Archaeology & Çatalhöyük definitions



Agriculture The practice of producing crops and raising livestock for human use.

Anatolia  The geographical region in southwest Asia, also called Asia-minor, which includes the western part of the Republic of Turkey.

Anthropology  The study of human cultural variations, including language, biology, and society.

Archaeobotany (also paleoethnobotany) The recovery and identification of plant remains from archaeological contexts, which assist in reconstructing past environments.

Archaeology  (also Archeology) The scientific study of PHYSICAL evidence of past human societies recovered through excavation.

Archaeologist  One who practices archaeology by examining past cultures and interpreting the development of these findings following professional standards and ethics.

Artifact  Any physical object made or clearly used by humans, including tools, food remains, etc.

Assemblage  A group of artifacts with a common context.


BCE  An acronym for "before the common era".


CE An acronym for the "common era".

Carbon 14 dating Radiocarbon dating. An absolute dating method that measures the decay of the radioactive isotope of carbon (14c) in organic materials such as charcoal.

Chronology  An arrangement of historical events in order of occurrence.

Context  ( also Archaeological Context ) The orientation and surroundings in which an artifact is found. Recorded in field notes.


Datum  A benchmark in surveying which is a point of known location ( in 3D space and in relation to sea level). Datum is also a word used in archaeology to represent an individual measurement, the sum of individual datum is data.

Dendrochronology  The scientific study of tree ring patterns, which are linked to develop a continuous chronological sequence. By examining the rings of trees, dendrochronologists can make assumptions about the climatic changes in an area.

Dig house  The on-site structure where archaeologists live, as well as store and interpret artifacts.


Ethnoarchaeology  The scientific study and interpretation of culture based on interaction with and observation of living people.

Excavation  Any area where layers of soil or other material are systematically displaced and recorded in order to examine past human activity.

Experimental Archaeology  Scientific studies aimed at discovering what produced or changed artifacts and structures found on site by reenacting activities and duplicating processes.


Faunal  Having to do with animals.

Feature  A central artifact from an excavation that cannot be easily moved, such as a roasting pit or bench.

Figurative  In artwork, representing forms such as humans or animals rather than ideas or patterns.

Field Notes  The notes an archaeologist takes while digging to keep track of finds and changes in level. Notes follow a certain format so that other Archeologists, perhaps years later, may also get use out of them.

Floor plan  The overhead-view drawing made of a level being excavated, which includes features such as walls, doorways, ovens, etc.

Flotation  A technique used to extract objects from soil by using churning water or other liquids to carry away the soil, leaving larger objects to be caught by a screen.


Geology  The study of Earth's history as it is recorded in rock.

Grid  A system of uniformly spaces squares that divide a dig site into units for measuring and recording the location of finds (provenience).

Ground stone (also ground-stone artifacts) A class of lithics produced by abrading and pecking hard stones to form tools with smooth, durable edges and surfaces, including metates and querns (New World and Old World terms for a ground stone basin used to process grains).


Hunting and gathering

Hypothesis  A proposed explanation of facts that can be proved by testing.


In situ  (Latin) in the original place.




Level  An excavation layer. At a specific site, the unit of measurement for a level may be different. Examples of levels at CÇatalhöyük: since the houses were built on top of each other, each level may be represented by a floor.

Lithic  A stone artifact, either chipped stone or ground stone.


Matrix The physical medium that surrounds and holds archaeological data.

Micromorphology The use of microscopic evidence to identify and study plant and animal remains.

Midden  The layer of soil in an excavation which was the "trash" area for human activity, where items such as pottery sherds, food, bones and broken tools might be found.


Neolithic  (also New Stone Age) An old world chronological period characterized by the development of agriculture and an increasing emphasis on sedentism.


Obsidian  Volcanic glass which can be chipped to make an extremely sharp edged tool. It was often used at Çatalhöyük in making stone (lithic) tools.

Outbuildings  Any buildings not for human occupation, such as sheds, barns, etc.


Paleoenvironmental The study of ancient environments.

Paleolithic Referring to the ancient stone age.

Profile  Picture of the layers (levels ) in a unit.

Provinience  The spatial location in 3D space of an artifact or feature where it was found in the excavation, recorded in the field notes of the archaeologist. Also provenance. See also Context.



Replication  The process of recreating artifacts or structures.

Research design A systematic plan to coordinate archaeological research to ensure the efficient use of resources and to guide the research according to scientific methods.


Scientific method A systematic approach to observing phenomena, drawing conclusions and testing hypotheses.

Sherds  Pieces of pottery.

Site  A place where human activity occurred and material remains were left. A dig site may only be part of a whole site.

Sterile An excavation level or layer which does not contain artifacts or evidence of human activity.

Stratigraphy  The study and interpretation of layers in archaeological deposits.

Surveying  The systematic examination of the ground surface to determine where sites may be found.


Theory An un-proven assumption to be proved or disproved through research and testing.

Timeline A visualization of a sequence of events showing their temporal relationship.

Transcription An accurate copy made for documentation and study purposes. For example the forms visible in a mural or other work of art may be transcribed onto paper.

Trowel  Historically the most important digging tool to the excavating archaeologist. The trowel is a flat, pointed metal tool with a handle that allows the archaeologist to delicately dig and scrape away at layers of matter. Usually used in conjunction with a brush, to clear away dust and debris.


Unit  One piece (usually square) of a grid superimposed on a excavation site. By breaking a site into units archaeologists can work on one unit at a time to be able to reconstruct spatial relationships accurately.






Zoology The study of animal biology.

Home - Introduction - Activities - Mysteries - Artifacts - Processes - Tour - Weblog

Accessibility - Comments - Credits
Project Archive dvd

Mysteries of Çatalhöyük ©2003 Science Museum of Minnesota
This site is both XHTML 1 and CSS 2 compliant.