The Grammar of the Archaeological Record

1. The System

7. The Main Lexicon

Giorgio Buccellati – June 2010

With the contribution of:
Sarah Comelli – June 2023
Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati – June 2010
James L. Walker – June 2010

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7.1: Introductory

A lexicon has been defined (2.5) as the list of attribute states or variants, i.e., the specific information that fills a given roster slot (attribute argument or variable). The term “lemma” (plural “lemmata”) refers to the concrete lexical item(s).

The list is open ended, and as such it is susceptible of additions at any time. Thus, whether or not or a lexical entry “earring” for the roster slot B10 = “definition” is present in our lexicon, or a lexical entry “green” for the roster slot K5 = “color,” and whether or not it has been used in the past, it can be introduced at will the first time it becomes pertinent. It is important that in such cases a precise definition be given within the record itself: this is done by using the category –rd “roster definition” under “incidentals” (see bolow, 7.5.4).

In this perspective, a formal listing of lexical entries would seem unnecessary. If that is not so, and if I undertake to give just such a list in this chapter, it is for two major reasons:

  1. In most cases where a lexical entry is expected, there is a correlative need for sorting. Thus, for example, it is obviously desirable to sort the entries for the roster slot "definition" in such a way that we have all ceramic vessels together, all seal impressions together, and so on. A uniformity of lexical entries is expected to make such sorting possible: it would not work to call the same type of object "ceramic vessel" or "pottery item," "seal impression" or "rolling," and so on.
  2. The simplest function of a lexical list is, therefore, to provide consistency in the use of appellations for distinct phenomena. In the input phase, it will also serve as a list of abbreviations, or codes, that can be more easily utilized in a uniform manner. Just as we saw in the case of the roster (6.1), this aspect of the current presentation is of no concern to a normal user of the system, since in the display version as embodied in the browser edition all abbreviations are resolved, and thus no knowledge of the codes is expected.
  3. More important is the conceptual dimension of the lexicon. Terms like "floor" and "fill" appear at first to have an evident meaning – the first term referring to a walking surface, and the second to material deposited within a given space. But closer inspection will reveal great variations. These have to be spelled out, and this goes to the core of the conceptual dimension of the lexicon. What is important in this endeavor is not so much to canvass a dictionary for definitions and paraphrases, but to articulate the variations into structured sets, where the definitions arise from contrasts among the members of the set. This I seek to do, to a limited extent and only for some basic categories, in this chapter.

The individual lexical items given below reflect different degrees of specificity, and no attempt is made to provide a finer hierarchy in this regard within each of the categories. It is also important to note that the record may well reflect successive moments through which different, and progressively higher, degrees of specificity are ascertained and assigned to the data. At Tell Mozan, this has often been the case, for instance, in the case of cl “clay lumps.” It was imperative, when collecting them in the field, that no attempt be made to determine whether they were sealings, and if so whether they were impressed with the rolling of a seal, for to attempt even a modicum of cleaning before they had become dry might seriously jeopardize their integrity. But after cleaning in the laboratory, such determination could, and would, be made. We estimate that we have collected some 10,000 cl clay lumps, of which only about 2,000 turned out to be sl “sealings,” of which again only some 1,600 bore a si “seal impression,” and a few even turned out to be tablet fragments. Progressively finer descriptions were then possible, e.g., as to iconography, epigraphic content, etc.

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7.2: Simple and complex lemmata

A simple lemma is based on a single set of parameters that is used to define a variant within a variable, e.g., “brown” within the variable “color.” With greater precision, a lemma may be based on the use of standards (e.g., the Munsell Color Chart variant “5YR8/2” within the variable “color” (see below, section 10, for a discussion of standards).

A complex lemma is a combination of simple lemmata and is used in the same way to define a set of variants within a variable. Thus, a ceramic “ware” is set of pertinent attributes for matrix, inclusions, manufacturing technique and measurements, each of which is defined separately as a simple lemma.

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7.3: Current version

The current version is indicated by a code that relates the lexicon to the roster, thus LZmr-003 is the 3rd version of the lexicon applicable to the main roster, LZca-002 is the 2nd version of the lexicon applicable to the Ceramic Analysis roster.

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7.4: Universal codes

Here the brief list of the universal codes:

uc uncertain
uk unknown
vr varia

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7.4.1: Notes on the use of the universal codes


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7.5: Variants for variable B10 = df: Definition

Th. sentence to be completed ZG831 mDP.

It must be stressed that the lexicon is an open system (7.1), so that features that occur rarely may be named in an ad hoc fashion as necessary. For instance, such entries as “pile of bricks” may be used for a stack of brocks ready for use in constructing a wall. The only two constraints are that initial hyphen (-..) is reserved for incidentals, and that the maximum length allowed is 20 characters.

Labels that are more specifically typological are given in italics at the end of each group of definitions. These typological definitions may be given under B10, in addition to the more generic definition. Thus something defined first as co “collapse” may also be defined as bf “brickfall.” Conversely, if a wall has (even just partly) collapsed into an open pit, then the typological definition as “brickfall” would accompany the emplacement definition F2 (“Type of contact”, = tc) “fill in secondary context.” In addition, the qualification bf “brickfall” may also be entered under A5 (“Typological specific label” = sp), if distinct brickfalls are numbered sequentially, and under M1 (“Generic function [1st degree specificity]”) as a determination as to primary function.

In some cases, a typological definition that includes a higher degree of specificity may apply to more than one type of material – for instance, a sculpture may be in stone or bronze. For this reason, it is advisable, though it is not strictly required by the system, to give in every case the more generic definition, e.g., ma “metal artifact” as well as sc “sculpture.” (In the topical lists given below, section 7.5, a term like “sculpture” may accordingly be entered twice, under ma “metal artifacts” and under la “lithic artifacts”.) A more precise definition of the type of ware or material (e.g., arsenical bronze) will be found under the roster slot K3 (“Ware or material, species” = wm).

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7.5.1: Features (stationary elements)

The main criterion for sorting the different types of features, in terms of emplacement, is the manner of alignment of the components of any given feature. Accordingly, four types can be distinguished:

  1. Horizontal surfaces ( the alignment is along a single plane.
  2. Layering or buildup ( this refers to the inert, i.e. gradual and unintentional, buildup that occurs on top of a surface, and which is characterized by the horizontal alignment of inclusions, each of which tends also to have a horizontal angle of repose.
  3. Amorphous amassment ( this refers to fills, dumping or collapse that result in the random alignment of inclusions. The term "fill" refers, strictly speaking, to a situation whereby the material "fills" a given space that is bounded, as is the case with discards dumped into a pit or walls collapsed inside a room. The category, however, subsumes also cases when the material is not bounded, but has piled up without containment, as with a brickfall that took place onto an open space.
  4. Ordered aggregation ( this refers to the ordered organization of components, such as the bricks within a wall. Wider nesting results in complex elements, such as when four walls can be understood as a self-standing construction (e.g., a grave). Larger structures (e.g., a house) are best considered under typology.

Note that, for ease of reference, the descriptive terms are taken from the depositional, rather than the emplacement, aspect that characterizes the feature – thus “fill” instead of something like “amorphous amassment.”

Back to top: 7. The Main Lexicon Horizontal surfaces

sfsubfloorHard layer, suitable for compaction and/or additional cover on top; it may at times be inferred to have resulted from the leveling of a pre-existing collapse
ffloor surface in generalFloor whose type is not specified or clear.
fafloor, type aplastered or lined
fbfloor, type bhighly compacted
fcfloor, type cmedium compacted
fdfloor, type dcompacted naturally
pvpavementfloor defined structurally by distinct surface elements, generally afinished cover or a coating laid on prepared surface
pkpackingThe prepared surface underlying and supporting a pavement
papavement, type acoating that is heavier than fa: cement, bitumen for example
pbpavement, type blarge components: flagstones, bricks or tiles for example
pcpavement, type csmall components; pebbles, sherds for example

Back to top: 7. The Main Lexicon Layering or buildup

aaccumulation Gradual buildup, generally bounded to at least one side, e.g., by walls or abutting at least one wall. Depositionally, an accumulation may be inferred to have occurred through two major processes:
  1. Occupation is the process resulting from human activities, whereby debris (including artifactual fragments such as sherds, and organic material such ash) comes to be embedded and compacted into a coagulated layer.
  2. Sedimentation refers to the precipitation of natural material, such as dust, windblown sand or organic particles.
aaaccumulation A Occupation immediately above floor surface, with sherds lying perfectly flat on the surface, vessels sitting upright, large pot smashes suggesting that the original ceramic vessel broke in place, etc. This is what is generally referred to as a "living floor," and it is of particular importance for stratigraphic considerations.
abaccumulation B Accumulation above accumulation, without distinct floor surface underneath, but well defined in terms of layering of matrix and distribution of inclusions.
acaccumulation C Not above floor, e.g. abandonment.
adaccumulation D Natural accumulation (i.e., sedimentation).
ash ashBurned organic material often found in a lens or layer.
baband Horizontal deposit with sharp lower and merging upper boundaries, and and merging side boundaries.
bmbrickmelt Layer consisting of the material used to make brick, but individual bricks cannot be distinguished.
llens Same as accumulation, not abutting walls, but with sharp boundaries on the sides, and generally small in size.
lalens type a Same criteria as for as accumulation A.
lblens type b Same criteria as for as accumulation B.
lclens type c Same criteria as for as accumulation C.
ldlens type d Same criteria as for as accumulation D.
ly layer Horizontal deposit with sharp lower and upper boundaries, with merging side boundaries.
lys conflation of layers Composite of multiple, clealy defined layers, or a merging of such layers.
lm laminations A special kind of lens, characterized by the even horizontal layering of very uniform soil, with an even layering and a sharp horizontal face, giving the appearance of compaction, but in fact quite brittle; it may be inferred that it was produced by the settling of water dripping from above (as with a light rain) after which it was left to dry without disturbances.
mudmud A special kind of lens, similar to a lamination but with greater compaction, for which one may infer that it was produced by a sizeable downpour, such as heavy rain, rather than by a light drizzle.
ts topsoil Generally a band or layer found on the surface and rich in organic material.

Back to top: 7. The Main Lexicon Amorphous amassment (fill, dumping, collapse)

co collapse Uniform matrix (e.g., bricks), with individual inclusions showing similar "angle of repose" (so as to suggest disaggregation of a built-up installation during collapse), often not contained within bounded space; it may be inferred that the collapse happened through intentional destruction by human agents of preexisting installations, or through erosion due to natural agents (especially rain and wind).
fi fill In general, a soil matrix with inclusions not laid horizontally, at least not uniformly so (e.g., sherds or bones with different and sharp "angles of repose"), often contained within a bounded space, from which one can infer intentional and one-time dumping.
f1 fill in primary context Material placed in a hole or trench for which it was dug (e.g., refuse in a pit dug for that purpose).
f2 fill in secondary context Example: waste discard within a pit originally meant for storage.
gully gully A channel created by flowing water that erodes and carries away soil.
bf brickfall Bricks and mortar associated with the collapse of a specific wall.
of organic fill Specifically dumped organic fill or midden.
rf roofing materialMaterial associated with the collapse of a specific roof.

Back to top: 7. The Main Lexicon Ordered aggregation (walls, installations)

apron apron A decorative layer of large worked stones abutting the top of a revetment wall.
baulk baulk A temporary "wall" of unexcavated material retained between loci. The purpose is to maintain stratigraphy and to provide a route for removal of spoils.
be bench A low, narrow platform usually attached to a wall and designed for seating.
bk-is brick installationAn ordered construction of bricks whose purpuse either cannot be immediately determined or cannot be readily defined using exsisting codes.
bp brick pile Individual bricks laid side by side, often set on their narrow side and leaning on each other, without the cohesion resulting from mortar binding.
cr corridorA narrow passageway between two parallel walls.
cut cutThe outer excavated edge of a pit into which fill is placed.
dw doorwayAn opening in a wall extendingn up from the floor intended to permit the passage of people or goods.
drain drainA narrow channel built to carry water away from the source where it is used or collected to a sink for discard.
dam damA wall built between two supporting structures and perpendicular to a water channel intended to control or impede the flow of water.
escar escarpmentA floor of hard material (stone or compacted baqaya) at the base of a revetment wall designed to carry water away from the wall and thus avoid undermining it.
glacis glacisA hard, compacted coating of baqaya or other soil extending back from the top of a revetment wall and intended to direct rainwater over the wall top, thus preventing erosiom of the back of the wall.
is installationIn a general sense: a discrete whole whose component parts are ordered according to a structured organization, from which one can infer that it was set up intentionally to serve as a specific functional aggregate (3.4); this definition is used when more specific criteria are lacking.
pf platformA raised installation with a large horizontal surface.
pt pitA hole intentionally dug to contain discarded material or store material for future use.
pt-a pit aggregateThe cut of a pit and its fill.
pt-c pit cutThe hole intentionally dug for a pit.
r roomA space usually enclosed by four walls intended to serve a specific purpose, a kitchen for example.
s structureSimilar to an installation, but having fewer components and less organization.
st isolated stoneFree standing stone of significant size not associated with another feature.
st-is stone installationAn ordered construction of stones whose purpose cannot be immediately determined or does not fit a named definition.
stair stairA rectangular block that facilitatess movement from one level to another.
staircase staircaseA series of stairs that facilitates movement between levels with significant vertical separation.
tr trench, troughA shallow, narrow, long pit often used to house a foundation or drain.
w wallA free-standing structure of narrow width, significant length and height often constructed of stone or brick. Separates two functional areas.
well wellA deep pit-like structure, sometimes lined, dug to access a water source from a higher level.
wf wall face or plasterThe exterior surface or coating of a wall.

[Is there any reason to keep these two tables separated? ZGy18 mDP]

bn bin One or more structures used to confine or store a commodity.
bu burialA simple structure, usually a pit, containind the remains of a human or animal (not built up, see gv, hb).
gv graveA built up structure used to house human remains and often containing grave goods (see bu, hb).
he hearth A simle structure, either a pit or a semi-enclosed stone or brick space usually used for cooking.
hs houseA collection of rooms organized for family occupation.
ki kilnAn installation, usually formed by modofying a deep pit, used for firing ceramic vessels.
ov ovenAn enclosed stone or clay structure used for cooking or baking.
ta tannurA free-standing clay cylinder usually used for baking bread.

Back to top: 7. The Main Lexicon Other features

hoholeShallow depression formed by removal of soil.
rh rodent holeA long narrow hole dug by a burrowing animal.
mix mixed featuresA combination of features from different categories (e.g. stone wall and accumulations against it). Usually applied to aggregates, not individual features.
ucuncertainA feature that could be defined as one of several choices.
ukunknownA feature that cannot be defined.
vmvolumetric materialAn artificial feature, i.e., one that does not match an ancient depositional reality, e.g., a portion of a baulk that is removed without reference to its stratigraphy.
vrvariousA feature that can be defined by several choices. Also, when used as a category and called varia, catalogs features or items that have insufficient data to automatically assign an established category.

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7.5.2: Items (movable elements)

The main criterion for sorting the various types of artifacts is the ware or material of the specific item. This is in some respects analogous to the criterion used for features, in that the definition is based on the consistency of the item and on the identification of traits that are apparent even at a low level of specificity.

Back to top: 7. The Main Lexicon Metal (by S. Comelli)

Cf. also the more detailed section in the chapter (1.9) about special lexica.

mametal artifact Generic term (also category) for any item made from metal.
sg slagResidue from metal smelting often found as tiny green particles.
ar arrowheadPointed metal object, often molded, hafted onto a thin wooden shaft and launched by a bow.
axax Fist-sized metal object with a sharpened edge used for chopping, hafted onto a wood shaft.
bd-mmetal bead Bead made of metal instead of stone.
coincoin Small metal disk of precious metal,usually decorated, that serves as a medium of exchange.
macemaceCeremonial staff carried by public officials. Head is often decorated. Shaft often wood.
je jewelry itemMetal object fashoned to adorn or decorate the human body, e.g., bracelet.
pendant-m metal pendantMetal central element of a necklace or bracelet.
pi pinLong, thin metal object used to fasten garments.
spoonspoonMetal object similar in form and function to modern object with the same name.
sc sculptureMolded metal object that accurately depicts a specific diety, human, or animal, (contrast and compare with a figurine made in clay).
spdspearhead Pointed molded metal object, larger than an arrowhead, hafted onto a long shaft, and designed for thrusting.
str-mmetal strainer Small can with holes fitted on the end of a hollow reed thst filters out solids from sipped liquids.
to-mmetal tool Item fashioned from metal that assists in the performance of a repetative task.

Back to top: 7. The Main Lexicon Stone

ar-sstone arrowhead Pointed, small, chipped stone tool, hafted onto a wood shaft, and designed for launching with a bow.
ax-sstone ax head Similar to a metal ax in use, but made of stone.
awl-sstone awl Pointed stone tool used to punch holes in softer material.
spd-sstone spearhead Pointed chipped stone tool, larger than an arrowhead, hafted onto a long shaft, and designed for thrusting.
dbdebitage Very small pieces of unused stone or obsidian removed in the process of fshioning a tool.
pol polishing stone
Stone tool used for burnishing unfired ceramics or polishing metal items.
to-sstone tool Item fashioned from worked stone that assists in the performance of a repetative task.
dsdoor socket Stone toroid (donut) used as the bottom pivot point of a door.
flakeflakePiece of stone or obsidian removed from a core that can be further worked into a stone tool.
grgrind stone Large stone tool used for grinding. Includes both mortar and pestal.
je-s stone jewelry
Jewelry item made from stone in lieu of metal.
lalithic artifact Generic term (also category) for any item made from clay.
ls lithic specimenUnworked stone selected for its unique properties (e.g., a gypsum pebble).
bd beadSmall spherical, cubical, cylindrical, or pyramoidal stone, often colored or semi-precious, with a small hole drilled through it. Often strung with others as a bracelet or necklace.
bl blade
Worked stone tool fashioned for cutting or scraping.
mace-sstone maceMace fashoned from stone rather than metal.
pendant-s stone pendantStone central element of a necklace or bracelet.
sc-s stone sculptureSculpture fashioned from stone rather than metal.
se sealCarved stone cylinder or stamp containing either geometric designs, scenes depicting humans and animals, writing, or a combination of the preceding. It is rolled across wet clay to indicate ownership of a container or seal a doorway.

Back to top: 7. The Main Lexicon Clay

qp pottery lotCeramic vessels and sherds taken from a measured volume of excavated soil, a q-lot.
cvCeramic vesselvessels made from fired clay suitable for storing commodities as well household and industrial uses.
andironandiron A small, cubical clay oven-structure fired with charcoal and used for both sacrifices and cooking.
bd-cclay bead Bead made of clay rather than stone.
clclay lump Piece of clay, irregularly formed, that possibly has a seal impression or may be a tablet.
cmclay model Small replica of a larger object, often a building, made of baked clay.
kwkiln waste Vitrified, amorphous matter from ceramic kiln (cf. kwr, slag).
kwrkiln waster kiln waster: misshapen or molten ceramic piece(s) or fragment(s). The difference between "kw" and "kwr" is significant, for a waster (kwr) retains at least partially the shape of the object that had been initially intended, and as such it qualifies as a proper artifact.
bbowl Alternatve definition for bowl.
bobowl Rounded clay vessel with a wide opening at its top (rim/height: 3/1).
btbottle Rounded clay vessel with a narrow opening at the top (rim/height: 1/5).
caclay artifact Generic term (also category) for any item made from clay.
chariotchariot model Clay model of a wheeled cart usually drawn by horses and used for rapid travel.
ccup Alternatve definition for cup.
cupcup A small bowl used for drinking beverages.
didish Low, flattened circular clay vessel (small platter).
gogoblet Small, rounded clay vessel with a narrow mouth (proportions as for small jar).
hjar shoulder Jar shoulder.
jjar Alternative definition for jar.
jajar Large, rounded clay vessel with a narrow mouth (rim/height: 1/3).
l plate
Baked clay item similar to, but smaller than a platter.
ppot Alternative definition for a pot.
popot Large, rounded clay vessel with a wide mouth (rim/height: 1/1).
plplatter Low, flattened circular clay vessel (rim/height: 5/1).
dstand Fired clay platform designed to support a large vessel.
bkbrick Speciman of building material saved for expert analysis.
sbsling ball Hard, baked clay, egg-shaped object used as ammunition for a slingshot.
se-cclay seal Seal (usually a stamp seal made from baked clay.
sherdsherd Individual fragment of a broken ceramic vessel.
siseal impression Refers to the impression left by a seal (the seal itself may be reconstructed as a "trace," see 3.3).
slsealing Refers to the object used to seal an opening (generally a container or a door), whether it has been sealed with a seal or not.
sstrainer Alternative definition for clsy strainer.
strclay strainer Bowl-shaped baked clay item with holes designed to separate liquids from solids.
tokentoken Object that represents something else; e.g., a spherical piece of baked clay.
fgfigurine An artistic rendering in baked clay of an animal or human, it may have served as a toy or had a cerimonial or votive function.
k worked disk
Wheel-like baked clay item that is not holed.
vother vessel Clay vessel whose shape does not match those currently defined.
w bowl carination
Out-turned portion of the rim of a clay vessel.
whwheel Holed baked clay disk associated with chariot or wagon models.

Back to top: 7. The Main Lexicon Organic

qb bone lot
Bones taken from a measured volume of excavated soil, a q-lot.
bd-shshell bead Bead made from shell rather than stone.
bibitumen Thick, black petroleum residue used, among other things, to repair ceramics (glue), line vessels, and waterproof surfaces.
a-boneanimal bone Specimen of a particular bone of interest from an animal.
babone artifact Generic category that collects any object of interest made of bone.
needleneedle Pointed sliver of bone with a hole for holding thread and used for sewing.
seedseed Part of a mature plant that is able to generate a new plant.
shellshell artifact Generic category that collects any object of interst, either a shell or item made of shell.
wawood artifact Generic category that collects any object of interest made of wood.
cscarbon specimen Charcoal or seeds collected for analysis.
ashsash sample Sample of ash collected for analysis.
awlawl Pointed bone or stone tool used to punch holes in softer material.
boardboard (As on back of sealings).
charcoalcharcoal Organic material heated to a high temperature in an environment devoid of oxygen.
hbhuman body Bones and other decayed material associated with a human being found in a grave (gv) or burial (bu).
ininlays Decorative additions applied to the surface of wood objects (generally made of shell or mother-of-pearl).
roroot The underground parts of a plant.
pegpeg A wood dowel used to secure two objects; e.g., a closed door to its frame.
stringstring A length of woven fiber used to secure two objects or used in conjunction with wet clay to seal a vessel.
toothtooth Speciman of a tooth from a human or animal.

Back to top: 7. The Main Lexicon Glass items

gaglass artifact Generic category that collects any object made of glass.
je-g glass jewelry
Jewelry item made of glass or frit in lieu of metal.
bd-g glass bead
Bead made of glass or frit.
pendant-g glass pendantGlass or frit central element of a necklace or bracelet.

Back to top: 7. The Main Lexicon Other items

oaother artifact An item not otherwise able to be defined under other categories. (Also a category). If used, a text entry description under code "B11 = ds" is required.
smsample Exemplar of a thing whose individual parts cannot be counted; e.g., sand. (Non count, see sp).
spspecimen Exemplar of a thing whose individual parts can be counted; e.g., seeds (count, see sm).
bracbracelet Jewelry item comrised of strung beads or fashioned from metal designed to be worn around the wrist.
so soil sampleSmall quantity removed for analysis, usually for botanicals.
necknecklace Jewelry item comprised of strung beads and pendants or fashoned from metal designed to be worn around the neck.
totool Any item fashoned to assist a person in performing a task; e.g., a pestle. Contrast with jewelry (je) designed to be decorative.
vsvessel An object made to contain a liquid or granular substance; e.g., a jar.
weweapon A tool made for fighting or warfare.
sustatue A large, free standing sculpture depicting a diety or human.
eepigraphic Refers to anything with writing on it; e.g., a sherd, a seal, a seal impression.
ttablet Refers to an object shaped for writing, whether in fact epigraphic or anepigraphic.

Back to top: 7. The Main Lexicon

7.5.3: Combined alphabetical list for features and items

a accumulation: gradual buildup, bounded by walls or abutting at least one wall.
aa accumulation, type a: above floor surface ("living floor").
ab accumulation, type b: above accumulation.
ac accumulation, type c: not above floor; e.g., abandonment.
ad accumulation, type d: natural accumulation (i.e., sedimentation).
ar arrowhead.
ax ax(head).
ba band (horizontal deposit with sharp lower and merging upper boundaries).
ba bone artifact. double codes? ZGy18 mDP
bd bead.
be bench.
bf brickfall (specific collapse).
bk brick.
bl blade.
bn bin.
bo bowl (rim/height: 3/1).
board (as on back of sealings).
bp brick pile.
bt bottle (rim/height: 1/5).
bu burial (not built up, cf. gv, hb).
ca clay artifact.
cb carbon.
cl clay lump (and possible tablet).
co collapse (not contained within bounded space).
cr corridor.
cv ceramic vessel.
d doorway.
di dish (small platter).
e epigraphic: refers to anything with writing on it.
f floor surface in general.
f1 fill in primary context (e.g., within a foundation trench).
f2 fill in secondary context (e.g., discard within a pit originally meant for storage).
fa floor, type a (plastered or lined).
fb floor, type b (highly compacted).
flake -
fc floor, type c (medium compacted).
fd floor, type d (compacted naturally).
fg figurine.
fi fill in general (contained within bounded space).
go goblet (proportions as for small jar).
gv grave (built up, cf. bu, hb).
hb human body (see bu, gv).
he hearth.
ho hole.
hs house.
ia item aggregate (e.g., vessels on floor).
in inlays (generally made of shell or mother-of-pearl).
is installation.
ja jar (rim/height: 1/3).
je jewelry item.
ki kiln.
kw kiln waste: vitrified, amorphous matter from ceramic kiln (cf. kwr, slag)
kwr kiln waster: misshapen or molten ceramic piece(s) or fragment(s).
la lens type a (same criteria as for as accumulation aa).
lb lens type b (same criteria as for as accumulation b).
lc lens type c (same criteria as for as accumulation c).
ld lens type d (same criteria as for as accumulation d).
lm lamination.
ln lens, same as accumulation, but not abutting any walls.
ls lithic specimen.
ly layer (horizontal deposit with sharp lower and upper boundaries).
ma metal artifact.
or organic refuse or midden.
ov oven.
pa pavement, type a: coating (heavier than fa: cement, bitumen).
pb pavement, type b: large components (flagstones, bricks or tiles).
pc pavement, type c: small components (pebbles, sherds).
peg -
pf platform.
pi pin.
pl platter (rim/height: 5/1).
po pot (rim/height: 1/1).
pt pit.
pv pavement in general (floor defined structurally by distinct surface elements).
qb bone lot.
qp pottery lot.
r room.
rf roof collapse and roofing material.
rh rodent hole.
ro root.
s structure.
sc sculpture.
se seal.
sf subfloor.
sg slag (from metal smelting).
sh spearhead.
shell -
si seal impression.
sl sealing.
sm sample (non count, see sp)
so soil.
sp specimen (count, see sm).
st-is stone installation (isolated stones, threshold, steps, ...).
su statue.
t tablet.
ta tannur (bread oven).
to tool.
tr trench, trough.
ts topsoil: this is generally a band or layer.
vs vessel.
vol volumetric feature.
w wall.
wa wood artifact.
we weapon.
wf wall wace.
wh wheel.

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7.5.4: Codes for incidentals (reviewed by J.L. Walker)

[Codes in red have been created in September 2022 for CONSERVATION – ZG911 mDP]

Related to excavation
--i introduction
-ae aerial photography
-dy daily
-eq equipment
-fl file log
-iv inventory
-lb labeling
-lg log
-mk marker
-mt methods and techniques
-ns notes on time sequencing
-ov overall shot
-ph phase
-rd roster definition
-rs record shot
-sf staff
-sg strategy
-sn section
-so site overall
-sp special project
-sr strata description
-st storage
-su summary
-sy surveying
-tr transmittal
-vr varia
-wa work activities
-wk workmen
-zx site general, excavations
Unrelated to excavation
-bf burlap fixing
-cl cleaning
-cy city scenes
-da damages
-eh expedition house
-el expedition life
-fn fauna
-fr flora
-gm general maintenance
-gv general view
-hl health and medical
-id individuals
-lhi left-hand-side intro
-lhm left-hand-side miscellaneous
-lhs left-hand-side stratigraphy
-lht left-hand-side typology
-ls landscape
-nm name, address, reference
-ny next year
-oa official activities
-pc people and customs
-pre public relations (excludes visitors)
-pw public works
-re restoration
-si stone re-installation
-tv travel
-vb village, general
-vs visits and visitors
-we weather
-wr weed removal

A full alphabetical listing follows:

-aeaerial photography
-bfburlap fixing
-cycity scenes
-ehexpedition house
-elexpedition life
-flfile log
-gmgeneral maintenance
-gvgeneral view
-hlhealth and medical
-lhileft-hand-side introduction
-lhmleft-hand-side miscellaneous
-lhsleft-hand-side stratigraphy
-lhtleft-hand-side typology
-mtmethods and techniques
-nmname, address, references
-nsnotes on time sequencing
-nynext year
-oaofficial activities
-ovoverall shot
-pcpeople and customs
-prepublic relations (excludes visitors)
-pwpublic works
-rdroster definition
-rsrecord shot
-sistone re-installation
-sosite overall
-spspecial project
-srstrata description
-vbvillage buildings
-vgvillage, general
-vsvisits and visitors
-wawork activities
-wrweed removal
-zxsite general, excavations

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7.6: Variants for variable K3 = wm: Ware or material

One will find here only major categories that are easily recognizable during excavations. Finer definition, e.g., with regard to the nature of a metal to be redefined as a certain type of copper alloy, will be given as a special lexicon, of the type described presently in 21 [missing section? ZGy18 mDP].

clclay (finer definitions of ceramic wares are given in 21.2 [missing section? ZGy18 mDP])
glglass or frit
lilithic (finer definitions will be given in 21 [missing section? ZGy18 mDP]; here only obsidian is identified, since it is easily recognizable at first glance)

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7.7: Variants for variable F2 = tc: Contact association

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7.7.1: Concepts

This lexical category is one of the most powerful in the whole grammar, on two grounds (see also 5.9 [missing section? ZGy18 mDP]; 31.2 [missing section? ZGy18 mDP]):

  1. In the first place, the categorization given here aims at being exhaustive. In this respect, and unlike other lexica, it is meant as a closed system, to which no other terms can be added. It is conceived, in other words, as a paradigm with a precise structural configuration that excludes variations or expansions. Clearly, this is not a matter of semantics. To say that a jar sits in a pit, or that a pit contains a jar, are equivalent formulations of the same reality, semantic variations applicable to the same paradigmatic slot.
  2. The second reason for the importance of this particular paradigm is that it serves as the basis for the construction of the depositional synopsis (the equivalent of the so-called "Harris matrix"), which is derived automatically from the data once their contact association has been observed and defined according to the terms of the paradigm (see below, 32). Besides the practical advantage of such a procedure, one must note the all important conceptual correlation that is thereby established between emplacement and deposition. The observation of physical contact is demonstrable and documentable, and on it rests a univocal conclusion as to the depositional processes that have brought about the situation as observed. In other words, the data as observed are physically present in the ground and can be described in relationship to volumes, but the inference that is drawn from it speaks to the depositional process in a way that is predefined and hence predictable. It should be noted that, except in the case of bonding (3b), it is always clear which of the two volumes is the subject of the verb and which is the object. What is crucial in terms of the depositional inference just mentioned is that the subject is always in a temporal relation of posteriority vis-à-vis the object (except for 3b). This also makes recording easier, in that during the recording phase the contact association is always entered only once, namely under the element that serves as subject.

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7.7.2: Nature of the verbal categorization

Three additional points must be stressed:

  1. The first is that each definition is meant to define a term that is part of a paradigm, i.e., a term that is in structural contrast with all the other elements of the paradigm. It matters little whether we say that some­thing "leans" or "is placed" against something else. What really matters is the paradigmatic definition that defines this process in contrast with all the others.
  2. The second is that the exclusivity I claim may well be disproved. I argue for it on the basis of my (inductive) experience with data against which I have tested this paradigm over the years, and I also argue for it on the basis of a (deductive) logic that seeks to interpret a priori the universe of possible relationships. Corrections and additions are certainly possible. But what must be kept in mind is that they must be done systemically, i.e., with a view towards respecting the integrity of the correlations among all members of the set, and not in an ad hoc fashion that simply adds synonyms or paraphrases.
  3. The third is that each and every relationship is in the active voice, and it entails a single subject and a single object. Descriptively, it of course makes sense to say that an accumulation is cut by a pit (in the passive voice). It is only a practical choice that privileges the active instead of the passive voice, because in so doing we achieve a uniformity that allows the person who does the recording to enter the relationship only once, when it affects the subject, leaving it to the programs to generate the converse for the object.

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7.7.3: Definitions

Here I will define in detail the nature of each term of the paradigm in an order that reflects the temporal sequence inherent in each action, from the point of view of the object. Thus the process described under 1a “truncation” is the first event that can affect the object of the pertinent sentence (e.g., a floor that is truncated by a pit), and 5b describes the last event that can so affect it (e.g., a pottery lot sits in an accumulation overlaying a floor).

  • 1a: to cut – Total truncation of a volume, affecting both the upper and the lower faces of the volume that is the object of the verb. As a result, the contiguity of the different portions of the truncated volume takes place only along the edges of the truncated volume itself.
  • 1b: to intrude – Insertion into a volume, where only the upper face of the (object) volume is affected. As a result, the contiguity of the different portions of the truncated volume takes place in the lower part, as well as long the edges, of the truncated volume itself.
  • 2a: to lean against – Partial contact of two volumes in their upper part, which implies that their lower part are not adjacent, whether the space in between is filled or not.
  • 2b: to rest on – Partial contact of two volumes where the bottom of one is in contact with the top of the other.
  • 3a: to abut – Adjacency of two volumes along one of their edges, entirely preserved, whereby no space is left between the two volumes, consequently without either void or fill. This implies intentionality of juxtaposition, and the contemporary presence of both volumes at the time that the abutting took place.
  • 3b: to bond with – Interlocking of two volumes along their edges, entirely preserved. In a sense, the two volumes constitute therefore a single feature, and if they are kept separate it is because they are clearly distinguishable in terms of shape and other possible traits. This is the only case where one cannot identify a subject, since the two volumes are wholly reversible.
  • 4a: to cover – Total superposition of one volume over the other, whereby the upper side of the lower is not in contact with any other volume.
  • 4b: to overlay – Partial superposition of one volume over the other, whereby the upper volume does not entirely cover the lower, as when a large sherd straddles the top opening of a pit and the floor into which the pit has been cut.
  • 5a: to cap – Matching of all the edges of one volume with the corresponding edges of the second volume, as in the case of a lid whose edges match exactly the opening onto which it is set.
  • 5b: to sit in – Matching of all the sides of a given volume by the matrix within which it is embedded. This is typically the case with items found within an accumulation or a fill. Note that the tendency is to refer to this relationship by saying that the matrix contains the inclusion. However, the relative temporal sequence is inverted, in that the inclusion is deposited at a later point in time within the matrix, which, in fact, it helps to construe. Accordingly, I prefer to use the term "to sit in" which reflects the proper temporal sequence.

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7.7.4: Synopsis

The following chart provides a synopsis of all ten types, with a sketch that represents graphically the situation intended. In these sketches [missing], the subject is highlighted with a dark, and the object with a light color. At the top is the last, and at the bottom the earliest, process that can affect the object.

     Chart 7-7
     Type of contact association

to cut
pit cuts floor

to intrude
pit intrudes fill

to lean against
partial contact at top
jar leans against wall

to rest on
partial contact at bottom
jar rests on floor

to abut
adjacency of edges
floor abuts wall

to bond with
interlocking of edges
wall bonds w/ wall (note that in this case either wall can serve as subject or object)

to cover
total superposition
floor covers wall

to overlay
partial superposition
floor overlays wall

to cap
matching of edges
lid caps jar

to sit in
matching of sides
sherds sit in accumulation

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7.8: Variants for variable K4 = sh: Shape – for ceramic vessels (M. Kelly-Buccellati)

These codes are applicable for pottery shapes only, i.e., they are applicable when the variants for roster slot B10 = df “definition” include either cv or any of the following: bo, bt, di, go, ja, po, pl.

Note: the symbol >> means “considerably greater than.”

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Overall shape

obbowl(rim > height)
occup(small bowl)
ojjar(rim < height)
oppot(rim = height)
oplplatter(rim >> height)
osstandno solid base
oxothershape should be described as a local note, e.g., ox @vat

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rhhole mouth

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bfvflat, slightly concave
bfxflat, slightly convex
bhfhigh footed
blflow footed
bspslightly pointed

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hitabinterior triangular tab
hlugtriangular lug
hscsmall semi circular
hshstrap handle

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x1interior ledge for holding cover
x2interior groove

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7.9: Variants for variable O21: View range

ffar shot
mmedium shot
ttight shot
wwide shot

For an explanation of the concepts behind the codes see above, section 6 (under O21O21).

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7.10: Variants for variable O22: View orientation


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