Interpretation for Archeologists   5. Personal and Professional Responsibilities   Distance Learning

Making Jargon-free Archeology Presentations

Stratigraphy, GIS, STP, assemblage, phytoliths…archeology has a unique vocabulary that can be incomprehensible to the untrained ear. Piecing together an archeological report takes a different approach to crafting an interpretive product. Use jargon-free interpretation to help your audiences gain a well-rounded understanding of the discipline of archeology, without leaving them confused.

Tips to make the language of archeology more accessible include:

  • Identify the audience's level of archeological understanding
  • Tailor verbal and media presentations to the audience
  • Use plain English, such as familiar words or concepts
  • Use props, such as pictures, drawings, or demonstrations
  • If you use technical terms to teach the lingo, define them.

Archeologists have a way of presenting information to professional audiences that, like jargon, may not translate well to visitors. It's often helpful to your audience to break down what archeology is and what it can tell us.

  • What is archeology?: Define the discipline of archeology and its components to build a vocabulary. Use terms such as sites, artifacts and collections, associated documentation, and scientific techniques such as excavation or dating. Address the steps of the archeological process from initial research to excavation to curation to report writing to public interpretation.
  • What is culture?: Explain culture and give examples, asking your audience for input. Aspects of cultural systems to use as examples include biological needs, economic systems, social networks, customs, and technologies.
  • Where and how did people live?: Building on vocabulary for sites and features, address human needs for food, water, shelter, and use of resources such as plants and animals. As a next step, discuss group dynamics, ethnicity, gender, and power resistance.
  • What is the context?: Help your audience put the past into perspective. For example, note significant dates on a timeline, changes to the landscape from then to now, the geographic distance between people and places, or technologies that didn't exist yet.