Anvil: A heavy iron block on which a blacksmith hammered the objects he was making into the desired shapes.
Archaeologists: Are scientists who have studied both the societies they learn about and methods of conducting excellent archaeological digs and interpreting the findings. The Society for American Archaeology states that professional archaeologists have post-graduate degrees in anthropology, the study of human cultures. They may work at universities and colleges teaching about archaeology and anthropology and conducting digs in order to study past human societies. They can also work for federal, tribal, and state government agencies that are responsible for managing, protecting, and interpreting archaeological sites on public land or at museums, parks or historic sites and educate the public. In New England, archaeologists do not just study eighteenth century farmers in the countryside- there are also digs in the city, at factories, and underwater.
Archaeology: is the study of how people lived in the past. The word comes from the Ancient Greek for "the study" (logos, originally "word") of "ancient" (archaios) times. Archaeologists use scientific method to explore material objects, or artifacts, made by past peoples. They do this in order to better understand the makers' behavior and way of seeing their world. Sometimes archaeologists can study the written records of past peoples; often, however, no such records exist. Archaeologists find, collect, and study the material remains of past peoples, such as trash, tools, ornaments, and buildings. In this way, they seek to reconstruct vanished worlds: ways of survival, religious beliefs, family structure, and social organization.
Arid: A climate that lacks available water, having so little that plants and animals have difficulty thriving. Most people would consider a desert an arid place.
Artisanal: An artisan is a skilled craftsperson or laborer who makes objects that are pleasing to the senses. These objects can be described as artisanal.
Association (or Context): Artifacts found close together in the same soil layer are 'associated.' Archaeologists reason that associated artifacts were most probably used as part of the same kind of human activity. They tell parts of the same story about human activity at the site.
Blacksmith: A skilled craftsman who makes useful or decorative implements by melting and forming iron. The blacksmith was very important to a colonial community because he made and repaired the tools that people depended on in their daily lives.
Ceramic: A hard, heat-resistant, water-tight object, such as earthenware, porcelain, or tile, made by shaping an then firing clay at a high temperature.
Charcoal: The fuel used by an 18th century blacksmith to heat his forge. Charcoal was created by slowly burning wood under airless conditions so that the wood was charred into pure carbon, which burns at a higher temperature than wood in its natural state.
Cobblestones: Rounded stones used in the past to pave heavily-used surfaces, above all streets. The stones were set in sand or bound together with mortar. Cobblestone surfaces did not develop ruts when used heavily, nor did they get muddy in wet weather or dusty in dry weather.
Decay: To rot or decompose; organic objects are affected by weathering and soil conditions and decay much more quickly than inorganic ones do.
Deposit: Archaeologists encounter deposits of mostly organic materials when they excavate. Soils, organic matter such as leave, as well as rocks are deposited over artifacts people have left behind through natural processes such as wind and precipitation.
Dig (or Excavation): The means by which archaeological remains located below ground are exposed, processed and recorded.
Domestic: Objects that are used in a household for everyday purposes.
Ecofact: A natural object (such as seeds, shells, or plant materials) used or changed by humans.
Feature: A distinct, human-made part of an archaeological site. It cannot be removed from the ground, unlike an artifact. Examples are: a trash pit, a well, a grave or a foundation.
Forge: (also called a hearth) The enclosed, tiled or bricked area in which an 18th century blacksmith burned charcoal to create the extremely high temperatures necessary for melting iron.
Grid: Archaeologists divide sites into small squares by drawing a pattern of regularly spaced horizontal and vertical lines over the map of the site. This checkerboard-like grid is then reproduced on the real site using strings and stake. In this way, the site is divided into small squares that are excavated as units. This makes it easier to measure and document the site.
Homestead: A place where a family makes its home, including the land, house, and outbuildings.
Hot punch: Both a small, nail-like piece of iron that is heated, then driven through the object a blacksmith is creating in order to make a hole in it and the piece of hot iron that is driven out of the object in the process. Hot punching was done to make holes in hinges and other such objects.
Hypothesis: An idea that might explain certain facts that can be tested through investigation to see if it is true.
Inorganic: An object that does not live and never did; the opposite of organic. Refers to materials such as stone, metal, ceramics, or synthetic fabrics (rayon, nylon, etc.)
Iron scale: A thin layer that forms on the surface of wrought iron while it is being forged. This layer is then removed, or scaled off.
Meetinghouse: A building used for public meetings. In 18th century Massachusetts, the meetinghouse was the place where church services were held and the town government met.
Oral tradition: Spoken relation and preservation of important information over many years. it is a way for people to transmit the knowledge that makes up history, literature or a legal system across generations without using a writing system.
Ore: The natural, impure state in which iron is found in the ground. Iron ore must be purified, or smelted, before it can be formed into usable objects.
Organic: Refers to an object that is or was living. Examples are: plants, nuts, wood, cotton or wool fabric, charcoal, animals, skin, and bones.
Outbuilding: All buildings on a homestead that are not the dwelling house. These might include animal pens, sheds, storage buildings, barns, and workshops.
Plaster: A mixture of mineral (lime or gypsum,) sand, and water (sometimes with fiber added) that hardens to a smooth solid and is used for coating walls and ceilings.
Prehistoric: The time before the development of written records, ends about 3,000 years ago.
Privy: A place where waste is thrown or deposited, also considered a trash dump or toilet. These objects could be human or food waste, broken things like dishes, glass, etc. and even bits of clothing.
Quadrant: One of the three-dimensional shapes (cubes) formed when archaeologists divide a site by drawing a grid over it and then dig down into the soil in one of the squares on the surface created by the grid. While a grid is a flat (two-dimensional) way of plotting location on a site, archaeologists excavate squares on the grid to examine the strata and artifacts found in that three-dimensional space.
Sample: A scientific method in which a part of the whole (such as an entire archaeological site) is selected according to a predetermined method and analyzed to estimate the characteristics of that whole.
Scientific method: Archaeology makes use of scientific method when it investigates the remains of past human activity. It gathers evidence from a site according to rules of collection and interpretation. Archaeologists regard each dig as an experiment which allows them to make and test hypotheses about the culture they are examining.
Shard/Sherd: A broken fragment of pottery.
Site: A location that contains evidence of past human activity and where archaeologists intend to conduct an excavation.
Slag: A waste by-product of the process of refining iron (smelting,) by which nearly pure iron is extracted from the iron ore. As the ore is heated in a charcoal-fueled furnace to make wrought iron, impurities are drawn off, creating waste in the form of slag. Slag begins as a molten liquid melt, then solidifies into forms that look somewhat like hardened lava.
Smelt: The process by which iron ore is heated to the melting point, allowing the extraction of impurities, leaving nearly pure iron which can be worked. An 18th century blacksmith in North America heated his ore in a charcoal furnace.
Smithy: The workshop where a blacksmith performs all the steps of his work. It contains all his tools and the metals he works with.
Society: When people live together in a group and see themselves as belonging together because they share a way of life, they form a society.
Stratification: The layering of deposits in archaeological sites. Over time, debris and soil accumulate in layers forming strata. These layers are called 'strata' because that is the Latin term for coverings or blankets. Archaeologists also use the term 'stratigraphy' for the series of soil layers found at an archaeological site.
Structure: Something built or constructed; archaeologists search for remains of structures that past peoples lived in and used.
Survey: At the beginning of many archaeological excavations, a team of surveyors walks across the land, noting artifacts on the ground, structures above the soil surface, and important landscape features. They also record any other important observations. Surface survey does not destroy the area under investigation in the same way that excavation does; one can revisit the site numerous times to gather additional facts.
Tavern: In the 18th century, a tavern was a business that sold shelter and meals to travelers, as well as providing local people a place to gather and socialize. The town granted a license for the tavern-keeper to sell alcoholic drinks at his or her house.
Test pit: Test holes, usually dug out by a shovel; they are meant to determine which parts of an archaeological site contain artifacts that are not visible on the surface.
Trade: An occupation requiring skilled labor.
Vice: The blacksmith's vice is one of the most important tools in the blacksmith's shop. It firmly holds hot iron while it is hammered, chiseled or twisted. It must be very sturdy so it stand on a leg anchored in the floor or even to a sunken post.
Weathering: The effects of the forces of weather on soil surfaces.