Glossary of Archaeological/Anthropological Terms


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IBU - The tent of purification. This is the place where Egyptian mummification was performed. 

ICE AGE __ The period of Prehistory between 35,000 and 12,000 years ago, when huge ice sheets covered much of northern Europe and North America.

ICE CORES __ Borings taken from the Arctic and Antarctic polar ice caps, containing layers of compacted ice useful for the reconstruction of paleoenvironments and as a method of absolute dating.

ICE-CREEPER __ An Eskimo invention consisting of a spiked piece of ivory or bone which is attached to the soles of mukluks to facilitate movement over the ice.

ICE MAN __ The name given to the 5,300-year-old body of a man found preserved in a glacier on the border between Italy and Austria in 1991.

ICE SHEETS __ Ice sheets or glaciers covered 30 percent of the world, including much of North America, during the Ice Age.

ICE WEDGE __ a vertical wedge-shaped vein of ground ice found in permafrost areas. causes "polygonal ground" (see periglacial phenomena) and may result in severe disturbance of archaeological sites.

ICONOGRAPHY __ An important component of cognitive archaeology, this involves the study of artistic representations which usually have an overt religious or ceremonial significance; e.g. individual deities may be distinguished, each with a special characteristic, such as corn with the corn god, or the sun with a sun goddess etc. 

IDEALIST EXPLANATION __ A form of explanation that lays great stress on the search for insights into the historical circumstances leading up to the event under study in terms primarily of the ideas and motives of the individuals involved.

IDEALIZE __ To present something as more perfect than it is.
IDEO-FUNCTION __ The role an artifact has in a society's ideology.

IDEOLOGY __ A society's beliefs, attitudes, values, knowledge, and information.

IEB __ This is the heart. The Egyptians believed the heart was the center of all consciousness, even the center of life itself. When someone died it was said that their "heart had departed." It was the only organ that was not removed from the body during mummification. In the Book of the dead, it was the heart that was weighed against the feather of Maat to see if an individual was worthy of joining Osiris in the afterlife.

IGLOO __ An often dome-shaped Eskimo structure built by the piling of blocks of snow and intended as a shelter for either people or animals.

IGNEOUS __ Formed from molten lava which has hardened on or below the surface of the earth.

IMAM __ There are many usages of this word. Generally and in lowercase, it refers to the leader of congregational prayers; it implies no ordination or special spiritual powers. For many Sunni Muslims it is a figurative term for the leader of the Islamic community. Among Shii Muslims the word has many complex meanings; generally it indicates that particular descendant of the House of Ali ibn Abu Talib, who is believed to have been God's designated repository of the spiritual authority inherent in that line. The identity of this individual and the means of determining his identity has caused divisions among Shii Muslims.

IMPACTS __ The changes that archaeological resources undergo as the result of some action.

INCA __ A culture that thrived in the 15th century A.D. Inca culture was centered in the town of Cuzco, in what is now Peru, although the Incas controlled a territory spanning 2,600 miles, from what is today the southern border of Colombia to central Chile. Inca is commonly spelled INKA.

INCENSARIO __ A Mesoamerican incense burner.

INCEST __ Sexual intercourse between closely related persons. 
INCEST TABOO __ The prohibition of sexual intimacy between people defined as close relatives.

INCIPIENT __ Beginning; in an initial stage; not fully developed or completed. 

INCISED __ A decoration found on pottery consisting of lines drawn into wet clay. When fired, the arrangement of lines leaves a permanent design on the vessel surface.

INCLINED SIGHTS __ In mapping, a vertically angled line of sight. 

INCLUSION __ An intentional cultural association, such as grave-goods with a burial. 

INCLUSIVE FITNESS __ An individual's own fitness plus his or her effect on the fitness of any relative. 

INCREMENT BORER __ A hand-operated coring device for obtaining tree-ring samples. 

INDEPENDENT FAMILY HOUSEHOLD __ A single-family unit that resides by itself, apart from relatives or adults of other generations. 

INDEPENDENT VARIABLE __ The variable that can cause change in other variables. 

INDEX __ A spirit-bubble leveling device on the vertical circle of major surveying instruments.

INDEX FOSSIL __ A paleospecies that had a very wide geographical distribution but existed for a relatively short period of time, either becoming extinct or evolving into something else. 

INDIGENOUS __ Native to, originating in or occurring naturally in a given place; aboriginal.

INDIRECT PERCUSSION __ A technique for flaking stone artifacts by interposing a bone or antler punch between the hammer and the raw materials. Allows greater control than direct percussion flaking. 

INDIVIDUALISTIC CULT __ The least complex form of religious organization in which each person is his or her own religious specialist. 

INDUCTION __ A method of reasoning in which one proceeds by generalization from a series of specific observations so as to derive general conclusions (cf. deduction). 

INDUSTRIAL AGE __ A cultural stage characterized by the first use of complex machinery, factories, urbanization, and other economic and general social changes from strictly agricultural societies. 

INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY __ A society consisting of largely urban populations that engage in manufacturing, commerce, and services.

INDUSTRIALISM __ A form of social organization in which the population's needs for food, manufactured products, transportation, and many services are met through the use of machines powered largely by fossil fuel.

INDUSTRY __ All of the artifacts of a single material (bone, stone, ceramic, etc.), made by members of a culture.

INFANTILE __ The period in an individual's life cycle from birth to the eruption of the first permanent teeth. 

INFORMAL INTERVIEW __ An unstructured question-and-answer session in which the informant is encouraged to follow his or her own train of thought, wherever it may lead. 

INFORMANT __ A person who provides information about his or her culture to the ethnographic fieldworker. 

INFRARED ABSORPTION SPECTROSCOPY __ a technique used in the characterization of raw materials, it has been particularly useful in distinguishing ambers from different sources: the organic compounds in the amber absorb different wavelengths of infrared radiation passed through them.

INHUMATION __ The placement of the dead in an excavated pit beneath ground surface. 

INISKIM __ A fossil ammonite whose natural appearance resembles a bison.

INKA __ A culture that thrived in the 15th century A.D. Inka culture was centered in the town of Cuzco, in what is now Peru, although the Inkas controlled a territory spanning 2,600 miles, from what is today the southern border of Colombia to central Chile. Inka is commonly spelled INCA.

INNOVATION __ The process of adopting a new thing, idea, or behavior pattern into a culture.

IN SITU __ In the original place.

INSTINCT __ A genetically-determined pattern of behavior that is characteristic of a species and is often a response to specific internal or environmental stimuli.

INSTITUTIONS __ A society's recurrent patterns of activity, such as religion, art, a kinship system, law, and family life. 

INSTRUMENT __ A general term for major optical surveying equipment, including transits, alidades, and surveyor's levels.

INSTRUMENT HEIGHT __ The elevation of the line-of-sight of a surveying instrument above the immediate ground surface. 

INSTRUMENT POSITION __ The location at which a surveying instrument is established to obtain a sighting.

INTAGLIO __ Design cut into the surface of a hard material.

INTERGLACIAL __ A warm interlude between two glacial periods.

INTERMEDIATE PERIODS __ Times of confusion in Egyptian history when different parts of the country were ruled simultaneously by different kings.

INTERSTADIAL __ A brief, warm period within a glacial period.

INTRUSIVE __ An artifact or feature found within a feature, component or stratum of which it was not originally a part.

INTRUSIVE OBJECT __ An object that is believed to have entered the body of a person and to be the cause of illness and/or death. Such diagnoses are common among many pre-industrial cultures worldwide. The cure often consists of the removal of the object by a shaman or sorcerer. Sometimes this is accomplished by (apparently) sucking the object through a bone tube (sucking tube) and then displaying the object as proof of the cure.
INUIT __ l. an Eskimo word meaning literally "The People". 2. the name by which the North American (and Greenland) Eskimo refer to themselves. 3. the language of these people, more properly termed "Inuktitut".

INUKSUK __ The Eskimo word for the likeness of a human made by piling stones. These are often erected in a long V-shaped formation bordering a drive lane. Caribou, mistaking the inuksiuk (plural) for people, can then be stampeded towards the narrow end of the V where a corral and/or hunters await them.

IRON AGE __ The third age in Thomsen's three-age system, referring to the period when iron tools were manufactured.

IRON PYRITE __ A metallic, yellow-to-brown sulfide of iron. This widely occurring mineral is also known as fool's gold. The mineral is cubic in crystal form.

IROQUOIAN __ A family of languages whose speakers originally occupied much of the St. Lawrence River valley and isolated portions of the east-central United States. The major languages within this family include Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Mohawk, Oneida, Wyandot (Huron), Cherokee and Tuscarora.

ISIS __ Egyptian goddess venerated as ideal mother, wife of Osiris and mother of Horus.
ISLAMIST __ One who seeks to make Islam a more prominent part of the political and social order, usually by implementing some version of Islamic law, or Sharia. Often used as a more accurate replacement for the term "fundamentalist."

ISLAMIZATION __ The process of Islam's becoming a more prominent part of the political and social order. This may be through adoption of laws based on Islam, a stricter code of behavior for Muslims in a community, or significant portions of a population converting to Islam.

ISOLATED FIND __ The recovery; usually from the surface, of a single artifact with no other artifacts in association.

ISOSTASY __ The rising of a land surface following the removal of the enormous weight of glacial ice. This phenomenon is of particular importance in Manitoba archaeology as the south-to-north tilting of the landscape due to the retreat of the Wisconsinan ice sheet influenced the shoreline of glacial Lake Agassiz and thus the areas which were available for human occupation.

ITHYPHALLIC __ From the Greek word meaning; "with erect penis". Various gods are represented in this form. Most notably Min and Amun.


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