Archaeology & Evolution Glossary C


C value: The amount of DNA found in the haploid set of chromosomes.

CAAT box: One of the eukaryotic promotor elements found in approximately 80 base pairs upstream of the initiation site, but it can function at a number of other locations and in either orientation with respect to the start point. The consensus sequence is 5′-GGCCAATCT-3′.

calcaneus: Heel bone.

calotte: The bones of the cranial vault, the calvaria without the cranial base.

calvaria (calvarium): The bones of the cranium without the face or mandible.

cancellous (trabecular, spongy) bone: Internal bone tissue that is porous and lightweight.

cancer: Diseases characterized by the uncontrolled and abnormal division of eukaryotic cells and by the spread of the disease (metastasis) to disparate sites in the organism.

canine: A conical or spade-like tooth (depending on species) located between the incisors and premolars.

canine cutting complex: The slashing effect as the outer front (mesiobuccal) edge of the most anterior lower premolar slides along the back of the upper canine when the jaws close.

canine fossa: A vertical furrow on the maxilla under the infraorbital foramen, extending toward the base of the zygomatic process of the maxilla and to the side of the nose.

canine jugum (juga): Vertical ridge in the maxilla caused by an enlarged canine root.

caniniform: Shaped like a canine of conical form.

capping (5′-capping): The addition of a methylated guanine nucleotide (a “cap”) to the 5′ end of a premessenger RNA molecule; the cap is retained on the mature mRNA molecule.

carnivore: (1) an animal that eats primarily the flesh of other animals; (2) members of the mammalian order Carnivora (which include cats, dogs, skunks, raccoons, and bears).

carotid foramen (canal): A large circular foramen passing through the petrous of the temporal, that provides a passageway for the internal carotid artery and the carotid nerves.

carpal bones: Small bones of the wrist; in humans the scaphoid, lunate, triquetram, pisiform, hamate, capitate, trapezoid, and trapezium.

carpal tunnel: A tunnel on the palm side of the hand created between the arch formed by the carpal bones and the fibrous band that draws the ends of the arch together. The long flexor tendons for the fingers pass through this tunnel, which holds themin and prevents them from bowing when the wrist is moved.

carrying capacity: The number of individuals that can be optimally supported, given a particular subsistence adaptation.

cartilage: A flexible connective tissue that is an important part of most of the skeleton and that calcifies at various stages of growth.

catabolite repression (glucose effect): The inactivation of an inducible bacterial operon in the presence of glucose even though the operon’s inducer is present.

catastrophe theory: A branch of mathematical topology developed by Rene Thom which is concerned with the way in which nonlinear interactions within systems can produce sudden and dramatic effects; it is argued that there are only a limited number of ways in which such changes can take place, and these are defined as elementary catastrophes.

catastrophic age profile: A mortality pattern based on bone or tooth wear analysis, and corresponding to a “natural” age distribution in which the older the age group, the fewer the individuals it has. This pattern is often found in contexts such as flash floods, epidemics, or volcanic eruptions.

cation-ratio dating: This method aspires to the direct dating of rock carvings and engravings, and is potentially applicable to Paleolithic artifacts with a strong patina caused by exposure to desert dust. It depends on the principle that cations of certain elements are more soluble than others; they leach out of rock varnish moe rapidly than the less soluble elements, and their concentration decreases with time.

caudal vertebrae: The vertebrae of the tail, below the sacrum.

cDNA: DNA copies made from an RNA template catalyzed by the enzyme reverse transcriptase.

cDNA library: The collection of molecular clones that contains cDNA copies of the entire mRNA population of a cell.

cell cycle: The clinical process of growth and cellular reproduction in unicellular and multicellular eukaryotes. The cycle includes nuclear division, or mitosis, and cell division, or cytokinesis.

cell division: A process whereby one cell divides to produce two cells.

cell-free, protein-synthesizing system: A system, isolated from cells, that contains ribosomes, mRNA, tRNAs with amino acids attached, and all the necessary protein factors for the in vitro synthesis of polypeptides.

cellular oncogene (c-onc): The genes, present in a functional state in cancerous cells, that are responsible for the cancerous state.

cementum: A soft, bone-like tissue covering tooth roots that anchors them to the ligament covering the alveolar bone.

centi-Morgan (cM): The map unit. It is sometimes called a centi-Morgan in honor of T.H. Morgan.

central place theory: Developed by the geographer Christaller to explain the spacing and function of the settlement landscape. Under idealized conditions, he argued, central places of the same size and nature would be equidistant from each other, surrounded by secondary centers with their own smaller satellites. In spite of its limitations, central place theory has found useful applications in archaeology as a preliminary heuristic device.

centromeres (kinetochore): A specialized region of a chromosome seen as a constriction under the microscope. This region is important in the activities of the chromosomes during cellular division.

Cephalic Index: The ratio of the breadth to the length of the skull.

cercopithecine: Referring to members of the monkey subfamily Cercopithecinae.

cerebellar fossa: Two broad depressions on the internal surface of the occiput, holding the cerebellar lobes of the brain.

cerebellar lobe: One of the lobes of the cerebellum.

cerebellum: Area of the brain lying below and behind the cerebrum, functioning in proprioception, replaying feedback from muscle activity and motions back to the cortex for finer adjustments and coordination of movement.

cerebral cortex: Pertaining to the cerebrum, the front and upper portion of the brain, including the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes.

cerebral fossae: Two broad depressions on the internal surface of the occiput, holding the posterior part of the occipital lobes of the cerebral cortex.

cerebral lobe: A division of the cerebral cortex at the rear of the brain.

cerebrum: The major part of the brain, occupying the upper part of the cranium, comprised of the two cerebral hemispheres connected by the corpus callosum.

cervical: Pertaining to the neck, as in the seven neck vertebrae.

chaine operatoire: Ordered chain of actions, gestures, and processes in a production sequence (e.g. of a stone tool or a pot) which led to the transformation of a given material towards the finished product. The concept, introduced by Andre Leroi-Gourhan, is significant in allowing the archaeologist to infer back from the finished artifact to the procedures, the intentionality in the production sequence, and ultimately to the conceptual template of the maker.

chain-terminating codon: One of three codons for which no normal tRNA molecule exists with an appropriate anticodon. A nonsense codon in an mRNA specifies the termination of polypeptide synthesis.

chalcedony: A cryptocrystalline fibrous quartz, usually light colored and translucent.

character: An observable phenotypic feature of the developing, or fully developed organism that is the result of gene action, environmental stress, or a combination of the two.

character displacement: A divergence of characters in competing sympatric species resulting from selection to reduce competition over limiting resources.

character state: The particular expression of a feature; for instance, the Cephalic Index might be low, hair color might be red or brown.

charged tRNA: The product if an amino acid added to a tRNA.

charging: The act of adding an amino acid to the tRNA.

cheek teeth: The premolars and the molars.

chert: A compact cryptocrystalline or microcrystalline variety of quartz originating from a sedimentary context.

chiefdom: A term used to describe a society that operates on the principle of ranking, i.e. differential social status. Different lineages are graded on a scale of prestige, calculated by how closely related one is to the chief. The chiefdom generally has a permanent ritual and ceremonial center, as well as being characterized by local specialization in crafts.

chignon: Another name for the occipital bun.

chopper: A stone made by taking a few flakes off a pebble or rock fragment, to produce a sharp cutting edge.

chron (polarity chron or epoch): A main subdivision of time having predominately one magnetic polarity.

chronometric dating: See absolute dating.

chiasma: A cross-shaped structure formed during crossing-over and visible during the diplonema stage of meiosis.

chiasma interference (chromosomal interference): The physical interference caused by the breaking and rejoinng of chromatids that reduces the probability of more than one crossing-over event occurring near another one in one part of the meiotic tetrad.

chi-square (X2) test: A statistical procedure that determines what constitutes a significant difference between observed results and results expected on the basis of a particular hypothesis; a goodness-of-fit test.

chloroplast: The cellular organelle found only in green plants that is the site of photosynthesis in the cells containing it.

chorionic villus sampling: A procedure in which a sample od chorionic villus tissue of a developing fetus is examined for chromosomal abnormalities.

chromatid: One of the two visibly distinct longitudinal subunits of all replicated chrromosomes hat becomes visible between early prophase and metaphase of mitosis.

chromatin: The piece of DNA-protein complex that is studied and analyzed. Each chromatin fragment reflects the general features of chromosomes but not the specifics of any individual chromosome.

chromosomal aberation: See chiasma interference.

chromosomal mutation: The variation from the wild-type condition in either chromosome number or chromosome structure.

chromosome: The genetic material of a cell, complexed with protein and organized into a number of linear structures. It literally means “colored body,” because the threadlike structures are visible under the microscope only after they are stained with dyes.

chromosome theory of inheritance: The theory that the chromosomes are the carriers of the genes. The first clear formulation of the theory was made by both Sutton and Boveri, who independently recognized that the transmission of chromosomes from one generation to the next closely paralleled the pattern of transmission of genes from one generation to the next.

chromosome walking: A process to identify adjacent clones in a genomic library. In chromosome walking, a piece of DNA is used to probe a genomic library to find an overlapping clone; then a piece of that clone is used as a probe to screen the library again for an overlapping clone; and so on.

cingulum: A shelf of enamel running partially or completely around the base of a tooth crown.

cis-dominance: The phenomenon of a gene or DNA sequence controlling only genes that are on the same contiguous piece of DNA.

cis-trans (complementation) test: A test developed by E. Lewis, used to determine whether two different mutations are within the same cistron (gene).

clade: A group composed of all the species descended from a single common ancestor; a monophyletic group.

cladistic homology: Homologies based on comparing features in different clades or lineages.

cladistics (cladism): Classification reflecting genealogy (recency of common descent) by means of shared derived characters; also called phylogenetic systematics.

cladogenesis: Species formation, the branching of a single lineage to form two lineages.

cladogram: A branching diagram, or dendrogram, based on genealogy and used to represent phyletic relationships (rates of evolutionary divergence are ignored).

clan: A unilineal descent group or category whose numbers trace patrilineal descent (patriclan) or matrilineal descent (matriclan) from an apicle ancestor/ancestress , but do not know the genealogical links that connect them to this apical ancestor.

classical model: A hypothesis of genetic variation proposing that natural populations contain little genetic variation as a result of strong selection for one allele.

classificatory system: A mode of kinship classification in which collateral kin are terminologically equated with lineal kin (FB = F, MZ = M, etc.).

clastic rock: A sedimentary rock composed of particles or fragments of smaller rock or of organic materials.

clavicle: Colarbone; the bone connecting the sternum (breastbone) to the scapula (shoulder blade).

CLIMAP: A project aimed at producing paleoclimatic maps showing sea-surface temperatures in different parts of the globe, at various periods.

clinal variation: Continuous, gradual variation of a trait. In the context og geographic patterns of a trait’s variation, cline gradients are the lines that are perpendicular to the clines and therefore mark the path of the trait’s maximum change.

clonal selection: A process whereby cells that already have antibodies specific to an antigen on their surfaces are stimulated to proliferate and secrete that antibody.

cloning: The regeneration of many copies of a DNA molecule (e.g., a recombinant DNA molecule) by replication in a suitable host.

cloning vector (cloning vehicle): A double-stranded DNA molecule that is able to replicate autonomously in a host cell and with which a DNA fragment (or fragments) can be bonded to form a recombinant DNA molecule for cloning.

cluster analysis: A multivariate statistical technique which assesses the similarities between units or assemblages, based on the occurrence or non-occurrence of specific artifact types or other components within them.

coadapted genes: Sets of genes whose frequencies in a population reflect a compromise from different magnitudes and directions of selection acting on their various effects.

coalescence (of genes): The genealogical relations between genes show that all of the extant varieties of a gene must have originated in a single gene; looking from the present to the past, we can say that they descend from a single form to which they coalesce.

coccyx: Tailbone; made up of the caudal vertebrae, it is most often fused into a single unit.

coding sequence: The part of an mRNA molecule that specifies the amino acid sequence of a polypeptide during translation.

codominance: The situation in which the heterozygote exhibits the phenotypes of both homozygotes.

codon: A group of three adjacent nucleotides in an mRNA molecule that specifies either one amino acid in a polypeptide chain or the termination of polypeptide synthesis.

coefficient of confidence: A number that expresses the extent of chiasma interference throughout a genetic map; the ratio of observed double-crossover frequency to expected double-crossover frequency. Interference is equal to 1 minus the coefficient of confidence.

coefficient of variation (CV): A dimensionless measure of relative variability, designed to allow comparisons of variation for samples with different average sizes, calculated as the ratio of the standard deviation to the mean multiplied by 100.

cognate: A bilateral kinsman or kinswomen.

cognatic descent: (1) A mode of descent reckoning where all descendants of an apical ancestor/ancestress through any combination of male or female links are included (2) Synonymous with bilateral or consanguineal as in “cognatic kinship”.

cognition: The process of acquiring knowledge, including perception, intuition, and reasoning.

cognitive archaeology: The study of past ways of thought and symbolic structures from natural remains.

cognitive map: Our mental construct of the physical and social world and our position in them.

collagen: A fibrous protein that is the chief constituent part of connective tissue in bone.

collateral: In kinship terminologies, the siblings of lineal relatives (parents, grandparents) and their descendants.

collateral flaking: The process of removing expanding flakes removed from the lateral margins of an objective piece at right angles to the longitudinal axis.

colobine: Referring to members of the monkey subfamily Colobinae.

colonizing species: A species with a high rate of reproduction, readily able to take advantage of new habitats because of its genetic variation and internal subdivisions.

combinatorial gene regulation: Transcriptional control (i.e., whether a gene is active or inactive) achieved by combining relatively few regulatory proteins (negative and positive) binding to particular DNA sequences.

compact (cortical) bone: The dense bone tissue found on the outside of bones or the walls of long bone shafts.

competitive exclusion: The principle that no two species can coexist in the same locality if they rely on the same limiting resources.

complementary-base pairing: The hydrogen bonding between a particular purine and a particular pyrimidine in double-stranded nucleic acid molecules (DNA-DNA, DNA-RNA, or RNA-RNA). The major specific pairings are guanine with cytosine and adenine with thymine or uracil.

complementary DNA: See cDNA.

complementary test: See cis-trans test.

complete dominance: The case in which one allele is dominant to the other so that the phenotypic level of the heterozygote is essentially iindistinguishable from the homozygous dominant.

complete recessiveness: The situation in which an allele is phenotypically expressed only when it is homozygous.

compression rings: Ripples or undulations on the smooth surface of rocks moving from the direction of applied force.

computed axial tomography (CAT or CT): The method by which scanners allow detailed internal views of bodies such as mummies. The body is passed into the machine and images of cross-sectional “slices” through the body are produced.

concerted evolution (molecular drive): A poorly understood evolutionary process that produces uniformity of sequence in multiple copies of a gene.

conchoidal fracture: The production of smooth convexities or concavities, similar to those of a clamshell, when fractured.

conditional mutant: A mutant organism that is normal under one set of conditions but becomes seriously impaired or dies under other conditions.

condyle: A smooth, rounded articular surface that is found in pairs.

conjugation: A process having a unidirectional transfer of genetic information through direct cellular contact between a donar (“male”) and a recipient (“female”) bacterial cell.

consanguineal: A relative by birth as distinguished from in-laws and step-relatives.

consensus sequence: The sequence indicating which nucleotide is found most frequently at each position.

conservative model: A DNA replication scheme in which the two parental strands of DNA remain together and serve as a template for the synthesis of a new daughter double helix.

conspecific: Belonging to the same species.

constitutive gene: AA gene whose products are essential to the normal functioning of the cell, no matter what the life-supporting environmental conditions are. These genes are always active in growing cells.

constitutive heterochromatin: Condensed chromatin that is always genetically inactive, and is found at homolgous sites on chromosome pairs.

continuous trait: See quantitative trait.

contributing allele: An allele that contributes to the phenotype.

controlling site: A specific sequence of nucleotide pairs adjacent to the gene where the transcription of a gene occurs in response to a particular molecular event.

convergence: The independent evolution of the same, or very similar, features in two or more species from different features in their last common ancestor.

convolutions: Wrinkles on the surface of the brain.

context: An artifact’s context usually consisits of its immediate matrix (the material surrounding it, e.g. gravel, clay, rock, or sand), its provenience (horizontal and vertical position within the matrix), and its association with other artifacts (occurrence together with other archaeological remains, usually in the same matrix).

contextual seriation: A method of relative dating pioneered by Flinders Petrie in the 19th century, in which artifacts are arranged according to the frequencies of their co-occurrence in specific contexts.

continuous trait: See quantitative trait.

coordinate induction: The simultaneous transcription and translation of two or more genes brought about by the presence of an inducer.

Cope’s Rule: The generalization that there is a steady increase in size in phyletic series.

coprolites: Fossilized feces; these contain food residues that can be used to reconstruct diet and subsistence activities.

core: A nucleus or mass of rock that shows sigsn of detached piece removal. A core is often considered an objective piece that functions primarily as a source for detached pieces.

core enzyme: The protion of the E. coli RNA polymerase that is the active enzyme and can be written as a2ßß’?.

core tool: A core used for chopping, cutting, or some activity other than as a source of detached pieces.

coronal plane: A vertical plane extending from side to side that divides the body into front and back portions.

coronal suture: The suture between the frontal bone and the parietal bones behind it.

coronoid process: A hooked or curved projection. (1) The frontal part of the ascending ramus of the mandible, forming a pointed projection at its top, where part of the temporalis muscle attaches. (2) The lower projecting part of the ulna’s trochlear notch, below the olecranon process.

corporate group: A social group whose members act as a legal individual in terms of collective rights to property, a common group name, collective responsibility, and so on.

corpus: Body, the principle part of the bone.

corpus callosum: The bundle of neurons that connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres.

correlation coefficient: A statistic that measures the strength of the association between two variables.

cortex (cortical layer): 1) Outer surface or layer, the dense outer layers of most bones 2) chemical or mechanical weathered surface on rocks.

cosmids: Cloning vectors derived from plasmids that are capable of cloning large fragments of DNA. In addition to the features of plasmid cloning vectors (i.e., origin or replication and selectable marker(s) for growth in bacteria), cosmids contain phage lambda cos sites which permit recombinant DNA molecules that are constructed to be packaged into the lambda phage head in vitro.

cotransduction: The simultaneous transduction of two or more bacterial genes; a good indication that the bacterial genes are closely linked.

cotranslational transport: The movement of a protein into the ER simultaneously with its synthesis.

coupling: An arrangement in which the two wild-type alleles are on one homologous chromosome and the two recessive mutant alleles are on the other.

covariance: A statistic used to calculate the correlation coefficient between two variables. The covariance is calculated by taking the sum of (x – /x)(y – /x) over all pairs of values for the variables x and y, where /x is the mean of the x values and /y is the mean of all y values.

cranial base angle: The angle between the basi-occiput and the body of the sphenoid, incorrectly thought to be related to speech capacity.

cranium: The skull, without the mandible, made up of 28 bones.

crenulation: Wrinkled surface of the tooth enamel.

crepuscular:Active primarily in dim light, around the hours of dawn and dusk.

crest: A ridge with a sharp edge caused by muscle pull. A simple crest is created by the unidirectional pull of a single muscle, a compound crest by the opposing pulls of two muscles.

crisscross inheritance: A type of gene transmission passed from a male parent to a female child to a male grandchild.

cross-fertilization: A term used for the fusion of male and female gametes from different individuals; the bringing together of genetic material from different individual for the purpose of genetic recombination.

crossing-over: A term introduced by Morgan and E. Cattell, in 1912, to describe the process of reciprocal chromosomal interchange by which recombinants arise.

cross-modal transfer: The integration of sensory, motor, and cognitive actions in the parietal association area.

cross-sectional studies: Examination of changes by studying many individuals of different ages at a single time.

Crural Index: Ratio of the length of the lower leg (tibia) divided by the length of the upper leg (femur) multiplied by 100.

crush: In chewing, the action created by the forces between opposing teeth, acting in a direction that is close to perpendicular to the plane of contact.

cryptocrystalline: Refers to a rock of fine-grained aggregate crystalls less than 3 µm in diameter.

cultural anthropology: A subdiscipline of anthropology concerned with the non-biological, behavioral aspects of society; i.e. the social, linguistic, and technological components underlying human behavior. Two important branches of cultural anthropology are ethnography (the study of living cultures) and ethnology (which attempts to compare cultures using ethnographic evidence). In Europe, it is referred to as social anthropology.

cultural ecology: A term devised by Julian Steward to account for the dynamic relationship between human society and its environment, in which culture is viewed as the primary adaptive mechanism.

culture: A term used by anthropologists when referring to the non-biological characteristics unique to a particular society.

culturgen (meme): A basic unit of culture.

curated behavior: Behaviors or strategies reflected in the archaeological record showing foresight and planning through repairs, recycling, and reuse (cf. expedient behavior).

cursorial: Fast running.

cusp: An elevation on the occlusial surface of an unworn tooth.

cytohet: The genetic condition of plant zygotes that display biparental inheritance; the term is derived from “cytoplasmically heterozygous.”

cytokinesis: A term that refers to the division of the cytoplasm. The two new nuclei compartmentalize into separate daughter cells, and the mitotic cell division process is completed.

cytological marker: A cytologically distinguishable feature of chromosomes.

cytosine ©: A pyrimidine base found in RNA and DNA. In double-stranded DNA, cytosine pairs with the purine guanine.


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Renfrew, C., and P. Bahn. 1996. Archaeology: Theories, Methods, and Practice. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc.
Russell, P.J. 1998. Genetics. Menlo Park: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.
Wolpoff, M. 1999. Paleoanthropology. second edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill.