Glossary: Technical Archaeological Terms

The technical terms and organisational names and acronyms used by archaeologists are manifold, and can be very bemusing even to those working in archaeology! The glossary below is hence quite large, but should contain most of the terms and names that you are likely to come across in archaeology in the United Kingdom. To help with finding the term you are looking for, it is divided into three sections: archaeology and heritage organisations; projects and resources, and technical archaeological terms.

The glossary terms are taken primarily from the IfA Standards and Guidance, and also from Informing the Future of the Past:Guidelines for Historic Environment Records (www.ifp-plus.info). Further terminology, should you need it, can also be accessed via the MDA Archaeological Objects Thesaurus (http://thesaurus.english-heritage.org.uk/frequentuser.htm).

## Technical Archaeological Terms

**Analytical drawing** – buildings recording technique - based on suitable scaled base drawing or photogrammetric plot but showing relative phasing and stratigraphic analysis of the structure, for example on changes in materials, butt joints, key joints, mortar, surface treatments or other constructional details. May comprise sections, elevations, details and plans.

**Appraisal** – 1) a rapid reconnaissance of site and records to identify (within the planning framework) whether a development proposal has a potential archaeological dimension requiring further clarification. 2) A rapid reconnaissance of site and records to identify whether a particular project or study area has potential for further academically oriented research involving non-intrusive or intrusive methods.

**Archaeological formation process** - the way in which archaeological deposits (contexts) are created and change through time until the point of excavation. This includes the action of geological and environmental forces (wind, water, animal activity etc) and human intervention.

**Archive (Finds)** – the finds archive is composed of the material archive (all recovered and retained archaeological material), the documentary archive (all documentation relating to finds work, including catalogues, computer records, photographic negatives, transparencies, prints, radiographs, conservation records and correspondence) and an index. The finds archive forms part of the complete project archive.

**Archive (documentary)** – The documents created or received and accumulated by a person or organisation in the course of the conduct of affairs and preserved because of their long-term value.

**Assessment** – see desk-based assessment and post excavation assessment.

**Bilge** – nautical term – usually defined as the change between the bottom part of a vessel and its side.

**Body plan** – nautical term – the two dimensional representation of the transverse sections through a vessels hull.

**Brief/project outline** – an outline framework of the archaeological circumstances which have to be addressed, together with an indication of the scope of works that will be required. In Scotland the brief may be referred to as a project outline.

**Building assessment** – An assessment of a built structure by an architectural historian, archaeologist or other specialist.

**Buttock line** – nautical term – a vertical longitudinal section of a vessel.

**Card-index system** – A set of ordered cards kept to provide an index to a collection; for example a card index to a library might be ordered by author's name.

**Caulk/caulking/caulked** – nautical term – a method of making planking, etc, watertight by forcing caulking materials into the seam after assembly. Such material in the modern sense is long stranded cotton, though in other periods it could be made from any type of available organic matter for example, horse hair, cattle hair and old rope, commonly termed oakum.

**Client** – the individual or organisation commissioning and funding the project.

**Collecting policy** – A policy document which defines the physical material which it is within scope of the Historic Environment Record (HER) to collect, this should also include a policy for appropriate disposal of inappropriate material. This document is separate to the recording policy (see below).

**Conservation area** – An area of historical and architectural character whose boundaries have been designated in local plans. Local planning authorities have special planning powers covering these areas which aim to preserve and enhance their character.

**Conservation plan** – A plan produced by a local authority which identifies a conservation area and sets out plans for preserving and enhancing it. A Conservation Plan provides a single approach to understanding and managing the cultural significance of a _place_. It explains why a site is significant and how that significance will be retained in any future use, alteration, development or repair. The same approach can be used for historic gardens, landscapes, buildings, archaeological sites, collections or even a ship and is particularly relevant when a site has more than one type of heritage.

**Consultation** – Refers to requests for information and professional advice made by planning authorities, developers, Government agencies and curators.

**Context** – the term used to refer to a single archaeological event (a layer, deposit or cut)

**Copyright** - Legal rights associated with the originators of material.

**Costed assessments** – in Scotland, these provide the basis for at least provisional agreement and further contracts on the resources to be provided for further fieldwork or for post-excavation work.

**Critical conclusions check** – informal peer review of the main findings of a report, carried out by a person of equivalent or greater relevant experience to the author(s)

**Curator** – a person or organisation responsible for the conservation and management of archaeological evidence by virtue of official or statutory duty, including for example County, District Council or Welsh Archaeological Trust archaeological officers, and the national bodies: English Heritage; Historic Scotland; Cadw (Wales); Department of Environment, Northern Ireland; Jersey Heritage; Guernsey Museum, and Manx National Heritage.

**Cut feature** – an archaeological context which results from the human removal of the underlying archaeological and/or geological deposits, for example a ditch, pit or grave. Also referred to as a ‘negative’ in contrast to a ‘positive’ or upstanding feature.

**Data standard** – a specification of the content or organisation of recorded information used to promote retrieval of information, to assist in the specification of information gathering, and to enable the sharing of information between projects. Data standards may cover the content of the recorded information, or the indexing terminology to be used in the records, or both. The aim is to promote consistency in the way in which information is recorded.

**Data structure report** – this report is required in Scotland and there is no precise equivalent elsewhere in the United Kingdom or Isle of Man. It consists of a narrative account of field interpretations and questions which may be answered by post-excavation analysis, supported by full lists of contexts, finds, samples and records (including plans, photographs and slides).

**Database Right** - Legal rights associated with the originators of computer databases.

**Desk-based assessment** – an assessment of the known or potential archaeological resource within a specified area or site (land-based, inter-tidal or marine), consisting of a collation of existing written and graphic information, in order to identify the likely character, extent and relative quality of the actual or potential resource. (See Section 4 of this document).

**Detail** – buildings recording technique – drawing designed to illustrate or explain a selected detail of construction (e.g. jointing), alteration (e.g. complex junction), technology or function. May be plan, section, elevation, axonometric, isometric or cutaway. Scale is normally larger than that for base drawings.

**Diagonal** – nautical term – a longitudinal sectional line coming down at an angle from the centre line being neither horizontal nor vertical.

**Dimensioned sketch** – buildings recording technique – drawing, not to scale but including dimensioned information. Could comprise plan, cross- section, elevation, and detail.

**Dissemination** – the means by which reports, data and other information connected to an archaeological project are recorded, shared and communicated with, or broadcasted to a wider audience. This would include local authority archaeologists or equivalent, researchers, academic departments, local groups and societies, or anyone else with an interest in archaeological research and heritage. This can be achieved through any media, including websites, online archives such as the ADS, books, journal or magazine articles, leaflets or pamphlets, or television or radio.

**Earthwork survey** – the systematic measurement and location of changes in the ground surface (eg banks, ditches, mounds) to create a plan or three dimensional reconstruction of an area of landscape. Also known as a topographical survey.

**Entomology** – the scientific study of insects

**Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)** – a systematic analysis of the potential effects of a project on all aspects of the environment including cultural heritage, in order to inform the deciding agency involved in the decision-making process. In addition this acquaints bodies with relevant environmental responsibilities and gives them the opportunity to comment before consent is given. EIA applies to projects having significant environmental effects as set out in Directive 85/337/EEC and as implemented in the United Kingdom and Isle of Man, which came into effect in July 1988.

**Environmental Stewardship** – Includes Entry-level Scheme (ELS) and Higher Level Scheme (HLS) in England, Tir Cynnal and Tir Gofal (in Wales) and Rural Stewardship Scheme in Scotland. Environmental Stewardship schemes are agri-environment schemes which provide funding to farmers and other land managers who deliver effective environmental management on their land.

**Evaluation** – a limited programme of non-intrusive and/or intrusive fieldwork which determines the presence or absence of archaeological features, structures, deposits, artefacts or ecofacts within a specified area or site and, if they are present, defines their character and extent, and relative quality. It enables an assessment of their worth in a local, regional, national or international context as appropriate (see also IFA _Standard and guidance for archaeological field evaluations_).

**Exhibit** – any object, collection of objects or document collected for future use as evidence in a trial or hearing

**Fastenings** – nautical term – the bolts, nails, treenail, dowels etc which hold the framing and planking together.

**Fairing** – nautical term – when the buttock, waterlines and diagonals all correspond.

**Field scanning** – the rapid visual survey of an area to locate changes in the ground surface, vegetation etc which may indicate the presence of areas of interest.

**Fieldwork** (Finds) – fieldwork is the stage in the process of finds work which produces the finds assemblage; this can include the re-evaluation of old collections. Intrusive fieldwork is the process of removing finds from their context of deposition in antiquity; this includes excavation, field survey such as field-walking and discovery by members of the public.

**Finds** – the term ‘finds’ is taken to include all artefacts, building materials, industrial residues, environmental material, biological remains and decay products.

**Frame** – nautical term – the transverse timbers that form the skeleton of the vessel. A frame can be a single timber or made up of component parts ie floor, futtocks and top timbers.

**Gazetteer** – A list of place names with their associated location, normally given as a grid reference. Gazetteers are published by the OS and other mapmakers and are used as an aid to finding the location of a place on a map sheet. In archaeology, gazetteers of site names and their locations are often included in journals and other publications. Gazetteers have a specific use in GIS, described separately.

**[Gem Towns](/gem-towns)** - A list of 51 towns considered to be particularly splendid and precious.

**Geophysical survey** - the non-destructive and systematic collection of data from beneath the ground surface. Geophysical survey may involve any of a number of different techniques, adapted for use in locating shallow archaeological features without the need for excavation. Some techniques can also be used underwater to aid in the location of objects. Essentially, Geophysical survey determines the presence of anomalies of archaeological potential through measurement of one or more physical properties of the subsurface

**GIS** – Geographic Information System.

**GPS** – Global Positioning System: a position-finding system which uses radio receivers to pick up signals from four or more special satellites and compute WGS co-ordinates for the receiver.

**Historic buildings** – Buildings which are of national, regional and local historic interest, including listed buildings.

**Interpretive drawing** – buildings recording technique – drawings produced to illustrate phasing, development, analysis, function or use of a structure, building or complex. These may not necessarily be to scale and may be axonometric, isometric or cut-away as well as plans, sections or elevations. May include reconstructions of lost features, functions, machinery or form.

**Isotopic analysis** – destructive techniques which examines the chemical signatures of samples of human remains. These can be used to obtain information on the diet and geographic origins of an individual and the pollutants to which they may have been exposed.

**Licensing** – A form of agreement between two parties in which one party is permitted to carry out some action by another. For example, an OS licence permits the licence-holder to use or copy OS maps within specified conditions.

**Lines/waterlines/buttock lines/diagonals** – nautical term – the graphical representation of a vessels hull-form expressed as sectional cuts through the 3D shape of a vessel. Lines consist of waterlines, buttock lines and diagonals.

**Listed buildings** – Buildings of special architectural or historical interest, included in the Lists published by the DCMS.

**Listing** – The process of identifying buildings of architectural or historical interest and publishing them on the Listed Buildings list.

**Map projection** – A mathematical model used to convert three-dimensional reality into two dimensions for representation on a map, or within a twodimensional GIS database. All map projections have particular strengths: some preserve shape, others preserve distance, area and direction. All projections have limitations of which users should be aware.

**Map scale** – The measure of reduction between the representation and the reality, be it a map or a spatial database. Scale is usually represented as a representative fraction of distance (for example 1:50,000, one unit of distance on the map representing 50,000 units in reality). The nominal scale of a spatial dataset has considerable influence over the possible application of the dataset. For example, it would not be sensible to compare data captured at a nominal scale of 1:625,000 with data captured at 1:1,250.

**Mitigation** – A recommendation made by a conservation professional to mitigate any adverse impacts which may result from a development proposal.

**Monument record** – A record in a card index or computer database which describes and indexes an interpretation of the archaeological or architectural features represented on a site.

**Negative events** – Archaeological investigations, such as watching briefs and trial trenches, that find no evidence for human activity. These are described and recorded as negative events. They are considered as important in evaluating the potential for human activity in the area or the effectiveness of a particular field technique under certain conditions.

**OS card index** – Card index of archaeological sites and monuments formerly maintained by the Ordnance Survey (OS) Archaeology Division.

**Pilot project** – A project which is designed to test the effectiveness or potential of a particular approach.

**Planning advice** – Professional conservation advice about the implications of proposed developments on the cultural heritage.

**Planning archaeologist** – see curator.

**Polygon** – GIS term – A representation of an enclosed region defined by a segment or a series of segments that makes up its boundary. Polygons may have attributes describing the region they represent, such as the period(s) for a historic town.

**Post-excavation assessment** – the process carried out after the completion of fieldwork in order to assess the potential for further analysis and publication. This involves the assessment of the findings (as represented in the site archive) against the original project design. It may result in the production of a post-excavation project design, which will incorporate any new research questions identified. Post-excavation assessment must result in the production of a report. Please note that English Heritage now recommend assessing as you go along with an excavation, rather than carrying out a post-excavation assessment after the event.

**Post-excavation project design** – see below and costed assessment. The full project design for the post-excavation phase and publication of projects may not be possible until excavation is complete. The cost of this work will be broadly agreed on the basis of a costed assessment.

**Primary structure** – nautical term – classed as the skeleton or main structure around which the rest of the vessel is built. This includes the keel, keelson, stem post, stern post and main frames or their equivalent.

**PRN** – Primary Reference Number to SMR records.

**Project design** – a written statement on the objectives of a project, including methods, timetable and resources. These form the framework for the execution of the project through to completion, set out in sufficient detail to be quantifiable, implemented and monitored. Normally prepared by an archaeologist or organisation undertaking the fieldwork, frequently in response to a brief/project outline or specification. The project design may be updated following assessment during or after excavation.

**Project Outline** – see brief.

**Public Enquiry** – A process in which evidence may be presented by members of the public and other parties to an official body for review and for their recommendations. The location of new developments (such as roads or airports) is an example of a subject which may go to public enquiry.

**Publication plan/synopsis** – a description of the final report and publication outlet, if known, which should include a contents list, with an estimate of word counts and numbers of illustrations for each section identified in the contents list. It should identify where foldouts are desired and where colour may be needed.

**Qualified staff** (Finds) – trained archaeological personnel who would normally be members of the Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) or equivalent bodies with relevant skills, knowledge and understanding.

**Record map** – This refers to the maps (most commonly at 1:10,000 scale) that were used to record the location of sites or monuments in HERs/SMRs prior to the introduction of GIS.

**Recording policy** – A policy document which defines the breadth and scope of the information recorded in the HER. This document is separate to the collecting policy (see above).

**Rectified photography** – buildings recording technique – the process of obtaining dimensioned information from a single photograph, which is usually aligned parallel to the wall plane. A distance measured on the wall plane then provides scale. Computerised methods can reduce the need for accurate alignment.

**Remote sensing** – The science of acquiring information about the earth using instruments which are remote to (isolated from) the earth's surface, usually from aircraft or satellites (but geophysical information is also relevant).

**Research frameworks** – An assessment of land use, settlement, environment, economy and society in a regional context which provide a framework for curation, decision-making and research.

**Scaled base drawing as existing** – buildings recording technique – existing survey showing structure as found, including fixtures, fittings, features, materials, and constructional details. May show individual stones, brick courses, timbers or general form of building. May comprise section, elevation, detail, and plan. Below ground remains or associated features should be shown where relevant.

**Scheduling** – The process of identifying, assessing, reviewing and recommending monuments to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport for the purpose of inclusion in the Schedule of Monuments.

**Secondary sources** – Published and unpublished works (e.g. books, essays) that are based on the interpretation of primary research materials such as finds, aerial photographs, geophysical survey data, etc. Some secondary sources are based on interpretation of both primary data and re-interpretation of other secondary sources.

**Secondary structure** – nautical term – classed as the skin or secondary structure which is easily repaired, or can be transitory, such as hull planking/plating, fastenings, fittings and decking.

**Sheer** – nautical term – the rise of the upper most edge of the side of a vessel.

**Sheer line** – nautical term – the line of the top most edge of the hull. This does not include the superstructure.

**Sheer plan** – nautical term – the graphical representation of a vessel’s side view otherwise known elevation of a vessel.

**Site survey** – buildings recording technique – scaled survey showing buildings, structures or complexes in their local setting, including significant locational features, such as plot boundaries, undertaken by hand-measured survey or by electronic data collection.

**Specialist (Finds)** – this includes all finds co-ordinators, artefact specialists, technology specialists, environmental archaeologists, conservators, archaeological scientists and museum curators.

**Specification** – a written schedule of works required for a particular project (by a curator, planning archaeologist or client) set out in sufficient detail to be quantifiable, implemented and monitored. Normally prepared by or agreed with the relevant curator.

**Spoil** – the soil and other materials (eg. brick, stone) removed during the excavation of archaeological features

**Stratigraphic** – in archaeology this term refers to both the geological and archaeological (human-made) layers which make up a deposit or feature. The stratigraphic sequence is the order in which these deposits were laid down over time and enables the relative date of deposits, and therefore the events which created them, to be established.

**Thematic map** – A map which communicates a single theme or subject. For example, a map depicting the number of fieldwork projects within different administrative areas, or the number of sites within areas would be thematic maps. These contrast with general-purpose topographic mapping which depicts features such as roads, rivers, landmarks and elevation.

**Topography** – The natural and artificial features of the landscape.

**Topology** – The relationships in spatial terms between connected or adjacent geographical objects.

**Taphonomy** – the study of the processes of decay which affect remains after death.

**Treasure** – the legal term given to archaeological objects deemed to be ‘Treasure’ under the Treasure Act 1996 (in England, Wales or Northern Ireland) or under Treasure Trove (in Scotland and the UK Crown Dependencies).

**User declaration forms** - These are forms that set out the role of the Scheduled Monument Record (SMR) or Historic Environment Record (HER) and its commitment to conservation and preservation of the historic environment.

**Written Scheme of Investigation** – or WSI, term used in Scotland for a Project Outline or Brief. See Brief for further definition.