orient assemblage,
Adena assemblage, Perkiomen assemblage.
When used in reference to projectiles or tools,
asymmetrical refers to opposing side of an object which
have dissimilar contours, shape or form.
- Atlatl The Aztec word for a spear throwing
stick device. This projectile propulsion device preceded the bow and arrow. In
general, a wooden or bone stick or board with a hand grip at one end and a
spur or hook at the other end. The atlatl is used as an extension of the arm
in throwing a spear or dart. The spear shaft is socketed and fits into the
spur or hook of the Atlatl. Essentially the Atlatl lengthens the length of the
spear thrower's arm and with loaded, spring-like, motion can provide the
benefit of greater force and distance over that of the hand thrown spear. It
is hypothesized that sometimes a stone weight(s) (a.k.a.: Bannerstone,
Birdstone, Boatstone) was attached to the Atlatl to provide better balance or
to load the device with a spring or bending effect or to diminish the "whoosh"
noise created during the throwing process.
- Atlatl Weight A drilled or grooved stone or shell that was used to weight the
atlatl. Often called a Bannerstone. See Atlatl.
- Auricle The
corners of a stem of stemmed types or the corners of the
base of triangular types which are ear-like.
- Auriculate A
major projectile form which has rounded or pointed ears
that project from the concave base or stem of points or
- Authentic True
or genuine. Artifacts made in prehistoric times.
- Axe A large chopping
tool that may have a grove for hafting to a handle.
- Bannerstone A
stone presumed to be an Atlatl weight with a drilled
centered hole or a grove. The bannerstone could be a
ceremonial object and remains a problematical artifact.
Certain bannerstones are so large and elaborate that
their design and size totally precludes them from being
used effectively as an atlatl weight and thus are
considered ceremonial objects.
- Barbs A sharp
protrusion of the blade of stemmed or notched types at
the proximal corners.
There are 6 major types of barbs, Expanded
which means flaring outward and upwards towards the
distal end, Horizontal which means flaring
outward at 90 degrees to the stem, Inversely Tapered
which means pointing downward and getting thinner, Rounded
which means the outline is semi-circular, Struck
which means knocked off, and Tapered which means
minimized in an angle towards the tip.
- Basal Edge The
proximal edge of a triangular or lanceolate projectile or
stem of a stemmed type. There are eight major types of
Basal Edges; Convex, Straight, Concave, Auriculate,
Lobbed, Bifurcated, Fractured and Snapped.
- Basal Thinning
Produced to remove small, longitudinal flakes from the
basal edge of a projectile point in order that the tool
or point could be more easily hafted or held.
- Base The bottom of the stem.
The base is the
proximal or end portion of a knife, tool or projectile
point. The base is usually designed for hafting or
gripping, but not designed or intended for cutting,
scraping or penetrating. Oftentimes, base edges were
ground so that sharp edges would not abrade the hafting
materials and cause hafting failure with use. The bottom
part of a point or knife. The base shape can be round, convex,
concave or straight.
- B.C. A year some time
Before the birth of Christ. The Pre Christian Era.
refers to a blade edge, a stem side edge or a stem base
which was steeply flaked across one or more faces which
produces a noticeable slope.
- Bevel, Biface
A bevel which was formed by removing flakes from both
faces of an edge.
- Bevel, Steep
A bevel of a blade edge or stem edge which was flaked at
a steep (> 40 degree) angle to the plane of the face.
- Bevel, Uniface
A bevel which was formed by removing seep flakes from
just one face of an edge. The opposing face may have a
few flat flake scars of the primary flaking of scattered
retouch flake scars.
- Biconvex A blade
shape having two worked faces.
- Biface In reference
to projectiles or tools, biface describes those examples
which have been worked and exhibit flake scars along both
faces or sides.
- Bifurcated Base
A type of basal stem of a projectile or tool which has a
central notch splitting the stem into the form of two
- Billet A bone or
antler tool used for flaking.
- Bipoint The bipoint probably
is the oldest point form in the Eastern United States. It is a lanceolate
form with point on both ends of the specimen. The Guilford and Lerma point types
are a classic examples of a bipoint.
Typically a stone artifact, thought to be an Atlatl
weight which was shaped like a bird. Quite possibly some
other type of ceremonial object. Some birdstones have
bulging or "Pop" eyes. Usually made from a
- Blade Overall this
term is used to describe a knife form. However, in lithic
projectile terms, the blade is the distal (above the
hafting or gripping area) portion of a projectile, knife,
ax or other similar tool. Blade is also used to refer to
large bifaced flaked artifacts.
- Blowout A patch of
land in the Great Plains states of North America where
dry soil is blown away by wind leaving heavier rock and
possibly artifacts on the surface.
- Blunt A point that
abruptly terminates part way up the blade with no true
distal point for piercing. Typically the point is chipped
in a mild excurvate or straight edge. Some feel that the
point may have been used in hunting as a
"stunning" weapon. However, most blunts show
signs as being a conserved, former projectile, reworked
into a hand held or hafted scraper.
- Boatstone A
stone artifact shaped like a watercraft which is thought
to be a type of Atlatl weight or a ceremonial ornament of
- Bulbous A term
used to define a stem form that has oval sides and a flat
to slightly rounded basal edge.
- Bulbar Depression
A depression left from the bulb of percussion when a
blade or flake is struck from a core.
- Burin A tool flaked
into a chisel point for inscribing or grooving bone,
wood, leather, stone or antler.
- B.P. Before Present.
Where present is define as the year 1950 A.D. Therefore,
1949 B.P. would be the year 1 A.D. and 1951 B.P. would be
the year 1 B.C.
- Cache A group of
artifacts deposited in the same safe place, usually of
the same type or lithic origin. The point cache is common
in North America. The Cache occurs for all of prehistory.
While the archaeological literature contains numerous explainations,
there is no way to explain any particular cache. Generally, the assumption
is that caches were created to store tools for; some future use, ceremonial
events, tribute, child-to-adult ceremony, and other explainations.
- Caddo A shortened
form of the tribal name Cadohadacho, referring to three
main Native American tribal groups spread along wide
fertile prairies bordering the great bend in the Red
River. The three cultures are- the Cadohadacho and the
Natchitoches along the Red River, and the Hasinai along
the banks of the upper Neches and Angelina Rivers in East
Texas. Each tribe within these three regional groupings
had an individual identity and was independently
governed, but all had a common language, followed the
same social and religious customs, and shared traditions.
Their direct descendants are listed on the tribal roll of
the Caddo Indian Tribe of Oklahoma in the twentieth
century. (From Caddo Indians: Where We Come From
(1995pg4) by Cecile Elkins Carter, Cultural Liaison for
the Caddo Tribes of Oklahoma.)
- Caddoan A family
of North American Indian languages spoken in the upper
Missouri Valley in North Dakota, in the Platto Valley in
Nebraska, in southwestern Arkansas, and in neighboring
parts of Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.
- Callche A white or
tan calcium deposit that can form on artifacts which are
found in Texas and adjoining states.
- Celt A thin, ungroved
axe with a sharp edge used for cutting or chopping.
Probably hafted into a wooden handle.
- Ceramic Of or
pertaining to pottery.
- Chalcedony A
flint like stone with a waxy appearance, the sources of
which are usually nodular.
- Channel Flake
A long longitudinal percussion flake removed in the
- Chert A very fine
grained rock formed in ancient ocean sediments. It often
has a semi-glossy finish and is usually white, pinkish,
brown, gray, or blue-gray in color. It can be shaped into
arrowheads and projectile by chipping. It has often been
called flint, but true flint is found in chalk deposits
and is a distinctive blackish color. In North America,
high grade glossy cherts are called "Flint",
while low grade, dull chert is called "chert".
- Chronology The
arrangement of events, or the materials which represent
them, in the order of their occurrence in time.
- Classic Example
A subjective term used to refer to a specific point
specimen which represents the truest form of a particular
point type or blade.
- Clipped Wing
A barbed shoulder that has been fractured off or clipped.
- Cluster A group of
stylistically and chronologically similar artifacts for
which adequate excavation data does not exist to allow
for the classification as a phase.
- Collateral A
term which refers to a flaking style where parallel
flakes are removed from each side of the face of a blade
and meet in the center of the blade, forming a median
- Complex A relatively
broad archeological unit of a local sequence over a long
period of time; it implies a stage of cultural development
embracing several phases which may or may not be sufficiently
delineated to be recognized as phases. Examples: Delaware
Valley Archaic Complex.
- Component A
term which refers to the manifestation of a single
archeological unit as a site.
- Concave A term to
describe an outline which curves inward. Synonymous with
incurvate and the opposite of convex and excurvate.
Suggested that this term only be used to describe basal
- Conchoidal Fracture
A breakage of rock in concentric circles or in a clam
shell-like scar pattern. Referring to the characteristic
fractures resulting from pressure and percussion flaking
of flint and chert.
A rock composed of rounded pebbles and sand which are
cemented together into a solid rock.
Archaeology A subfield of archaeology which
focuses on the preservation of archaeological resources.
This position encourages the stabilization and
preservation of archaeological sites as opposed to their
- Context The
relation of an artifact or cultural remains to the
surrounding artifacts or remains and to the soil level in
which they were found. The surrounding conditions of an
- Contracting A
term that refers to the width of a stem or point that is
diminishing in outline.
- Convex A term to
describe an outline which curves outward. Synonymous with
excurvate and the opposite of concave. Suggested that
this term only be used to describe basal edges.
- Core A
"Parent" stone such as flint or chert from
which flakes or blades have been struck and removed (by
percussion) for use in the manufacture of tools or
- Corner Notch
A major projectile form which is described as a point
that has had notches for hafting struck into the corners
of the base. Also, a flaking technique applied to
accommodate hafting which involved the flaking of notches
into the basal corners of a preform base.
the cortex is the outer layer of rock or rind formed on
the exterior of raw materials by chemical and mechanical weathering
processes. It is often recorded on the dorsal surface of flakes using
a three class system: primary(100%cortex),secondary(100%>x>0%), and tertiary (0%). The
amount of cortex present on artifacts in an archaeological assemblage
may indicate the extent of lithic reduction that has occurred. The cortex
is sometimes found on the base of the stem of certain artifacts.
- Cotype An example
of the original series when there is no holotype, the
describer having used a number of examples of equal
- Crescent A
mysterious 1/4 moon shaped artifact found in the Great
Basin area of the United States that may have been a
blade form, or a scraper or a transverse hafted
projectile point. It is found in one of three types: A
crescent moon; a crescent half moon; a crescent butterfly
- Cross Section
In reference to a blade, the shape of the blade form if
the blade were cut across the blade and perpendicular to
the length of the blade.
Archaeologically, a human population that shared a
similar economic life style, activities and beliefs which
can be recognized through the identification of residual
remains and artifacts which were left behind by the
- Cultural Complex
A group of traits whose associations in time and space
indicate that they were the products of the activities of
a specific human group.
Resource Management A branch of archaeology
that is concerned with developing policies and action in
regard to the preservation and use of cultural resources.
- Dart A projectile
point hafted to a shaft that utilized a throwing stick or
atlatl or blowgun.
- Dart Point A
flaked projectile point designed for use as a tip for a
throwing stick dart. Typically Dart Points are larger than
24mm in length and weigh more than 15 grams.
The scientific study of the annular growth of trees.
Trees produce rings of various thickness annually in
response to rainfall. Tree-rings therefore, can be used
to reconstruct fluctuations in rainfall in the past,
reflecting past climatic conditions.
- Deposit Any
accumulation laid down by human occupational activities.
- Distal End or Tip
That portion of a projectile, knife or other tool or
other hafted artifact which was designed for penetration,
cutting or scraping. The end of the artifact which is
farthest from the point of attachment, hafting or
- Drill An oblong tool
made of flaked stone used in drilling holes in wood,
leather or hides. Oftentimes, drills were made from well
used projectile points which were near end of life and
thus many drills maintain the stem and hafting area of
the original point type.
- Drift A tool or
implement, usually made of antler, which is used in the
indirect percussion flaking process.
- Early Archaic
A cultural period of the North American Aborigine Indians
dating from 10,000 to 7,000 B.P.
- Ears Pointed or
rounded projections from the base or hafting area of
certain projectile points.
- Ecology The study
of interrelationships of organisms and their environment.
- Effigy An object
bearing the likeness of an animal or human.
- Elliptical A
description of a projectile's cross section. A cross
section which looks like an ellipse, having two convex
faces which taper near the blade edges.
- Engraving The
scratched lines into the surface of an object (ie.
pottery, slate, shell, metal)
- Excurvate A
shape that bulges out in a graceful smooth convex curve.
A term used to describe a convex blade edge or basal edge
or "E" Notched A notch type which
is composed of two notches in close proximity that leave
a nipple as a remnant. Also known as a Double Notch.
Generally, referring to the width of a stem or point that
is getting larger or wider.
Point or tool expention is the process of determining when a point
or tool no longer served its user. When this stage in the life of
an artifact occurs, the user discards the point or tool and starts
the prossess of manufacturing its replacement.
- Face The broader area
of a tool or projectile between the edges. This area
could include the blade and hafting area.
- Face, Obverse
On a fluted projectile, it is the face from which the
initial or primary flute was removed.
- Face, Reverse
On a fluted projectile, it is the face from which the
secondary flute was removed.
- Features Evidence
of human activities at a site which are visible as
disturbances in the soil. Some examples of such
disturbances are: digging pits for storage, setting posts
for houses in the form of post molds, or by constructing
a hearth for cooking. These disturbances are often
distinguished by soil discolorations or non-natural
formations of stone, shell, bone, soil, coals, wood, etc.
- Felsite A lithic
material which is a cryptocrystalline igneous rock made up of
feldspar and quartz.
- Flake A thin flat
asymmetrical piece of flint or other stone which was
intentionally removed from a tool or projectile core
during the process of manufacture or
- Flake Scar A
scare that remains on a flaked artifact resulting from
the removal of a flake during the manufacture of the
- Flaking The
removal of flakes during the manufacture of a flaked
artifact. Baton Flaking is the term used to describe the
removal of flakes from stone by striking blows with a
baton-like tool. A method of direct percussion flaking.
- Flaking, Baseward
The removal of flakes from the distal tip at a downward
angle towards the basal edge.
- Flaking, Benton
This flaking technique involved the removal of large and
small percussion flakes which resulted in numerous step
fractures. Pressure flaking was often used to form
serrations. Oblique-transverse flaking was used to shape
the blade of a few examples.
- Flaking, Biface
Bevel This flaking technique involved the
removal of elongate, steep, pressure or percussion flakes
just opposite each other from an edge to form a biface
bevel and often biface serrations.
Biface Serration This flaking technique
involved the removal of elongate, not so steep, pressure
or percussion flakes just opposite each other from an
edge to form biface serrations.
- Flaking, Chevron
A V-shaped flaking pattern which extended beyond the
distal tip along much or all of one or both faces of a
Early Archaic Percussion-Pressure A type of
flaking in which the Preform was shaped by percussion
flaking. The blade edges were ground to prepare a surface
for the removal of elongate pressure flakes. The pressure
flaking may have taken the form of alternate uniface
bevel flaking, biface serration flaking, alternate biface
bevel flaking or irregular pressure flaking.
- Flaking, Flat
The removal of thin flakes by striking the artifact at a
small angle to the plane of the face.
- Flaking, Flint
Creek A characteristic flaking style of the
Flint Creek culture which was accomplished by removing
regular, deep, elongate, opposing pressure flakes from
the blade edges. The application of this flaking style
usually resulted in the formation of very fine biface
Horizontal Transverse A unique flaking style
where horizontal parallel flakes are removed that extend
from one edge of the blade, across to the other edge.
Oblique Transverse A unique flaking style in
which the removal of flakes from a blade face results in
long diagonal parallel flake scars which extend from one
side of the blade across the blade face to the other side
of the blade.
- Flaking, Parallel
(A.K.A. Collateral Flaking) A secondary
flaking technique that is often found on the earliest
projectile points and stone tools, usually performed on
the blade faces, in which the removal of flakes was
performed in such a manner to remove flakes of similar
size, depth, length and direction to result in flake
scars which are parallel. Typically the mark of a well
accomplished flint knapper. Such flake scars are found
only on few specimens and can be quite aesthetically
beautiful to behold.
- Flaking, Percussion
A flaking technique which involved the striking of a
preform with a billet, a hammerstone or other flaking
tool. This flaking technique usually left a hinge or step
- Flaking, Pressure
A flaking technique which involved the removal of flakes
by pressure against the edge of a preform with a pointed
implement or flaking tool such as bone or antler.
- Flaking, Primary
Initial flaking, usually broad, shallow, random
percussion, used to roughly shape a preform into a
desired outline for a tool or projectile.
- Flaking, Random
The removal of flakes with no regard to the resulting
aesthetic alignment of flake scars.
- Flaking, Regular
The removal of closely aligned flakes of similar lengths
and widths which result in an aesthetically pleasing
flake scar design.
- Flaking, Secondary
Following the primary flaking, this flaking technique was
applied to remove medium-sized pressure or percussion
flakes in shaping the blade and basal edges, forming
notches or producing serrations.
- Flaking Tool
A tool, such as an antler billet, or antler drift, which
was used in removing flakes during the manufacture of a
flaked stone projectile, tool, blade or artifact.
- Flint A quartz with
a high silica content that produces a conchoidal fracture
when chipped. It is usually found in association with
chalk, limestone, and other rock deposits which contain
lime. It commonly occurs in small ovoid nodules as well
as in larger veins. Impure flint is known as chert, which
varies widely as to texture, color, grain, and knapping
characteristics. Pure flint is so hard and even-grained
that is use by early man was a vital necessity in
producing spear point, dart point, knives and other
utilitarian tools. Late stone-age man learned that when
struck with a high iron content rock, the flint gave off
sparks. Thus, flint became Iron-Age man's method of
producing fire. Flint comes in many colors from white to
black including gray, tan, brown, olive, blue, and other
variants and mottled combinations.
- Flint Knappers
Humans that flake stone such as flint into projectiles
and tools or replicas thereof.
- Flotation An
archaeological recovery method of obtaining seeds and
other organic materials from soil by using liquids.
- Flute A long narrow
grove, resulting from the removal of an elongated channel
flake, which extends from the basal edge of a projectile
for some distance along the face. Used to thin the
- Flutes, Lateral
The initial, usually short flutes that were removed from
either side of the midportion of the basal edge to form a
striking platform for the removal of the median flute.
- Fluted A point or
blade that has one or more flutes.
- Flute, Median
On multifluted faces, it is the main, the central most
and usually the longest flute.
- Flute, Primary
The first median flute to be removed in the fluting
- Flute, Secondary
The second median flute to be removed in the fluting
process. This flute was removed from the face opposite
the primary flute.
- Fluting, Multiple
A technique of fluting that involved the removal of two
short lateral flutes in preparation for the removal of a
- Focus Synonymous
- Fracture, Hinge
A recurvate upstep where the distal end of a blade or
flake abruptly broke from the parent material. Such a
flake scar is indicative of a cruder form of percussion
- Fracture, Impact
A breakage of the distal tip of a projectile which is
characterized by a missing portion of the tip and an
elongate fracture scar extending along one face of the
blade. Usually occurring during impact when a point was
thrown or shot.
- Fracture, Step
A vertical upstep where the distal end of a blade or
flake broke from the parent material. Such a flake scar
is indicative of a well executed form of percussion
- Gorget A ornament
made of stone, slate, or shell which was typically
ground, drilled with one or more holes and polished.
These artifacts were presumably worn over the chest and
were either suspended on a cord or attached directly to
clothing. Another possible use of the gorget was as an
- Graver A small tool
with a sharp tip that was used to engrave bone, stone,
wood or other materials.
- Grinding A method
of stone working employed in the smoothing of an edge or
surface by rubbing it with a hammerstone or other abrader
prior to use. Performed on projectiles or blades so that
hafting materials (lashings) would not be cut by sharp
edges of the base. Also commonly referred to as Basal
Grinding when the base and sides of the stem have been
ground. There are varying degrees of grinding, typically
referred to as light, moderate or heavy.
- Ground An edge or
surface that was smoothed by abrasion.
- Haft To attach a
shaft or handle to a projectile or knife blade. To
provide with a handle.
- Hafting Area
The basal portion or proximal end of a projectile or
knife blade which was designed for attaching or lashing
or adhering to a shaft or handle for use. The
characteristics of this portion of a projectile/blade
artifact are critical for accurate identification. Such
attributes as notching, fluting, thinning, grinding or
stemming are key diagnostic elements for point typology.
In most cases, a specimen can be classified if only this
portion of the example is found intact, while the absence
of this part will make a specific analysis and typology
effort difficult or impossible.
- Hammerstone A
stone, usually a rounded hard river pebble that shows
battering scars resulting from repeated use as a hammer
or platform in the flaking process.
Percussion A crude flintknapping technique
used to break down large rocks by striking one against
- Heat Treating
The use of fire to heat and thermally alter a stone
preform in an attempt to improve its working
characteristics and flaking qualities prior to knapping
and flaking. Typical result of heat treating is a color
change of the stone as well as the molecular structure.
Heat treating occurs at temperatures that approximate or
exceed 350 degrees Centigrade. When heated slowly over a
long period of time, the luster, color and cleavage of some
chert and fling is improved. Heat treating will often create a
frosted or mineralized ring on the material. Heat treating was
often effected by prehistoric Indians by preparing a sand-lined firepit
and slowly heating the lithic materials for a day or more prior to
- Hinge Fracture
A scar left behind when the terminal end of a blade or
flake, being struck from the parent material, makes a
sharp dip into the material causing a deep abrupt
- Historic A
cultural period of the North American Aborigine Indians
dating from 450 to 170 B.P.
- Holotype Among
the primary types, a holotype is the original specimen
selected as the type, and from which the original
description for the type or the original illustration
(photograph) was made.
- Homotype A
homotype is a specimen not used in the literature but
identified by a specialist, after analysis and comparison
with the attributes of a holotype.
- Horizon A division
of cultural history which is characterized by a group of
traits with a wide geographical distribution and a brief
duration. Examples: shell-tempered pottery, net-marked pottery.
- Horizon Style A regional
art style or motif of relatively brief duration. Examples: face effigies,
- Inclusion A
foreign solid which is enclosed in the mass of an
otherwise homogeneous mineral or material.
- Indirect Percussion
Flaking a stone object by striking a drift which has been
placed against the object.
A group of artifacts made of the same material. Examples: bone industry,
stone industry, shell industry.
- Incurvate A term
to describe the outline or shape that is indented or
convex. A form of Basal edge or Stem Base outline.
- Interaction Sphere
This term refers to prehistoric groups who shared social
interaction and exchanged materials or finished goods,
through a network made up of medium to long distance
- Jasper Chert
A reddish, browinish to yellowish or sometimes greenish variety of
chalcedone or chert lithic material used in point production. One of the
better known jaspers is the Very Cruz Jasper, which is a mustard yellow to red
stone from Pennsylvania.
- Knife A tool which
was flaked to form one or more elongate cutting edges.
- Knobbed A stem
form having a rounded lump or protruding appearance.
Shaped like the head of a lance or leaves; narrow and
tapered toward the the distal end and sometimes towards
both ends. A term used to describe a major projectile
point form that has no notches or shoulders or definable
stem. Bases can be round, straight, concave, convex. A
sub-type form of Lanceolate could be
- Late Archaic
A cultural period of the North American Aborigine Indians
dating from 4,000 to 3,000 B.P.
- Late Paleo A
cultural period of the North American Aborigine Indians
dating from 15,000 to 10,000 B.P.
- Late Woodland
A cultural period of the North American Aborigine Indians
dating from 1,300 to 400 B.P. Also known as
- Laurentian Tradition Point Types
The Laurentian Tradition gave birth to the following point types: Vosburg, Brewerton Side-notched,
Brewerton Corner-notched, Brewerton Eared Triangular, Brewerton Eared-Notched, Otter Creek.
The overal size from tip to base of a projectile point. The length as a measurement is irrelevant
archaeologically unless correlated to usage and functionality. Different point lengths have different
functional attributes that are applied to usage. For example, a point that is greater than 100 mm in
length works well as a butchering knife, whereas, a point less than 35 mm works better as a
trimming tool or a dart point. Lenght is typically measured in milimeters.
Small = < 25 mm Medium = 26 - 50 mm Large = > 51 mm Ceremonial - > 125 mm
- Lenticular A
term used to describe a cross section of a blade that is
excurvate on both faces thus looking like a convex lens
or an ellipse. Sometimes also referred to as elliptical.
- Lithics Stone
tools or projectiles.
- Lobate A type of
stem that describes points and knives with curved or
- Lobbed A term used
to describe the base portion of a point or blade that is
eared. The ears are rounded and are formed by the meeting
of two circles creating a lobbed effect. An object with a
oval shaped base or stem.
- Mano A stone with a
flat side that was primarily used to grind edible
substances, typically corn, grains and nut meats.
- Maul A stone pounding
tool that was pecked, ground, groved and hafted.
- Median Ridge
A ridge that usually runs from the tip of a blade to the
hafting area which was formed by collateral flaking
techniques in the manufacture of the artifact. The median
ridge can be the thickest part of the blade.
- Microlith A
small, long, and narrow stone tool.
- Midden The band or
layer of soil which contains the byproducts of human
activity as the result of the accumulation of these
materials on their living surface. For prehistoric sites,
a layer of soil that was stained to a dark color by the
decomposition of organic refuse which also contained food
bones, fragments of stone tools, charcoal, pieces of
pottery, or other discarded materials. For historic
sites, a similar layer of soil but with appropriate
historic material remains often in a much thinner
deposit. These deposits can be seen as strata and
oftentimes when more than one strata of midden is present
in a site, and clearly define, each strata can be called
- Middle Archaic
A cultural period of the North American Aborigine Indians
dating from 7,000 to 4,000 B.P.
- Midline An
imaginary line extending along the center of a projectile
from the distal tip to the midpoint of the basal edge.
- Midpoint An
imaginary point a the intersection of the Midline and the
A cultural period of the southeastern North American
Aborigine Indians dating from 1,300 to 400 B.P. This
culture shows strong Mexican influences and is assocated
with many groups ancestral to the historic Muskhogean
speaking tribes of the Southeast. Note that this cultural
period does not relate to Northeastern Central or Western
North American Aborigine Indians.
- Mocronate Tip
A type of distal end or tip treatment in which a small
sharp nipple has been left on the very tip of the blade.
- Morphology The
overall projectile form outline of the artifact.
falling into one of the following 8 major
classifications; Lanceolate, Auriculate,
Basal Notched, Stemmed, Corner Notched, Side Notched,
- Mottled Any
material that contains spots of different colors or
- Neck That part of the
projectile or blade that is narrowest and is in between
the notches. The topmost part of the hafting area of a
- Nodule A large,
usually roughly spherical piece of stone such as flint
which was selected as a material from which to remove
flakes or blades for the manufacture of stone tools and
- Notch A flaked U or
V shaped indentation on the stem or bottom of the stem. Notching
factilitated hafting or the attachment of the point or blade to
a dart shaft, knife handle or arrow shaft.
- Notch Width
The measurement of the space between the notches across
the narrowest point of the stem or base.
- Notch, Basal
A flaking technique applied to accommodate hafting which
involved the flaking of notches into the basal edge of a
- Notched, Corner
A flaking technique applied to accommodate hafting which
involved the flaking of notches into the corners of a
- Notched, Low Side
A flaking technique applied to accommodate hafting which
involved the flaking of notches into the side of a
preform near its base.
- Notched, Side
A major projectile form where notches to accommodate
hafting were struck into the sides of a preform near the
- Notches, Expanded
Notches which are broader near the stem than between the
auricle and barb tips. These notches are bigger at their
end than at the blade edge.
- Obsidian A
volcanic glass that may be clear, black, brown or green
in color, which is one of the finest raw materials for
the chipping of stone tools.
- Obtuse A term used
to describe a rounded tip or blunt tipped artifact.
- Outline A key and
obvious diagnostic feature is the outline or silhouette
of the implement. The outline is the two dimensional
image perceived when viewing the outer perimeter of an
artifact with a blade face towards the viewer. Some
projectile point types have distinctive outlines and can
be accurately identified by this singular feature.
- Paleo A cultural
period of the North American Aborigine Indians defined as
40,000 to 12,000 B.P.
- Paleolithic A
stage of the history of mankind which is characterized by
the use and manufacture of stone tools (lithics).
- Patina A surface
discoloration or adhesive outer crust of an artifact due
to chemical changes resulting from weathering. Patina
does not necessarily imply great age.
- Patination A
loss of minerals from the surface of an artifact which
resulted in a color change usually to a lighter side. Patination
is the result of the aging process of stone tools. It varies by
material and by geographical location. It can be an indicator of age,
especially for rhyolite and shale/slate artifacts. However, tools made
from quartz and quartzite seldom reflect heavy patintinations even on
Clovis points. The acidic environment in which the artifact is found
may have a marked effect on the extent of patination. Patination may vary
according to the buried position of the artifact.
- Pecking Battering
a stone with a hammerstone to form an intended shape by
removal of very small chips.
- Period The largest
archeological unit, it occupies a large geographic area over
a long period of time and has an internal chronology composed
of phases and complexes. Examples: Archaic, Woodland
Carvings, scratchings or peckings in rock which express
artistic or religious meaning.
- Phase A subdivision
of a culture which can be defined as a reoccurring
complex of archaeological traits that can be
distinguished from any other similar complex. A phase
usually involved a more limited territory and a briefer
time span than a culture. Synonymous to a focus. Examples:
Chance Phase, Perkiomen Phase, Bushkill Phase.
Paintings on rock which express artistic or religious
- Plano Convex
A description of a cross-section of a blade that is
semi-circular. One face is flat while the other face is
excurvate or rounded. Also sometimes refereed to as a
- Pleistocene Epoch
A period of time dated from 1.6 million to 11,500 years
ago. It was characterized by an unstable climate with
arctic conditions in the form of glaciers which spread
down from the poles at least four times.
- Plummet A
problematic polished stone artifact that has many
conjectured intended uses. In all likelihood a cerimonial
- Preform An early
stage in the manufacture of a flaked stone artifact
usually with a roughly oval, elliptical or triangular
outline. Preforms which are roughly shaped, were intended
to be finished at a later date into a point or blade. In
general, the preform was a finished "blank"
that lacked only the knapping of the hafting area details
for completion of the final implement.
- Prehistoric Sites
Locations where people who were alive before modern
written records existed once lived, hunted, camped, or
were buried. Painted or carved rock outcrops are
considered sites as well.
Blade or Flake Scar A blade or flake scar
seen on the face of a blade or flake resulting form the
initial removal of a blade or a flake from a core or
- Projectile Point
A manufactured, sharp, penetrating distal tip which is
usually flaked stone that was used in conjunction with a
spear, dart or arrow. Also can be made from ground and
polished stone, antler, bone, shell or metal.
Pertaining to the origin or source of an artifact,
typically the geographic location from which the artifact
was found. The three-dimensional location of an artifact
or feature within an archaeological site, measured by two
horizontal dimensions, and a vertical elevation.
- Proximal Corners
The parts of a blade nearest the stem which define the
outermost ends of the blade edge if the stem were ignored
or removed. Also referred to as the barb.
- Proximal Portion
The part of a blade nearest the stem of hafting area or
in the area of a tool nearest the basal edge.
- Quantum Classification Method
A technique used in the definition of a projectile point by placing the specimen into
one of five design styles: lanceolate, notched, stemmed, bifurcate or triangle forms. These
forms or styles refer to the base or shape of the hafting area.
- Quartz A material
frequently used in projectile points and other artifacts.
When quartz is clear and colorless it is called rock
crystal; milky wuartz is milky white; smoky quartz is
clouded a brown color; rose quartz is a pale red color;
sugar quartz is the color of brown sugar.
- Quartz, Sugar
Also known as Quartzite, a granular low grade form of
light brownish quartz used in the production of some
point types, especially in areas where flint or cherts
were not available.
- Quartzite A
granular form of quartz stone which was formed in water
deposited sediments and consists of sand grains which
have been cemented together. It can be chipped, but is
difficult to work.
- Radiocarbon Dating
A process that provides absolute dates by counting the
radioactive decay of carbon in the remains of once living
plants and animals (i.e., charcoal, wood, bone, shell).
- Recurvate A
shape that from the bottom starts wide then thins out
becomes wide and then again thins out to the distal end.
A fish shaped profile. A basal edge that has two smooth
indents with a central excurvate bulge.
- Rejects Preforms
that because of some unsuitable flaking qualities of the
stone or breakage were discarded without being completed.
- Rescue Archaeology
A term applied to the emergency salvage of sites in
immediate danger of destruction by major land
modification projects such as reservoir construction.
- Retouching The
fine flaking of an edge to improve and finalize the form
by removal of the small flakes (usually by pressure) to
Flaking applied to a broken or dulled tool so as to
reclaim it for additional use. Sometimes called Lateral
Rejuvenation, reworking was the characteristic means by
which an implement was resharpened. Alternate and
bifacial beveling, serration, and other diagnostic
features of blade renewal are very important to age
determination as well as for the purpose of assembling
attribute clusters for typological analysis. Typically
reworked blades or points have a different outline than
their former pristine outline. Reworking of lithic
objects was employed by early man due to the general lack
of high quality lithic materials.
- Rhyolite Rhyolite is an igneous, volcanic (extrusive) rock,
of felsic (silicon-rich) composition. It may have any texture from aphanitic
to porphyritic. The mineral assemblage is usually quartz, alkali feldspar and
plagioclase (in a ratio > 1:2. Biotite and hornblende are common
accessory minerals. Rhyolite can be considered as the extrusive equivalent to the
plutonic granite rock, and consequently, outcroppings of it often bear a resemblance
to granite. Due to their high content of silica and low iron and magnesium
contents, rhyolite melts are highly polymerized and form highly viscous lavas.
Rhyolites that cool too quickly to grow crystals form a natural glass or vitrophyre,
also called obsidian. Slower cooling forms microscopic crystals in the lava and
results in textures such as flow foliations, spherulitic, nodular, and
- Rind The deeply
patinated or weathered surface of a nodule or other piece
of stone, flint, chert or other material.
- Rounded A term
used to describe a basal edge which has rounded stem
outline. Also a term to describe a point which is not
sharp or barb types.
- Sandstone A sedimentary
rock composed of mostly cemented quarts grains.
- Scraper A stone
tool designed for used in scraping hides, bones and other
similar materials in the preparation of food, clothing
and shelter. A small stone blade with uniface flaking.
Consecutive small teeth or barbs on the edge of a blade
formed by removing pressure flakes. Biface serrations
have flakes removed from both sides of the blade edge
while uniface serrations have flakes removed from only
one face of an edge.
- Shape The three
dimensional image perceived when one considers the entire
- Sherds The
individual pieces of broken pottery vessels.
- Shoulder The area
of an artifact that divides the blade from the stem or
hafting area. The bottom corners of a blade. The stem starts
below the shoulders. Shoulders are not always present on all
- Silicified Shale
A fine-grained sedimentary rock made from compacted and lithified
silica-rich clay. The clay consists of hydrous silicate minerals
consisting mainly of silica, aluminum, and water. It is formed in
quiet water environments, such as lake bottoms, where the finest
particles settle to the bottom. Shales may also contain fossils of
the animals or plants from these environments. One notable property
of shale is its fissility, the property of splitting easily along bedding
planes into thin layers. Heat-treating is generally not recommended because
of the entrapped water content.
- Siltstone A roch that
is somewhat similar to sandstone, but with particle size ranging
between that of sandstone and shale.
- Site A location where
human activities once took place and left some form of
material evidence. A location which has yielded artifacts
and either is, has, or will undergo excavation or is
being conserved for the future. Known sites should not
be disturbed by amateurs or surface hunted. Sites can be
registered and can have a site number or code associated
- Smoothing An
edge that has been worn smooth and rounded from use in
scraping or drilling.
- Snapped Base
A term used to describe points that have a part of the
base intentionally removed or fractured off as part of
the intentional design by the original knapper.
- Spalls The unused
flakes left from flint knapping.
- Spear Point An
large projectile that was probably designed to be hafted
onto a long, hand held shaft.
- Stage A complex
developmental unit encompassing a broad span of time,
wide spread of cultural unity, and cultural sequences. A
technological and economic level of cultural attainment;
it implies chronology in only very broad terms. Examples:
hunting and gathering stage, horticultural stage.
- State Archaeologist
An appointed official who is responsible for overseeing
all potential impacts to archaeological resources and for
reviewing and administering all archaeological work in
order to insure compliance with state and federal
- Steatite A
grayish-green or brownish type of soapstone quarried for
the purpose of manufacturing bowls, pipes and ornaments.
The soapstone is carveable and shapeable which lends
itself to use especially before the invention of pottery.
- Stem The extension of
the base of a projectile point or knife which was
designed for hafting or gripping. Stems can occur in
various shapes. The proximal end of a point. The stem can be
one of the following shapes and is a key in typology: constricted,
expanded, straight-sided or concave-sided.
- Stemmed Point
A projectile or blade that has a stem which was designed
for hafting or holding.
- Stone Boiling
A type of cooking that is done by heating stones in an
open fire and then placing themin the liquid or substance
to be cooked. This is often done in baskets or containers
that cannot be placed directly in or over a fire.
The arrangement of strata with respect to the position in
which they were laid down by human occupation or from
- Striking Platform
A prepared basal edge of a projectile point. This edge is
beveled to a degree of pitch that will allow a drift to
be set at the proper angle to strike off a channel flake.
- Tang A projection
that extends from the base or stem of a point, also known
as ears. The outermost part of the shoulder. Shape of the tang
is a protrusion that is upward (towards the tip), expanded or drooping.
The tang is often times the widest area of the projectile point or blade.
- Temper The use of
an additive (ie. ground shell) to both strengthen and
reduce shrinking of ceramics during firing.
- Test Excavation
Subsurface excavations in areas which are either defined
as sites based on surface artifacts or thought to contain
buried deposits based on the landform.
- Thickness A
measurement take at the thickest point.
Decreasing the thickness of an artifact, or a portion of
an artifact by extensive flaking. Basal Thinning refers
to the removal of thickness from the hafting area by
means of flake removal.
- Tool Kit The set
of all weapons and tools that was created and used by a
person or group of people.
- Tradition The
temporal range of a culture or attribute. A socially transmitted
technological practice that may be traced through several different
cultural assemblages over a wide area. Examples: broadspear tradition,
Laurentian tradition, cord decorated pottery tradition.
- Trait Any artifact
or recognizable characteristic that reflects human
activity or behavior.
A term used to describe an artifact that was utilized and
manufactured across two or more cultural periods.
- Transitional Paleo
A cultural period of North American Aborigine Indians
dating from 12,000 to 9,000 B.P. which occured between
the Paleo and Archaic periods.
- Transverse Line
An imaginary line extending across the center of a
projectile, halfway between the distal tip and the basal
- Triangular A
projectile, knife, preform or blade which has three sides
or roughly has the shape of a triangle.
Weathering A severe form of patination where
flint or chert seem to be transformed over a long period
of time into a chalky, porous, crumbly or granular
limestone. It is believed that weathering effects,
especially acidic water can cause this type of
- Truncated A discriptive term
meaning short or shortened, lacking in length, terminated abruptly or
shortened by cutting off a part. Projectile stems and barbs can be
at times truncated either by damage or design.
- Type A form of
projectile or knife for which a description, name and age
have been attributed to.
- Typology The
study of and the chronological arrangement of projectile
points and other lithic artifacts into separated types..
- Unbeveled An
edge which was not steeply flaked into a bevel.
- Uniface A term
used to describe a point or tool that is worked or
finished or knapped on only one side or face. When used
to describe a projectile cross-section it means a
projectile that has one flat side and one excurvate or
rounded side similar to one half of an ellipse.
- Unflaked A face
which was unaltered by applying flaking.
- Unfluted A term
referring to projectile or tool which did not have a
channel flake removed to form a flute.
- Variant A term
used in projectile typology to describe a variation of a
- Vein Quartz A
relatively pure type of quartz which is found in viens in
areas of igneous rocks.
- Woodland A
cultural period of the Eastern North American Aborigine
Indians dating from 3,000 - 1,300 B.P. Usually, the
presence of pottery differentiates the Woodland culture
from the Archaic culture which preceded it.
- Worked A term used
in projectile point descriptions which describes an area
of an artifact that has been shaped or altered by man,
such as the removal of flakes along a blade edge.
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