Anthropology Glossary abductor



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Anthropology Glossary

abductor: a muscle that moves a part of the body away from the midline of the body.

ABO blood-type system: a blood-type system that consists of two basic antigens, A and B. Blood-type O is the absence of both antigens.

abrasive stone: usually a sandstone slab used for grinding and polishing.

absolute dating: the determination of age with reference to a specific time scale, such as a fixed calendrical system; also referred to as chronometric dating.

acclimatory adjustments: reversible physiological adjustments to stressful environments.

accretion: growth by virtue of an increase in inter-cellular materials.

acculturation: cultural change that occurs in response to extended firsthand contacts between two or more previously autonomous groups.

acephalous society: a society without a political head such as a president, chief, or king.

achieved status: social standing and prestige reflecting the ability of an individual to acquire an established position in society as a result of individual accomplishments (cf. ascribed status).

acrocentric chromosome: a chromosome in which the centromere is near one end, resulting in arms of very unequal length.

activity area: a limited portion of a site in which a specialized cultural function was carried out, such as food preparation, tool manufacture etc.

Adapidae: family of Eocene prosimians found in North America, Asia, Europe, and possibly Africa; may be related to lemurs and lorises.

adaptation: changes in gene frequencies resulting from selective pressures being placed upon a population by environmental factors; results in a greater fitness of the population to its ecological niche.

adaptive radiation: the evolution of a single evolutionary stock into a number of different species.

adenine: a purine found in DNA and RNA.

adenosine triphosphate (ATP): the main fuel of cells. ATP is manufactured by the mitochondria.

adjustment: the ability of humans to survive in stressful environments by nongenetic means.

administrative system: a twentieth-century system of ownership in which land is owned and managed by the state; found in China, the Soviet Union, and some parts of Africa and Latin America.

adolescent growth spurt: a rapid increase in stature and other dimensions of the body that occurs during puberty.

adult: the period in an individual's life cycle after the eruption of the last permanent teeth.

adze-blade: a ground and polished stone artifact characterized by a generally rectangular shape with a beveled cutting edge on one end. Used as a woodworking tool.

aerial photography: photographic coverage of the land surface obtained from the air. Useful in locating and recording site positions.

aerial reconnaissance: an important survey technique in the discovery and recording of archaeological sites (see also reconnaissance survey).

affiliative behavior: close-proximity behavior that includes touching, grooming, and hugging.

affinal kin: persons related by marriage.

age grade: a group of people of the same sex and approximately the same age who share a set of duties and privileges.

age set: a group of people roughly the same age who pass through various age grades together.

agglutination: a clumping together of red blood cells in the presence of an antibody.

aging: the uninterrupted process of normal development that leads to a progressive decline in physiological function and ultimately to death.

agonistic behavior: behavior that involves fighting, threats, and fleeing.

albinism: a recessive abnormality that leads to little or no production of the skin pigment melanin.

alidade: an optical surveying instrument used in conjunction with a plane-table and stadia-rod to produce detailed large-scale topographic maps.

alienation: the fragmentation of individuals' relations to their work, the things they produce, and the resources with which they produce them.

all-male party: among chimpanzees, a small group of adult or adolescent males.

allantois: a sack within the amniote egg in which waste products produced by the embryo are deposited.

allele: an alternate form of a gene.

Allen's rule: a rule which states that among endotherms, populations of the same species living near the equator tend to have more protruding body parts and longer limbs than do populations farther away from the equator.

allogrooming: grooming another animal.

allometric growth: the pattern of growth whereby different parts of the body grow at different rates with respect to each other.

allomorphs: forms contained in morphemes that differ in sound but not in meaning.

allopatric species: species occupying mutually exclusive geographical areas.

allophones: sounds that belong to the same phoneme.

alloying: a technique involving the mixing of two or more metals to create an entirely new material, e.g. the fusion of copper and tin to make bronze.

alluvial fan: a cone-shaped deposit of sediments generally formed where a mountain stream discharges onto a level surface. Alluvial fan deposits are among the most common surficial sediments in mountainous terrain.

alluvium: a general term for all deposits laid down in fresh water - most commonly applied to riverine sediments.

alpha chain: one of the two chains that make up the globin unit of the hemoglobin molecule.

alpha-feto protein (AFP): a compound, produced by the fetus, that enters the mother's blood through the placenta. Excessive amounts of AFP may indicate neural tube defects or other fetal abnormalities.

altimeter: a barometric device for determining elevations above sea-level.

altithermal: a postulated climatic period characterized by warmer and/or drier conditions approximately 4,000-8,000 years ago.

altruistic act: a behavior characterized by self-sacrifice that benefits others.

alveoli: small air sacs, located in the lungs, that are richly endowed with blood capillaries. Oxygen is absorbed by the blood in the alveoli.

ambilineal descent: a descent ideology based on ties traced through either the paternal or the maternal line.

ambilocality: residence of a married couple with or near the kin of either husband or wife, as they choose.

amino acid racemization: chronometric dating method based on change in the three-dimensional structure of amino acids from one form to its mirror image over time.

amino acid: a type of molecule that forms the basic building block of proteins.

amino-acid racemization: a method used in the dating of both human and animal bone. Its special significance is that with a small sample (10g) it can be applied to material up to 100,000 years old, i.e. beyond the time range of radiocarbon dating.

amniocentesis: a medical technique in which amniotic fluid is removed for study of the fetus.

amnion: a fluid-filled sack, formed from embryonic tissue, that contains the embryo in the amniote egg.

amniote egg: an egg with a shell and several internal members, which made reproduction on land possible.

amniotic fluid: the fluid surrounding the fetus.

amphibians: the earliest class of land vertebrates to evolve, yet have to keep their skin moist and lay eggs in water; includes modern frogs and salamanders.

analogies: structures that are superficially similar and serve similar functions, but have no common evolutionary relationship.

analogy: a process of reasoning whereby two entities that share some similarities are assumed to share many others.

ancillary sample: any non-artifactual materials collected by archaeologists to aid in dating, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, or other interpretations - e.g. carbon samples, soil samples, palynological samples etc.

animal husbandry: the breeding, care, and use of herd animals, such as sheep, goats, camels, cattle, and yaks.

animatism: belief in an impersonal supernatural force.

animism: belief in a soul, a spiritual essence that differs from the tangible, physical body.

annealing: in copper and bronze metallurgy, this refers to the repeated process of heating and hammering the material to produce the desired shape.

anterior pillars: bony columns located on both sides of the nasal aperture that help withstand the stresses of chewing.

anthropocentricity: the belief that humans are the most important elements in the universe.

anthropoid: a member of the suborder Anthropoidea; includes the New World monkeys, Old World monkeys, apes, and humans.

Anthropoidea: suborder of the order Primates that includes the New World monkeys, Old World monkeys, apes, and humans.

anthropological linguistics: the scientific study of human communication within its sociocultural context and the origin and evolution of language.

anthropology: the study of humanity - our physical characteristics as animals, and our unique non-biological characteristics we call culture. The subject is generally broken down into three subdisciplines: biological (physical) anthropology, cultural (social) anthropology, and archaeology.

anthropometry: the study of measurements of the human body.

anthropomorphic: "man-like." Used to describe artifacts or art work decorated with human features or with a man-like appearance.

antibody: a protein manufactured by the body to neutralize or destroy an antigen.

antigen: a substance that stimulates the production or mobilization of antibodies. An antigen can be a foreign protein, toxin, bacteria, or other substance.

ape: a common term that includes the lesser apes (the gibbons and siamang) and the great apes (the orangutan, common chimpanzee, bonobo, and gorilla).

aphasia: a language disorder resulting from brain damage.

apomorphic: in cladistics, this term describes derived or advanced characteristics that arose relatively late in members of a group and therefore differ among them. These are useful in assessing genealogical links among taxa.

applied anthropology: the activity of professional anthropologists in programs that have as primary goals changes in human behavior believed to ameliorate contemporary social, economic, and technological problems.

arbitrary level: an excavation level defined by factors of convenience, with no necessary relationship to site-stratigraphy or cultural components.

arbitrary: a characteristic of language that refers to the fact that a word, or other unit of sound, has no real connection to the thing it refers to. The meanings of the arbitrary elements of a language must be learned.

arboreal quadrupedalism: see branch running and walking.

arboreal: living in trees.

archaeobotany: see paleoethnobotany.

archaeological culture: a constantly recurring assemblage of artifacts assumed to be representative of a particular set of behavioral activities carried out at a particular time and place (cf. culture).

archaeology of cult: the study of the material indications of patterned actions undertaken in response to religious beliefs.

archaeology: a subdiscipline of anthropology involving the study of the human past through its material remains.

archaeomagnetic dating: sometimes referred to as paleomagnetic dating. it is based on the fact that changes in the earth's magnetic field over time can be recorded as remnant magnetism in materials such as baked clay structure (ovens, kilns, and hearths).

archaeozoology: sometimes referred to as zooarchaeology, this involves the identification and analysis of faunal species from archaeological sites, as an aid to the reconstruction of human diets and to an understanding of the contemporary environment at the time of deposition.

archaic primates: the label attached to the plesiadapiformes of the Paleocene. Lacking many features of the primate complex, the plesiadapiformes are no longer considered to be in the order Primates and the term has fallen into disuse.

archetype: the divine plan or blueprint for a species or higher taxonomic category.

areolar area: the dark area surrounding the nipple of the breast.

arranged marriage: any marriage in which the selection of a spouse is outside the control of the bride and groom. art the process and products of applying skills to any activity that transforms matter, sound, or motion into forms considered aesthetically pleasing to people in a society.

art object: any artifact carrying, or consisting of, decorative or artistic elements.

articulated: two or more bones left in their anatomical position after tissue decay.

artifact: any manually portable product of human workmanship (see feature). In its broadest sense includes tools, weapons, ceremonial items, art objects, all industrial waste, and all floral and faunal remains modified by human activity.

artifact: any physical remains of human activity.

artificial gene: a gene that is made in a laboratory and used in place of a defective or undesirable gene.

artificial insemination: the process of mechanically introducing sperm into the female reproductive tract.

ascribed status: social standing or prestige which is the result of inheritance or hereditary factors (cf. achieved status).

assemblage: a group of artifacts recurring together at a particular time and place, and representing the sum of human activities.

association: the co-occurrence of an artifact with other archaeological remains, usually in the same matrix.

assortative mating: the preference or avoidance of certain people as mates for physical or social reasons.

asymmetry of function: see lateralization.

atlatl-weight: usually a ground and polished stone object with grooves or perforations - for attachment to the shaft of an atlatl. Presumed to function in balancing the weapon prior to throwing.

atlatl: a device used to propel throwing-spears or "darts", used in most parts of North America prior to the appearance of the bow and arrow.

atom: a building block of matter.

atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS): a method of analyzing artifact composition similar to optical emission spectrometry (OES) in that it measures energy in the form of visible light waves. It is capable of measuring up to 40 different elements with an accuracy of c. 1 percent.

attribute: a minimal characteristic of an artifact such that it cannot be further subdivided; attributes commonly studied include aspects of form, style, decoration, color, and raw material.

attritional age profile: a mortality pattern based on bone or tooth wear which is characterized by an overrepresentation of young and old animals in relation to their numbers in live populations. It suggests either scavenging of attritional mortality victims (i.e. those dying from natural causes or from non-human predation) or the hunting by humans or other predators of the most vulnerable individuals.

auditory bulla: a flat or inflated structure which forms in the floor of the skull, that houses the middle ear.

augering: a subsurface detection method using either a hand or machine-powered drill to determine the depth and character of archaeological deposits.

Australopithecus: a collective name for the earliest known hominids emerging about 5 million years ago in East Africa.

autapomorphic feature: a feature that is unique to a particular species.

authority: the ability to exert influence because of one's personal prestige or the status of one's office.

autogrooming: self-grooming.

autonomy: taking commands from only one authoritative source, oneself, and rejecting all attempts to override one's autonomy. Moral autonomy entails making the final decisions about what one should do. Political autonomy entails having the liberty to act upon the decision one has made.

autosome: a chromosome.

avunculocal residence: residence of a married couple with or near a brother of the husband's mother who is usually a senior member of his matrilineage.

awl: a small pointed hand tool used for piercing holes in leather, wood and other materials,

azimuth: a magnetic bearing sighted from your position to a known landmark. Used in navigation and in determining site locations.

B.P.: "Before Present." the notation commonly used on radiocarbon dates, e.g. 1,000 B.P. = 1,000 years before 1950 A.D., or approximately 1,000 A.D.

back cross: the process of crossing a hybrid with its homozygous recessive parent.

back-dirt: the excavated matrix or fill of a site, Presumed to be of little or no further archaeological significance.

back-filling: the process of refilling a completed excavation.

balanced polymorphism: the maintenance of two or more alleles in a gene pool as the result of heterozygous advantage.

balanced reciprocity: gift giving that clearly carries the obligation of an eventual and roughly equal return.

band (among geladas): a social group consisting of a number of harems and all-male units.

band: a small territorially-based social group consisting of 2 or more nuclear families. A loosely integrated population sharing a sense of common identity but few specialized institutions.

barb: a sharp backwards extension of a projectile point intended to act as a hook to keep the point within a wound.

barrow: a large mound of earth or stones placed over a burial. The term is especially used in reference to the mounds of England.

basal grinding: intentional smoothing of the base or stem of a chipped stone projectile point.

basal metabolic rate: the measure of the total energy utilized by the body to maintain those body processes necessary for life; the minimum level of heat produced by the body at rest.

basal thinning: the intentional removal of small longitudinal flakes from the base of a chipped stone projectile point or knife to facilitate hafting.

basalt: a fine-grained volcanic rock used for the manufacture of chipped stone artifacts. Color black to gray, texture granular to glass-like.

base-line: an arbitrary line established by stakes and string, or by surveying instrument, from which measurements are taken to produce a site-map, or to provide an initial axis for an excavation grid.

base: a subunit of a nucleotide that makes up the DNA and RNA molecules; either a purine or a pyrimidine.

basicranium: the floor of the brain case.

baulks: unexcavated "walls" which may be left between pits to provide stratigraphic control.

bearing: in mapping or navigation, a compass direction, or horizontal angle of sight measured in magnetic degrees.

behavioral adjustment: cultural responses, primarily through technology, that make survival in stressful environments possible.

behavioral isolation: see sexual isolation.

behavioral sink: a psychological state characterized by gross distortions of behavior.

behavioral thermoregulation: the use of behavior, such as avoiding or seeking sources of heat, to regulate body temperature.

bench mark (B.M.): a vertical datum-point usually at a known elevation above sea-level, to which mapped elevations may be related.

Bergmann's rule: a rule which states that within the same species of endotherms, populations with less bulk are found near the equator while those with greater bulk are found farther from the equator.

beta chain: one of the two chains that make up the globin unit of the hemoglobin molecule.

biacromial width: a measurement of the width of the shoulders.

biconical drilling: a means of perforating beads or pendants for suspension. Accomplished by drilling in from both sides with a tapered drill resulting in an hour-glass-shaped hole.

biface: a stone artifact flaked on both faces.

bifacial flaking: the manufacture of a stone artifact by removing flakes from both faces.

bifurcation: a basis of kin classification that distinguishes the mother's side of the family from the father's side.

bilateral descent: a descent ideology in which individuals define themselves as being at the center of a group of kin composed more or less equally of kin from both paternal and maternal lines.

bilaterally barbed: a projectile point or harpoon with barbs on both edges.

bilaterally symmetrical: the condition in which, when something is cut down the middle, the two halves formed are generally mirror images of each other.

bilocal residence: regular alternation of a married couple's residence between the household or vicinity of the wife's kin and of the husband's kin.

bilophodont: a term found in Old World cusps with a small into two pairs.

binomen: a two-part name given to a species in which the first part is the name of the genus and the second is the specific name, for example, Homo sapiens.

binomial nomenclature: a system of naming species that uses binomens.

biological (biotic) environment: the living elements surrounding the organism.

biological anthropology: see physical anthropology.

biological evolution: change in the frequencies of alleles within a gene pool of a population over time.

biological imperatives: the basic human drives for food, rest, sexual satisfaction, and social contact.

biological species: a group of interbreeding populations that is reproductively isolated from other such groups.

bipedalism: see erect bipedalism.

bipoint: a bone or stone artifact pointed at both ends.

bipolar percussion: a means of manufacturing chipped stone artifacts. Accomplished by placing the raw material on a large rock and hitting it with a hammerstone from above.
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