Ground stone

In archaeology, ground stone is a category of stone tool formed by the grinding of a coarse-grained tool stone, either purposely or incidentally. Ground stone tools are usually made of basalt, rhyolite, granite, or other cryptocrystalline and igneous stones whose coarse structure makes them ideal for grinding other materials, including plants and other stones.

Néolithique 0001
An array of Neolithic artifacts, including bracelets, axe heads, chisels, and polishing tools. Neolithic stone implements are by definition polished and, except for specialty items, not chipped.
Molino neolítico de vaivén
A Neolithic ground stone.
Grinding stone
Traditional grinding stone used for making chutney, dosa batter and idli batter, in India today.


The adoption of ground stone technology is associated closely with the Neolithic, also called the New Stone Age. The Stone Age comes from the three-age system developed by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen. In the Levant ground stones appear in Mesolithic 2 (Natufian). In prehistoric Japan, ground stone tools appear during the Japanese Paleolithic, possibly predating adoption elsewhere in the Neolithic by 25,000 years.[1]


Ground stones were created and used for a wide variety of reasons. Each use resulted in a different development and process by which a person created their ground stone. For example, the process for creating the head of a hammer is different from the process used to create a detailed decoration piece for one’s home. That being said, there are some processes that are basic to most ground stone making.

When choosing what type of stone to use for a ground stone tool, toughness is the most important factor. If the stone is not tough enough to withstand hard hits and instead just flakes and cracks easily, the work done to create the tool has gone to waste. A stone that will not shear, flake, or crack when tested against large impacts is the most important aspect when choosing what kind of stone to use. Examples of this kind of stone include limestone, sandstone, granite, basalt, rhyolite and other igneous and cryptocrystalline rocks.

Cryptocrystalline rocks are good to use for ground stones because they have a very fine grain structure. This is helpful because the smaller the grains are in a rock, the harder the rock is.

Holes could be ground out of stones with the use of sharp pointed stones or hardened sticks. By spinning the ground stone with one's hands and applying substantial pressure to the sharp point into the ground stone, a hole could be drilled into the stone with a large amount of time and effort. Sand would be used to help quicken the process by putting it in the partially formed hole as the sharp point was being pressed. The sand would help grind more of the stone away. To put a hole all the way through a piece of stone, it would be first drilled half way in one direction and be finished on the opposite side.

Some ground stone tools are incidental, caused by use with other tools: manos, for example, are hand stones used in conjunction with metates and other grinding slabs (querns), and develop their ground surfaces through wear. Other ground stone tools include adzes, celts, and axes, which are manufactured using a labor-intensive, time-consuming method of repeated grinding against a harder stone or with sand, often using water as a lubricant. These tools are often made using durable finer-grained materials rather than coarse materials. In the North American arctic, tools made of ground slate were used by the Norton, Dorset, and Thule tool cultures, among others. Common forms of these tools were projectile points and ulus. These tools were often purpose-made by creating a blank, either by chipping or using a technique where the slate was sawed partway through on one or both sides and then snapped into a blank, then finished by grinding with abraders or whetstones.[2]


When making the head of an axe out of stone, the piece would be made so it could be hafted. In order to have the stone hafted onto a larger piece, like wood or bone, the ground stone may have at least two notches ground out of one side of the stone, making grooves for the hafting material to lie inside. These grooves would ensure that the stone would not move when struck with a large force. Tough hide would then be wound around the handle and inside the grooves, binding the ground stone and the handle together.

Ground stones were often used as dinner-ware. Using large stones, lithic reduction would be done for long periods of time to create bowls and pots for food. Jewelry, beads, ear spools and other decorative ground stones were a sign of high status due to the time and effort needed to make pieces of such small size and detail.

When mashing up seeds and leaves into powders, rounded and smooth ground stones would be used inside a stone bowl. This pair of tools is called a mortar and pestle. The material would be placed into the mortar and the pestle would be moved and pressed into the mortar to grind the material into a fine powder. This process could be used for medicine and cooking. Mortar and pestle is still used today for many cooking recipes.

See also


  1. ^ "Prehistoric Japan, New perspectives on insular East Asia", Keiji Imamura, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, ISBN 0-8248-1853-9
  2. ^ Clark, Donald W. (1982). "An Example of Technological Change in Prehistory: The Origin of a Regional Ground Slate Industry in South-Central Coastal Alaska". Arctic Anthropology. 19 (1): 103–125. JSTOR 40316018.
  • Banning, Edward Bruce. The archaeologist's laboratory: the analysis of archaeological data. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York. 2000, p. 151.
  • Bender, Tricia R. "Ground Stone Artifacts: Series in Ancient Technologies: The Office of the State Archaeologist at The University of Iowa since 1959." Ground Stone Artifacts: Series in Ancient Technologies: The Office of the State Archaeologist at The University of Iowa since 1959. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <>.
  • Fagan, Brian. Ancient North America. Thames & Hudson, London. 2005, p. 191-99.
  • Moore, D.T., 1983, Petrological aspects of some sharpening stones, touchstones, and milling stones. In The Petrology of Archaeological Artefaces. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
  • "Native Americans:Historic:The Illinois:Technology:Tools:Ground Stone." Native Americans:Historic:The Illinois:Technology:Tools:Ground Stone. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <>.
  • Sepp, Siim. "Conchoidal Fracture." Sandatlas. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <>.
  • Wright, Katherine. "Craft Production and the Organization of Ground Stone Technologies." London's Global University. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.

Bannerstones are artifacts usually found in the Eastern United States that are characterized by a centered hole in a symmetrically shaped carved or ground stone. The holes are typically ​1⁄4" to ​3⁄4" in diameter and extend through a raised portion centered in the stone. They usually are bored all the way through but some have been found with holes that extend only part of the way through. Many are made from banded slate or other colored hard stone. They often have a geometric "wing nut" or "butterfly" shape but are not limited to these. More than just functional artifacts, bannerstones are a form of art that appear in varying shapes, designs, and colors, symbolizing their ceremonial and spiritual importance.

Breitenbachplatz (Berlin U-Bahn)

Breitenbachplatz is a Berlin U-Bahn station located in the Dahlem district on the U 3.

It opened on 12 October 1913. The station, and the eponymous square, were named after Minister of State Paul von Breitenbach.

It was constructed by W.Leitgebel and closed for a few months during 1945 because of World War II. In 2011 the station was renovated to include a new floor and a lift.

The underground station Breitenbachplatz is a Berlin underground station of the underground line U3 under the Breitenbachplatz in the district Dahlem on the border to the districts Steglitz (both in the district Steglitz-Zehlendorf) and Wilmersdorf in the district Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. The station was like the other stations of the Wilmersdorf-Dahlemer-Schnellbahn on October 12, 1913 in operation. Simultaneously with the construction of the station, the aboveground space was created. Originally named Rastatter Platz, this oval was renamed 'Breitenbachplatz' when the subway station below the square was opened.

The subway station Breitenbachplatz was built as part of the construction of the Wilmersdorf-Dahlemer subway between Wittenbergplatz and Thielplatz in the south of the Dahlem domain. Just like the very similarly designed Rüdesheimer Platz station and the Heidelberger Platz underground station, the Breitenbachplatz underground station was designed by the architect Wilhelm Leitgebel.

For the two original entrances to the north and south Leitgebel designed similar to the Rüdesheimer Platz stone pylons with lamp attachment and a Steinumwehrung. For the metal entrance gates Leitgebel chose Andrea crosses and flower medallions as design features. The mid-rise to the extended Schildhornstraße was already planned in 1909, but was not completed until 1979. This opens into an above-ground stone-glass pavilion.

The platform hall is designed as a central platform. The walls are divided into a red-brown ceramic base, a bright wall with semicircular niches and a dark brown fireplace cornice as a conclusion. In the niches nameplates and paintings of Joachim Szymczak alternate, since 1988 instead of advertising signs the 150-year existence of the Prussian railway and the eponymous Prussian Minister of Public Works, Paul von Breitenbach, thematize. On the pillars between the niches are representations of animals, plants and scientific instruments as an indication of the originally nearby institutes of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society in Dahlem.

The hall ceiling is designed as a coffered ceiling supported by granite-faced Doric pillars in the center of the platform. The cassettes contain octagonal mosaic panels with geometric patterns. Through four elliptical openings daylight falls on the today with granite, originally occupied with asphalt plates platform.

During the Second World War, the station remained largely intact. Only the northern access area was damaged and partially rebuilt only simplified. From the original equipment can be found still three wooden double benches and in the southern entrance area, the former switch house. The station is a listed building.

The underground station is barrier-free. The equipment with a lift was put into operation on 7 October 2010; the construction costs amounted to 340,000 euros. A guidance system is also available.

Celt (tool)

In archaeology, a celt is a long, thin, prehistoric, stone or bronze tool similar to an adze, a hoe or axe-like tool.

Cumberland point

A Cumberland point is a lithic projectile point, attached to a spear and used as a hunting tool. These sturdy points were intended for use as thrusting weapons and employed by various mid-Paleo-Indians (c. 11,000 BP) in the Southeastern US in the killing of large game mammals.

Es Skhul

Es-Skhul (Arabic: السخول‎, meaning kid, young goat) is a prehistoric cave site situated 20 km (12.4 mi) south of the city of Haifa, Israel, and around 3 km (1.9 mi) from the Mediterranean Sea. The site was first excavated by Dorothy Garrod during summer of 1928. The excavation revealed the first evidence of the late Epipaleolithic Natufian culture, characterized by the presence of numerous microlith stone tools, human burials and ground stone tools. Skhul also represents an area where Neanderthals - possibly present in the region from 200,000 to 45,000 years ago - may have lived alongside these humans dating to 100,000 years ago. The cave also has Middle Palaeolithic layers.

The remains found at Es Skhul, together with those found at the Wadi el-Mughara Caves and Mugharet el-Zuttiyeh were classified in 1939 by Arthur Keith and Theodore D. McCown as Palaeoanthropus palestinensis, a descendant of Homo heidelbergensis.

Grinding slab

In archaeology, a grinding slab is a ground stone artifact generally used to grind plant materials into usable size, though some slabs were used to shape other ground stone artifacts. Some grinding stones are portable; others are not and, in fact, may be part of a stone outcropping.

Grinding slabs used for plant processing typically acted as a coarse surface against which plant materials were ground using a portable hand stone, or mano ("hand" in Spanish). Variant grinding slabs are referred to as metates or querns, and have a ground-out bowl. Like all ground stone artifacts, grinding slabs are made of large-grained materials such as granite, basalt, or similar tool stones.

Hogup Cave

Hogup Cave is a two-chambered limestone cavern, and an important, well-studied prehistoric Great Basin site in Utah.

Japanese Paleolithic

The Japanese Paleolithic period (旧石器時代, kyūsekki jidai) is the period of human inhabitation in Japan predating the development of pottery, generally before 10,000 BC. The starting dates commonly given to this period are from around 40,000 BC; although any date of human presence before 35,000 BC is controversial, with artifacts supporting a pre-35,000 BC human presence on the archipelago being of questionable authenticity. The period extended to the beginning of the Mesolithic Jōmon period, or around 14,000 BC.The earliest human bones were discovered in the city of Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture, which were determined by Radiocarbon dating to date to around 14,000–18,000 years ago.

Kalemba Rockshelter

The Kalemba Rockshelter is an archaeology site located in eastern Zambia, at coordinates 14°7 S and 32°3 E. Local tradition recalls the use of the rock shelter as a refuge during the time of Ngoni raiding in the 19th century. The site is known for various rock paintings as well as advanced microlithic use.

Lithic analysis

In archaeology, lithic analysis is the analysis of stone tools and other chipped stone artifacts using basic scientific techniques. At its most basic level, lithic analyses involve an analysis of the artifact’s morphology, the measurement of various physical attributes, and examining other visible features (such as noting the presence or absence of cortex, for example).

The term 'lithic analysis' can technically refer to the study of any anthropogenic (human-created) stone, but in its usual sense it is applied to archaeological material that was produced through lithic reduction (knapping) or ground stone. A thorough understanding of the lithic reduction and ground stone processes, in combination with the use of statistics, can allow the analyst to draw conclusions concerning the type of lithic manufacturing techniques used at a prehistoric archaeological site. For example, they can make certain equation between each the factors of flake to predict original shape. These data can then be used to draw an understanding of socioeconomic and cultural organization.

The term knapped is synonymous with "chipped" or "struck", but is preferred by some analysts because it signifies intentionality and process. Ground stone generally refers to any tool made by a combination of flaking, pecking, pounding, grinding, drilling, and incising, and includes things such as mortars/metates, pestles (or manos), grinding slabs, hammerstones, grooved and perforated stones, axes, etc., which appear in all human cultures in some form. Among the tool types analyzed are projectile points, bifaces, unifaces, ground stone artifacts, and lithic reduction by-products (debitage) such as flakes and cores.

Lithic reduction

In archaeology, in particular of the Stone Age, lithic reduction is the process of fashioning stones or rocks from their natural state into tools or weapons by removing some parts. It has been intensely studied and many archaeological industries are identified almost entirely by the lithic analysis of the precise style of their tools and the chaîne opératoire of the reduction techniques they used.

Normally the starting point is the selection of a piece of tool stone that has been detached by natural geological processes, and is an appropriate size and shape. In some cases solid rock or larger boulders may be quarried and broken into suitable smaller pieces, and in others the starting point may be a piece of the debitage, a flake removed from a previous operation to make a larger tool. The selected piece is called the lithic core (also known as the "objective piece"). A basic distinction is that between flaked or chipped stone, the main subject here, and ground stone objects made by grinding. Flaked stone reduction involves the use of a hard hammer percussor, such as a hammerstone, a soft hammer fabricator (made of wood, bone or antler), or a wood or antler punch to detach lithic flakes from the lithic core. As flakes are detached in sequence, the original mass of stone is reduced; hence the term for this process. Lithic reduction may be performed in order to obtain sharp flakes, of which a variety of tools can be made, or to rough out a blank for later refinement into a projectile point, knife, or other object. Flakes of regular size that are at least twice as long as they are broad are called blades. Lithic tools produced this way may be bifacial (exhibiting flaking on both sides) or unifacial (exhibiting flaking on one side only).

Cryptocrystalline or amorphous stone such as chert, flint, obsidian, and chalcedony, as well as other fine-grained stone material, such as rhyolite, felsite, and quartzite, were used as a source material for producing stone tools. As these materials lack natural planes of separation, conchoidal fractures occur when they are struck with sufficient force; for these stones this process is called knapping. The propagation of force through the material takes the form of a Hertzian cone that originates from the point of impact and results in the separation of material from the objective piece, usually in the form of a partial cone, commonly known as a lithic flake. This process is predictable, and allows the flintknapper to control and direct the application of force so as to shape the material being worked. Controlled experiments may be performed using glass cores and consistent applied force in order to determine how varying factors affect core reduction.It has been shown that stages in the lithic reduction sequence may be misleading and that a better way to assess the data is by looking at it as a continuum. The assumptions that archaeologists sometimes make regarding the reduction sequence based on the placement of a flake into a stage can be unfounded. For example, a significant amount of cortex can be present on a flake taken off near the very end of the reduction sequence. Removed flakes exhibit features characteristic of conchoidal fracturing, including striking platforms, bulbs of force, and occasionally eraillures (small secondary flakes detached from the flake's bulb of force). Flakes are often quite sharp, with distal edges only a few molecules thick when they have a feather termination. These flakes can be used directly as tools or modified into other utilitarian implements, such as spokeshaves and scrapers.


Madjedbebe (formerly known as Malakunanja II) is a sandstone rockshelter in Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory of Australia. It is located about 50 km from the coast, in the Traditional Lands of the Mirarr people. Although it is surrounded by the World Heritage Listed Kakadu National Park, Madjedbebe itself is located within the Jabiluka Mineral Leasehold. Archaeological excavations have led researchers to suggest that Madjedbebe was first occupied by humans around 65,000 (at least 59.3 thousand) years ago. This is the oldest known site showing the presence of humans in Australia. This date sets a new minimum age for the arrival of humans in Australia, the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa and the subsequent interactions of modern humans with Neanderthals and Denisovans. More than 100,000 artefacts have been excavated (including 10,000 artefacts from the lowest dense occupation layer termed 'Phase 2'), including flaked stone artefacts, ground stone artefacts, animal bones, shellfish remains, fragments of ground ochre, charcoal, seeds and human burials. Some of these were buried more than 2.5 metres below the surface. Archaeobotanical investigations have demonstrated a clear exploitation of plant foods, including: seeds, tubers and pandanus nuts. Fuel wood was also sourced from a local eucalyptus and moonson vine thicket forest.

Mano (stone)

A mano (Spanish for hand) is a ground stone tool used with a metate to process or grind food by hand.


A metate or metlatl (or mealing stone) is a type or variety of quern, a ground stone tool used for processing grain and seeds. In traditional Mesoamerican culture, metates were typically used by women who would grind lime-treated maize and other organic materials during food preparation (e.g., making tortillas). Similar artifacts are found all over the world, including China.

Pesse canoe

The Pesse canoe is believed to be the world's oldest known boat, and certainly the oldest known canoe. Carbon dating indicates that the boat was constructed during the early mesolithic period between 8040 BCE and 7510 BCE. It is now in the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands.

Rop rock shelter

The Rop rock shelter is an archaeological site on the Jos Plateau of Nigeria.

There are two layers containing artifacts.

The first holds large scrapers and backed crescent-shaped stone tools.

The later (upper) layer is about 2000 years old, and contains backed microlithic tools and pottery.

The shelter is about 50km south of Jos.The site was excavated by Bernard Fagg in 1944.

He discovered microliths, fragments of ground stone axes, two bored stones, one grooved stone, rubbed hematites and many potsherds.

The lower, undated layer held relatively crude implements, apart from the rough crescents.

The later layer held higher-quality microliths, geometrical forms and small points, as well as pottery.

This later layer only covers part of the site.

A skeleton was also found in a shallow grave, dated to around 25 BCE

From the teeth, it appeared that the owner had lived largely on a starchy, plant-based diet.

A single equid tooth was found with the same age based on its position in the stratum.


Silex is any of various forms of ground stone. In modern contexts the word refers to a finely ground, nearly pure form of silica or silicate.

In the late 16th century, it meant powdered or ground up "flints" (i.e. stones, generally meaning the class of "hard rocks") It was later used in 1787 when describing experiments in a published paper by Antoine Lavoisier where such earths are mentioned as the source of his isolation of the element silicon. Silex is now most commonly used to describe finely ground silicates used as pigments in paint.

Stone tool

A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistoric (particularly Stone Age) cultures that have become extinct. Archaeologists often study such prehistoric societies, and refer to the study of stone tools as lithic analysis. Ethnoarchaeology has been a valuable research field in order to further the understanding and cultural implications of stone tool use and manufacture.Stone has been used to make a wide variety of different tools throughout history, including arrow heads, spearpoints and querns. Stone tools may be made of either ground stone or chipped stone, and a person who creates tools out of the latter is known as a flintknapper.

Chipped stone tools are made from cryptocrystalline materials such as chert or flint, radiolarite, chalcedony, obsidian, basalt, and quartzite via a process known as lithic reduction. One simple form of reduction is to strike stone flakes from a nucleus (core) of material using a hammerstone or similar hard hammer fabricator. If the goal of the reduction strategy is to produce flakes, the remnant lithic core may be discarded once it has become too small to use. In some strategies, however, a flintknapper reduces the core to a rough unifacial or bifacial preform, which is further reduced using soft hammer flaking techniques or by pressure flaking the edges.

More complex forms of reduction include the production of highly standardized blades, which can then be fashioned into a variety of tools such as scrapers, knives, sickles and microliths. In general terms, chipped stone tools are nearly ubiquitous in all pre-metal-using societies because they are easily manufactured, the tool stone is usually plentiful, and they are easy to transport and sharpen.

Tool stone

In archaeology, a tool stone is a type of stone that is used to manufacture stone tools,

or stones used as the raw material for tools.Generally speaking, tools that require a sharp edge are made using cryptocrystalline materials that fracture in an easily controlled conchoidal manner.

Cryptocrystalline tool stones include flint and chert, which are fine-grained sedimentary materials; rhyolite and felsite, which are igneous flowstones; and obsidian, a form of natural glass created by igneous processes. These materials fracture in a predictable fashion, and are easily resharpened. For more information on this subject, see lithic reduction.

Large-grained materials, such as basalt, granite, and sandstone, may also be used as tool stones, but for a very different purpose: they are ideal for ground stone artifacts. Whereas cryptocrystalline materials are most useful for killing and processing animals, large-grained materials are usually used for processing plant matter. Their rough faces often make excellent surfaces for grinding plant seeds. With much effort, some large-grained stones may be ground down into awls, adzes, and axes.

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