abacus (AB-a-cus). A block with a square base, placed horizontally, forming the top of a capital of a column providing support to the architrave. More Information.
abecedarian (ABE-ce-DAR-i-an). As a noun, primarily one learning alphabet characters but also used to describe a novice undertaking to learn something or anyone learning the rudiments or fundamentals of something or as an adjective, arranged alphabetically or in alphabetical order.
absolute dating (AB·so·lute DAT·ing). An absolute date is a chronometric date. The burning of the Second Temple in Jerusalem on 9 Ab (August 5, 70) by the Romans is an absolute date. That is, the date is known with such certainty that to reject it would be scientifically, if not logically, absurd. See chronometric dating.
absolution (AB·so·LU·tion). The release from consequences or penalties or the process of freeing from consequences or penalties. In Roman Catholic theology a remission of sin or the punishment due to sin made by a priest in the process of penance. In Protestant theology a declaration or assurance of forgiveness made by a penitent individual after confession of sins.
Abydos ware (a-BY-dos ware). Pottery of Canaanite (Syro-Palestinian) origin found in the royal tombs of the First and Second Dynasties (The Old Kingdom) at Abydos, Saqqara, Abusir el-Melek, and other sites in Upper Egypt, dating to Early Bronze Age II (3300-2700 BCE). The pottery, often red-rose slipped and burnished or painted with geometric motifs, includes jugs, bottles, and jars. Most common are the red-slipped jugs, some of a hard-baked "metallic" quality, with handles attached to the rim and a typical stamped base. This pottery class took its name from Abydos, the first site at which it was found, in Upper Egypt.
acanthus (a·CAN·thus). Any of several herbs of the genus Acanthus native to the Mediterranean region, having spiny or toothed leaves. Acanthus leaves sometimes serve architectural ornamental purposes, e.g., as in a Corinthian capital.
accession year (ac·CES·sion year). The actual year in which a monarch ascends the throne. See regnal year.
Achaemenid (a-CHAE-me-nid). A member of the Persian ruling dynasty dating from the reign of Cyrus the Great (ca. 550 BCE) to the death of Darius III (330 BCE) following his defeat by Alexander the Great in the Battle of Gaugamela. The dynasty took its name from Achaemenes (Persian, Hakhamanish), its early 7th century BCE putative founder.
Acheulean tradition (a·CHEU·le·an tra·DISH·an). The stone tool technology of some populations of Homo erectus, found in Africa and Europe dating to the Lower Paleolithic Age. More Information.
acropolis (a·CROP·o·lis). The citadel or official, administrative, or royal part of an ancient city, often elevated or the highest of its precincts.
acroterium (AC-ro-TER-i-um) or acroterion (AC-ro-TER-i-on), pl., acroteria. The ornamental finial at the apex or corner of a roof, or the lower angles of a pediment or an ornamental projection from a pediment serving as a base for a sculptured figure.
agriculture (AG·ri·CUL·ture). In anthropology the cultivation of domesticated crops. The invention of agriculture occurred in the Near East during the Neolithic period (8500-4300 BCE). In contemporary parlance agriculture refers to both crop and animal production.
agriculture, intensive (in·TEN·sive ag·RI·cul·ture). Field crop production by means of the annual preparation of fields intended for cultivation on a more or less permanent basis facilitated by use of the plow and other machinery, draft animals, fertilizers (anciently often animal and human fetal matter), irrigation, water storage technologies, and the like.
Akkadian or Accadian (ak·KA·di·an). The ancient eastern Semitic language of the Assyrians and Babylonians written in a cuneiform script.
aliyah (a·li·AH and a·li·YAH), pl. aliyahs (a·LI·yos and a·LI·yot). An ascent or the act of going up, a reflection of going up to Jerusalem in biblical times, now broadened to refer to the immigration of Jews to Israel, either individually or in groups. Retaining elements of its earlier meaning a reference to the act of proceeding to the reading table in a synagogue of the Jews for recitation of the blessings prior to and following Torah readings.
allele (al-LEL). Alternative forms of a gene occurring at a given locus (a specific location on a gene on a chromosome). Some genes have only a single allele and others have more. Most loci possess more than one possible allele. Different alleles convey different instructions for the development of a certain phenotype, e.g., different blood types. A population's gene pool consists of the total aggregate of genes in that population at any one time.
alphabet (AL·pha·BET). A set of symbols enabling a language to be set forth in a written form through representing words by sound sequences. More Information.
altar (AL·tar). An elevated place or structure, such as a mound or platform, for the practice of religious rites, for a memorial, or for the offering of sacrifices to ancestors, deities, and the like. More Information.
anachronistic (a·NACH·ro·NIS·tic). Refers to the representation of something as existing or occurring at other than in its proper time, particularly earlier, and involving or containing anything out of its proper time, e.g., without minimizing the symbolic significance of the phrase "breaking of bread" (Acts 2:42; Acts 20:11; cf. Luke 24:30) the reading of a Eucharistic service into the apostle Lukes writings by equating the expression "breaking of bread" as the liturgy of the Eucharist (called Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox Eastern Church, Mass in the Roman Catholic Church, and generally Holy Communion in Protestant churches) is anachronistic. Separation of the Eucharist, then embedded together with a full meal, known as the Lord's Supper and in the second and third centuries as the agape, included in the fourteenth of Nisan Christian Passover observance, from the annual re-enactment of the Last Supper, was a post-70 CE event. Simply put, reading the "breaking of bread" in Acts as a Eucharist service is an anachronism.
Anastasis (AN·as·TA·sis). The Church of the Resurrection (Anastasis), a rotunda in the form of the royal mausoleum built over the tomb known as the Tomb of the Redeemer, at the order of the Emperor Constantine, is the west end of the Constantinian Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Many Christians believe this site is the location of the tomb into which Jesus' followers placed his body. The facade of this circular structure had eight doors over which opened up eight windows elongated skyward. Twelve large columns supported the rotunda alternated by three groups of pillars supporting a balcony over which rose a cupola with an oculus (eye). All around the lower part of the rotunda large decorated windows filtered the light which filled this space. Light entered the interior from the facade, the windows and the oculus illustrating that the Light of the Resurrection defeated the powers of darkness.
animatism (AN·i·ma·tism). The attribution of humanlike consciousness, personality, and powers to inanimate objects (e.g., heavenly bodies, volcanoes, rocks, and stones), natural phenomena (e.g., eclipses, earthquakes, thunderstorms, tornadoes), plants and animals, and the universe itself.
ankh (ankh), pl. ankhs (ankhs). A tau cross with a loop at the top symbolic of generation or enduring life. The ancient Egyptians saw the ankh as symbolic of life. Often seen in tombs of pharaohs the symbol held multiple meaning and its exact origin is unknown.
anomalistic month (a·NOM·a·lis·tic month). An anomalistic month is the time that the moon takes to go from perigee (the point nearest to the earth in the orbit of the moon) to perigee.
anthropological linguistics (AN·thro·PO·log·I·cal lin·GUIS·tics) or linguistic anthropology (lin·GUIS·tic AN·thro·PO·logy). A core subfield of anthropology focusing on the nature of human language and its relationship to culture. Historical linguistics, a specialty in linguistic anthropology of importance to biblical archaeology, consists of the classification and comparison of different languages to discern the historical links between languages.
anthropology (AN·thro·POL·o·gy). The systematic study of the nature, diversity and similarity of humankind over time through four traditional sub-fields concentrating on (1) the origins and biological diversity of humans [biological anthropology], (2) their technological and cultural development over time [archaeology], (3) their languages [anthropological linguistics], and their social customs and beliefs [social and cultural anthropology also called sociocultural anthropology or ethnology]. Slowly emerging as a fifth subfield is applied anthropology.
anthropomorphism (AN·thro·po·MOR·phism). The attribution of human characteristics, e.g., hands, feet, emotions, and the like, to nonhuman beings or objects. People often use anthropomorphic terms to describe God. For most people to not do so relegates God to ethereal terms hard to understand. But does God have form and shape? These are anthropomorphic terms. Christians divide over this issue some viewing the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament in more literal terms and others in metaphoric terms.
antitype (AN·ti·TĪP). In biblical prophecy the fulfillment of something or someone foreshadowed by a type or symbol such as a New Testament event prefigured by an exemplar or symbol in the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, Aaron and Jesus Christ are the type and the antitype for the high priest that made atonement for the sins of the people. The Jewish Passover was the type and the crucifixion of Jesus the antitype. The type is the pattern or symbol, and the antitype is the fulfillment. The type prefigures the antitype. One substitutes the antitype into the symbolism of the type to arrive at the full meaning. See type.
apocalyptic (a·POC·a·LYP·tic). From the Greek apokalypsis "unveiling" defining a work of or like any of a class of Jewish or Christian writings on divine revelation that appeared from about 200 BCE to CE 350 forecasting the ultimate destiny of the world.
Apostolic Age (AP·os·tol·ic age) or Apostolic Period. The first of the historical epochs in the work of the Church of God, focused in the Greco-Roman world and often identified as the Apostolic Age, consisted of the period of the apostles and their immediate successors.
Apostolic Fathers (AP·os·tol·ic FA·ther). A reference to the body of the earliest Christian literature after the New Testament. The Apostolic Fathers are virtually all of orthodox Gentile authorship. The term comes from the work of seventeenth century scholar Jean Cotelier (Richardson 1970:15). The earliest, known as First Clement, dates to about CE 96 and the latest to about the middle of the second century. The prescript of the letter of First Clement, a noncanonical epistle attributed to Roman bishop Clement, identifies its origin as "The Church of God which sojourns in Rome" and its recipient as "the Church of God which sojourns in Corinth (Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians 1 in Roberts and Donaldson 1987:5).
archaeoastronomy (AR·chae·o·as·TRON·o·my). A specialty in archaeology dealing with the study of the astronomical significance of ancient structures and other phenomena preserved in the archaeological record as they relate to ancient astronomical phenomena and understanding.
archaeological culture (AR·chae·o·LOG·i·cal CUL·ture). A set of assemblages, generally in a continuous space that exhibit a consistent association of distinctive stylistic elements, representing the surviving remains of an extinct culture.
archaeological record (AR·chae·o·LOG·i·cal re·CORD). A more or less continuous distribution of material culture over the surface of the earth with highly variable density characteristics consisting of artifacts, ecofacts, features, and structures.
archaeological unit (AR·chae·o·LOG·i·cal U·nit). An arbitrary unit of classification designed to separate one grouping in time from another. Sets of distinctive assemblages, from a series of sites in a given region when taken as a whole, reflecting a cohesive set of cultural practices generally provide the basis of an archaeological unit.
archaeology (AR·chae·ol·o·gy) also archeology (AR·che·ol·o·gy). A core subfield of anthropology dedicated to the scientific study of the life and cultures of ancient peoples through excavation of their material culture. The Latin equivalent archaeologia gave rise to the English word archaeology. Restated in procedural terms archaeology consists of the systematic recovery of the surviving remains of ancient peoples in an effort to reconstruct their cultural history. The goal of archaeological endeavor is the recovery, classification, and description of the durable remnant of human activities of antiquity to expand the knowledge of the present about the past.
Area (AR·e·a). A sector of units of excavation and consists of a group of closely related, usually contiguous, squares. The numbering of Areas is by capital letters, e.g., Area A, Area M, etc., and squares by Arabic numbers, Area A, Square 1. In some systems of excavation what is an Area in the above description is called a field, and instead of the smaller unit of squares already described, that unit is called an area, e.g., Field 1, Area 1.
Area supervisor (AR·e·a SU·per·VI·sor). At most Levantine excavations a person, reporting directly to the excavation field supervisor, responsible for oversight and record keeping of all work in a given area.
artifact (AR·ti·FACT). Any item, or phenomenon, whose properties result from human activity, e.g., a tell itself exists as an artifact. Some archaeologists further limit artifacts to those items which are transportable. We prefer the expanded sense of the word.
asceticism (as·CET·i·cism). A rigorous self-denial of self-discipline, e.g., fasting, denial of sexual desires, self infliction of pain, mutilation, practiced from ancient times and often found in monastic religion where adherents live a life of austerity such as in Essene asceticism.
ashlar (ASH·lar). A squared or rectangular cut building stone, cut more or less true on all faces, so as to permit laying of the stones in horizontal courses with very thin mortar joints.
assemblage (as·SEM·blage). In an archaeological sense an assemblage consists of a number of artifacts, including their context in space and time, existing together.
assimilation (as·SIM·i·LA·tion. In a sociocultural system the integration of cultural traits from previously distinct cultural groups to the culture, ethnic identity, and language of the dominant cultural group.
assumption (as·SUMP·tion). The act of taking for granted, presupposing, or presuming a fact not in evidence or without proof.
astrology (a·STROL·o·gy). The belief in the occult influence of celestial bodies in human affairs based upon the concept that the movements of the sun, moon, and planets among the stars influences the lives of individuals and the fates of nations. Astrologers profess to foretell ones future by the position of the planets and stars in relation to one another at a given time. Ones destiny is in essence set at the time of ones birth. Ancient priest-astrologers divided the zodiac into twelve sections or signs of 30 degrees, each designated by a symbol of unknown origin, and assigned to each the name of the constellation that occupied the greatest portion of the 30 degree section at that time.
attribute (at·TRIB·ute). A well-defined element of an artifact that cannot be reduced further, e.g., form, style, technology, and the like.
authority (au·THOR·i·ty). Power or right, usually derived from office or rank, to issue commands and to punish for violations generally perceived by members of a sociocultural system as legitimate rather than coercive.
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