Archaeology & Evolution Glossary (F)


F1 generation: The first filial generation produced by crossing two parental strains.

F2 generation: The second filial generation produced by selfing the F1.

F-pili (sex pili): Hairlike cell surface components produced by cells containing the F factor, which allow the physical union of F+ and F– cells or Hfr and F– cells to take place.

facet: (1) Small articulation face, a smooth limited area on a bone. (2) A locale of flake removal from a core, also called a flake scar.

facial dishing: A condition in some hominid faces where the nasal bones and the borders of the piriform aperture are recessed relative to the cheeks, making the midface area concave.

facies: Varieties.

factor analysis: A multivariate statistical technique which assesses the degree of variation between artifact types, and is based on a matrix of correlation coefficients which measure the relative association between any two variables.

facultative heterochromatin: Chromatin that may become condensed throughout the cell cycle and may contain genes that are inactivated when the chromatin becomes condensed.

fall-off analysis: The study of regularities in the way in which quantities of traded items found in the archaeological record decline as the distance from the source increases. This may be plotted as a fall-off curve, with the quantities of material (Y-axis) plotted against the distance from the source (X-axis).

familial trait: A trait shared by members of a family.

family: The major group within an order, a monophyletic group of genera separated from similar groups by distance of common ancestry.

fauna: Animals.

faunal assemblage: A group of living or fossil animals found in a particular geographic or geological context, thought to sample part of a naturally occurring community.

faunal correlation: Determination of the relative ages of different geological strata by comparing the fossils within the strata and assigning similar ages to strata with similar fossils; a method of relative dating.

faunal dating: A method of relative dating based on observing the evolutionary changes in particular species of mammals, so as to form a rough chronological sequence.

faunivore: An animal that primarily eats other animals (includes insectivores and carnivores).

feathered termination: The distal end of a flake with a very sharp edge.

feature: A non-portable artifact; e.g. hearths, architectural elements, or soil stains.

fecundity: Number of offspring a female can or does give birth to over her lifetime.

femur (femora): Long bone of the thigh or upper leg.

fertility: Number of offspring produced over a given interval or lifetime.

fetus: Human organism from eight weeks of development until birth.

fibula: One of two long bones of the lower leg; this is the more slender, lateral one.

fictive kinship: A relationship, such as godparenthood, modelled on relations of kinship, but created by customary convention ratehr than the circumstances of birth.

fine-structure mapping: A high-resolution mapping of allelic sites within a gene.

first filial generation: See F1 generation.

first law: See principle of segregation.

fission-track dating: A dating method based on the operation of a radioactive clock, the spontaneous fission of an isotope of uranium present in a wide range of rocks and minerals. As with potassium-argon dating, with whose time range it overlaps, the method gives useful dates from rocks adjacent to archaeological material.

fissures: Radii usually originating at the margins of detached pieces on the ventral surface and directed toward the point of applied force.

fitness: A measure of fertility and survivorship reflecting genetic variation. See also Darwinian fitness.

flake (flake tools): An unusually sharp-edged stone fragmented, struck, or pressured off of a core (a larger rock or nodule). See detached piece.

flake tool: A flake that has been subsequently modified by intentional retouch and/or by wear resulting from use.

flexion: Bending, a movement in which the angle of a limb joint decreases; the opposite of extension.

flexor: A muscle whose action decreases the angle between the bones in a joint.

flint: A form of chert usually found in accumulations of chalk.

flintknapper: One who forms stone implements by controlling the fracture of the objective piece.

flora: Plants.

flotation: A method of screening (sleving) excavated matrix in water so as to separate and recover small ecofacts and artifacts.

fluvial: Pertaining to streams or rivers.

folivore (folivorous, folivory): Leaf-eating; folivores are animals whose primary source of food is foliage.

fontanelle: A region between skull bones that is unossified at birth.

forage: Gather, collect, hunt, or scavenge foods.

foraging strategy: Behaviors that lead to the acquisition of food.

foramen (foramina): A hole or tube-like passageway into or through a bone.

foramen magnum: The large opening in the occipital bone on the base of the skull through which the spinal cord passes to join the base of the brain.

foramen ovale: A passageway with an oval opening, through the sphenoid bone on the base of the skull, that transmits meningeal arteries and mandibular nerves.

force: The quantity of energy or power exerted by a moving body.

forebrain: The most anterior part of the brain.

formal tools: Stone tools made as a result of extra effort in their production. These tools are in contrast to expediently made tools with little or no effort expended in their production.

formation: A defined unit of rock within a stratigraphic section at the given locality.

formation processes: Those processes affecting the way in which archaeological materials came to be buried, and their subsequent history afterwards. Cultural formation processes include the deliberate or accidental activities of humans; natural formation processes refer to natural or environmental events which govern the burial and survival of the archaeological record.

formylmethionine (fMet): A specially modified amino acid involving the addition of a formyl group to the amino acid group of methionine. It is the first amino acid incorporated into a polypeptide chain in prokaryotes and in eukaryotic cellular organelles.

forward mutation: A mutational change from a wild-type allele to a mutant allele.

fossa (pl. fossae): Literally a “ditch,” a shallow depression, concavity, or trough.

fossil: Preserved remains of once-living plants or animals in which the replacement of organic or inorganic materials by soil minerals has begun. Naturally occurring casts are also considered fossils.

fossil cuticles: The outermost protective layer of the skin of leaves or blades of grass, made of cutin, a very resistant material that survives in the archaeological record often in feces. Cuticular analysis is a useful adjunct to palynology in environmental reconstruction.

fossil ice wedges: Soil features caused when the ground freezes and contracts, opening up fissures in the permafrost that fill with ice wedges. The fossil wedges are proof of past cooling of climate and of the depth of the permafrost.

founder effect: A phenomenon that occurs when the isolate effect is exhibited by a small breeding unit that has formed by migration of a small number of individuals from a large population.

fovea: A shallow depression or pit.

frameshift mutation: A mutational addition or deletion of a base pair in a gene that disrupts the normal reading frame of an mRNA, which is read in groups of three bases.

Frankfurt plane: A widely agreed upon plane for orienting crania to allow valid comparisons, and to approximate the position of the head during life. In this plane a line between the top of the external auditory meatus and the lowest point on the orbit is made horizontal.

frequency distribution: A means of summarizing the phenotypes of a continuous trait whereby the population is described in terms of the proportion of individuals that have each phenotype.

frequency seriation: A relative dating method which relies principally on measuring changes in the proportional abundance, or frequency, observed among finds (e.g. counts of tool types, or of ceramic fabrics).

frontal bone: The cranial bone forming the forehead and the top of the orbits and nose.

frontal boss (metopic eminence): A bulge or eminence on the frontal, at the middle of the squama. It may be centrally located, or exist as paired frontal tubers that mark the location of the original ossification centers.

frontal breadth: The maximum transverse breadth of the frontal, taken on the coronal suture.

frontal keel or torus: A thickening of bone passing sagittally down the frontal squama from its top (posterior), for part, most, or all of the squama’s length.

frontal sinus: An open space found in the frontal bone where the squama meets the top of the orbits.

frontal trigone: A concave smooth triangular area on the frontal bone just behind the orbits. Its base is formed by the supraorbital torus and its apex by converging temporal lines. To be distinguished from lateral frontal trigone.

frontoethmoidal sinus: See ethmoidal sinus.

frontofacial: Pertaining to the frontal bone and the facial bones.

frugivore: An animal that feeds primarily on fruit.


Andrefsky, W., Jr. 1998. Lithics: Macroscopic Approaches to Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Keesing, R.M. 1975. Kin Groups and Social Structure. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace.
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.