Oregon Trail marker in Wyoming. Petroglyph in the Jack Morrow Hills area, Wyoming. Rock shelter in Wyoming. Rock art in Wyoming. Cultural resource from Wyoming.
BLM>Wyoming>Programs>Cultural Heritage>Definitions
Print Page


Archaeology – a method of the discovery, study and reconstruction of past human cultures from material remains such as artifacts and sites.

Archaeological site – a place which holds evidence of past human activity.

Archaic – ancient, old, or surviving from an earlier people. Archaic can also mean relating to an earlier time.

Arroyo – a deep gully from the Spanish work riachuelo meaning stream, brook, small river or the dry bed of a waterway in the Southwestern part of the United States.

Arroyo traps – a dead end arroyo that was deep and broad enough to trap bison. Hunters drove a group of bison into one. When the stampeding bison reached the dead end, hunters armed with spears slaughtered the struggling animals.

Artifact – any object made, modified or used by humans, usually but not necessarily portable.

Atlatl – a spear thrower that extended the range of a thrown spear. Using it caused the spear to go faster and farther than when it was thrown without an atlatl.

Basin – A bowl shaped depression.

Bow and arrow – a bow is a weapon for shooting arroyos. It is made of a flexible material, often wood, that is bent by a string that is fastened to each end. An arrow is a straight slender stick that has a projectile point at one end and feathers on the other.

Clovis point – spear point made by early Paleo-Indians; characterized by a short, shallow channel on one or both faces; larger than a Folsom point.

Communal hunt – a hunt in which all the group's able people joined. It may involve a number of groups and employ a technique that could kill many animals, such as bison (or buffalo) jump.

Cordage – plant fibers twisted into cord, rope, or yarn.

Culture – the customs, beliefs, and ways of life of a group of people.

Cultivate – to raise crops; to water, loosen the soil, and weed around growing plants.

Cultivation – the process of preparing the land and caring for growing crops.

Dendrochronology – the study of tree-ring dating. The science of dating events and weather patterns in former times by studying growth rings in trees. One can determine the age of a tree by counting its rings.

Diet – what people and living organisms eat is their diet. A diet is a combination of foods and liquids that provide the necessary nutrients for the body.

Digging stick – a pointed, wooden stick used to dig and pry edible roots from the ground.

Domestication – the process of taming or making usable for humans.

Drive line – long lines of stone piles that marked a path used to channel the bison in the proper direction during a hunt. The drive lines caused the animals to move toward a jump-off or corral location.

Dung – animal manure. Solid waste material passed from the bowels of animals. Scientists study dung to learn what animals and humans ate in the past.

Environment – the conditions around an area that affect it. These include geography, soil, climate, plants, and animals.

Excavation – carefully removing layers of dirt or sediment to find objects or features made by people from long ago.

Extinct – no longer existing or active; died out.

Extinction – bring to an end, wiping out, or destruction.

Evidence – data which are used to prove a point, or which clearly indicate a situation.

Folsom Point – a spear or atlatl dart point made by later Paleo-Indians. Characterized by a long, shallow channel on one or both faces; smaller than a Clovis point.

Foothill – a low hill near the base of a mountain or range of mountains.

Glacier – a large mass of ice that moves slowly down a slope or valley.

Historic – Referring to the time after written records or after the Europeans first came and wrote about the people and events in America.

History – the study of past events and times through use of written and recorded sources. In some cases, oral sources may also be available.

House Pit – a small dwelling that had a shallow excavated floor and a roof of poles covered with branches or hides.

Hunter-gatherers – people who depend on wild animals and plants for food to survive.

Medicine Wheel – a stone structure that is shaped like a wheel with radiating spokes with a central pile of stones.

Megafauna – Large animals especially in the last Ice Age or Pleistocene. These animals are now extinct and include mammoths, mastodons, American lions, American camels, and saber-toothed cats.

Native American – the first people living in North and South America. Many groups of people today are Native Americans and have ancestors who lived in the country for thousands of years before Columbus came. They are also called American Indian, First American, Alaska Native and Native People.

Nomad – a person who belongs to a group of people who have no permanent home, but wander from place to place searching for water, food, or grazing land.

Paleo-Indian – The name given to the oldest known cultural group in North America.

Paleontology – the study of ancient plants and animals now known only from fossil remains (see the Wyoming BLM Paleontology Program page for more information).

Pemmican – a mixture of dried meat mixed with crushed berries and fat. It was used as food on hunting trips and other journeys because it kept well without spoiling.

Pestle – a tool used to mash or grind substances.

Petroglyph – Pictures created on rock faces by striking the rockface with a harder rock.

Pictographs – a prehistoric painting on a rock wall.

Pleistocene – The Ice Age(s) and period in the world's history that began about 1.6 to 2 million years ago and lasted until about 10,000 years ago. During this time, much of the earth was covered in ice.

Pottery – Earthenware or clayware pots, dishes, or vases. These cups, bowls, and other dishes or objects were made from clay and hardened by heat.

Prehistory/Prehistoric – information about past events prior to the recording of events in writing. The period of prehistory differs around the world depending upon when written records became common in a region.

Projectile Point – the stone point attached to the end of darts, spears, and arrows. Often called "arrowheads".

Roasting Pit – a pit dug into the ground that was used for cooking. The pit contained fire-cracked rocks, charcoal, ash, and sometimes the remains of whatever was cooked.

Site – A location, place. Is a term used by archaeologists for places that prehistoric and historic people lived in or used. Sites are places where humans left things behind.

Shaman – a medicine man or religious leader; a person who calls upon the spirits to cure the sick and to control events (weather or hunting).

Site – is a word used by archaeologists for places that prehistoric and historic people lived in or used. Sites are places where humans left things behind.

Stratigraphy – The science of studying layers of materials, as in rock layers in the Earth or deposits in archaeological sites. Cultural remains and dirt become buried over time and, usually, the layer on the bottom is the oldest, the layer on the top is the youngest. Dirt of different layers is often colored differently.

Tanning – the process which turns animal hides into leather.

Tipi – a cone-shaped tent used especially by Plains Indians usually made of skins or bark spread over a frame of poles. Also spelled tepee or teepee.

Travois – a primitive device used by Plains Indians to move things. It consisted of two long poles with a platform or netting to carry objects. Originally pulled by dogs, horses were later used to pull it.