Introduction to Archaeology

Midterm study guide

You should be able to explain and use the terms and concepts listed below. That means that you can answer questions about them, and that you can include them when relevant in answering other questions. For example, a question that presents a hypothetical archaeological excavation and asks you to answer a question about it might involve using the concepts of strata, superposition, association, terminus post quem, diagnostic artifacts, components, and so on.

Those listed on the handout: History and Theory of Archaeology - Concepts

Those listed on the handout: What you should know about absolute dating

Those listed on the handout: How radiocarbon dating works

Relative dating

Steno's law, or the Law of Superposition


Stratum (plural: strata)





Intrusion (or intrusive)

Inverted stratigraphy

"Natural" or cultural strata

Arbitrary strata



Understand and interpret stratigraphy in profile views and plan views

Be able to figure out the order of deposition of strata or features in a profile drawing

Be able to interpret the dating and associations of artifacts found in strata or features indicated on a profile drawing (like "A coin dated 1827 was found at point A in the profile shown; what can you say about the date at which wall B was built?")

Be able to discuss some issues surrounding artifact typologies, or to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of a given hypothetical typology in a given situation

Temporal types

Diagnostic artifacts

Seriation: Be able to explain the theoretical justification for the method, and be able to seriate a small number of sites or artifacts, given the necessary information about them.

Battleship curve

Component; single-component site; multi-component site

Occupation (in the sense of "the Roman occupation of London"



Culture (in the chronological and spatial sense used by archaeologists)

Cultural chronology

Culture history

Archaeological survey

Be able to explain a number of ways that archaeologists find sites

Systematic site survey

Settlement pattern

Preliminary or reconnaissance survey

100% or full-coverage survey

Surface collection

Shovel tests, post-hole samples, auger samples

Sampling strategies

Judgment samples

Systematic samples

Random samples

Stratified random samples


Settlement pattern analysis:

Catchment analysis

Thiessen polygons

Site size hierarchies

Rank-size diagrams

Primate settlement hierarchy

Nearest-neighbor analysis (understand the concept; I don't expect you to do the math)

Central Place Theory models

Be able to draw reasonable conclusions about subsistence practices, social organization, and other themes from a map showing the locations of archaeological sites, using simple inspection and/or any of the approaches listed above

If given an example of one of the settlement pattern analyses listed above, be able to recognize, name, and explain the logic behind it

Know a little about the uses and methods of site mapping; be able to draw some basic conclusions from a site map ("the houses were here and the temple was there...")

Theodolite and stadia rod

Total station


Know a little about the uses and methods of surface collections; be able to draw some basic conclusions from a map showing surface collection data ("looks like the poor folks lived here and the wealthy ones lived there...")

Sampling strategies for surface collections (basically the same as for site surveying)

Limitations and problems in interpreting surface collections (especially poor visibility, multicomponent sites)

Noninvasive archaeological methods or remote sensing

Aerial photography - what sorts of things it can detect (crop marks, relief, vegetation...)

Soil resistivity

Ground-penetrating radar


Also, you should be able to explain a number of ways to evaluate the credibility of information (archaeological or otherwise) from the web.