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.[1] 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.


Stone is the one category of material which is used by (virtually) all human cultures and, for the vast majority of the human past, is the only record of human behaviour. The end of prehistory does not signify the end of stone working; stones were knapped in Medieval Europe, well into the 19th century in many parts of Europe and the Americas. Contemporary stone tool manufacturers often work stone for experimentation with past techniques or for replication.

Flint and chert are the most commonly knapped materials and are compact cryptocrystalline quartz. The difference between the two terms is colloquial, and flint can be seen as a variety of chert. In common usage, flint may refer more often to high quality material from chalky matrix (i.e. "chalk flint" as found in Britain) and chert refers to material from limestone matrices.[2] To avoid this, the term "silicate" may be used to describe the family of cryptocrystalline quartzes that are suitable for knapping. As well as cryptocrystalline quartz, macrocrystalline quartz (both vein quartz and rock crystal) was a commonly used raw material around the globe.[3]

In North America, Central America, and other places around the world, such as Turkey and New Zealand, obsidian, or volcanic glass, was also a highly sought-after material for knapping and was widely traded. This is due to the quality of the stone, the razor sharpness of edges that can be created, and the fact that it fractures in highly predictable ways.

Soapstone, or steatite, has been a popular rock for grinding and carving among many cultures worldwide. It has been used for production of such disparate items as vessels/bowls, pipes, cooking slabs, and sculptures.

Areas of study

Conventional approaches to the analysis of knapped stone can be grouped into three elementary, yet ultimately interconnected, areas of study: typological analysis, functional analysis, and technological analysis. Additional areas of study, such as geochemical analysis, have been developed in recent decades.

Typological classification

In reference to lithic analyses, typological classification is the act of artifact classification based on morphological similarities. Resultant classes include those artifacts subsumed by tool, production, and debitage categories.

The best known lithic typology is the series established by François Bordes (1950) for the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic of France, where sixty three types of stone tools were defined on the basis of manufacturing techniques and morphological characteristics. According to Bordes, the presence or absence of tool types, or differences in the frequency of types between assemblages, were manifestations of cultural differences between ethnic groups. Notwithstanding that there have been several re-evaluations of Bordes’ interpretation of the "ethnicity" of variations in assemblage type composition, the basic assumption that there is explanatory value in the construction of morphologically defined types of artifacts has remained. For instance, the use of typologies as indicators of chronological and/or cultural affiliations is rarely disputed and is acknowledged as an invaluable analytical tool for this purpose.


Functional analysis of stone tools – a term given to a variety of approaches designed with the aim of identifying the use of a stone tool – is based on the argument that the uses to which tools were put in antiquity leave diagnostic damage and/or polish on their working edges. This type of analysis is also known as use-wear analysis

Experiments have been conducted in order to match up the microwear patterns on actual artifacts with experimental artifacts. At the site of Nausharo, the use-wear analysis conducted on the flint artifacts showed a match to the experimental use-wear of a potter using the flint blades as trimming tools for pottery placed on a potter's wheel. This is significant because it gives direct evidence for the use of the blades and for the presence of a potter's wheel.[4]

Although there are debates concerning the physics of both edge polishes and edge damage which draw on the science of tribology, modern microwear analysis usually depends on the comparisons of the edge wear of modern experimentally produced samples with archaeological and/or ethnographic tools. The ability of a microwear analyst has been tested in the past by presenting them with a set of experimentally produced and utilised tool in a blind experiment. The overall purpose is to provide an accurate, and precise, analytical instrument for the identification of stone tool function. It is worth noting that the precision of functional identifications may range considerably, from "scraping soft material" to "scraping fresh hide for 10 minutes" with a corresponding drop in accuracy as precision increases.

Ethnographic research is another way to figure out the use of stone tools by observing the modern communities which still have stone tool traditions. A research of the Wola society in Papua New Guinea shows that stone tools have a wide range of uses, but a short lifespan. They use stone tools to make weapons, utensils, clothing, and musical instruments. However,the lithic materials might be less important than wooden tools in their material culture when considering other resources in the Wola. It shows that studying both people and environment as a whole can provide a better understanding of the function and role of stone tools.[5]


Technological analysis is concerned with the examination of the production of knapped-stone artifacts. The study of the attributes of waste products (debitage) and tools are the most important methods for the study of knapped-stone technology, backed up with experimental production.[6] One such method of experimentation is to use steel balls dropped by an electromagnet onto a glass prism to test relationships such as platform thickness and flake length.[7] Additionally, work by Patterson(1990) indicates that the process of bifacial reduction can be identified through analysis of debitage in the absence of an identifiable bifacial artefact by comparing the various proportions of an assemblage’s flake sizes.[8] A very wide range of attributes may be used to characterize and compare assemblages to isolate (and interpret) differences across time and space in the production of stone tools. Lithic analysts identify flake scarring on stone artifacts in order to understand the manufacturing process of flake production.[9] There have been efforts to identify variables to predict original size of discarded tool artifact but the results yielded from these studies have not been uniform and research continues.[10] Kuhn (1990) [11] presents his Geometric Index of Unifacial Reduction, an equation for estimating the mass loss of retouched stone artefacts. This index attempts to use 2D measurements of a flakes reduced edge to find the lost mass. Discovering the amount a particular flake has been reduced can help archaeologists answer questions of tool maintainability, optimal resources, and knapping practices.[12] Kuhn's GIUR method was recently reestablished as a robust method as evident through simulation and experiments yielding strong positive correlation coefficients of flake mass removed from retouched flakes.[13] The GIUR method is best used on flakes that have been lightly retouched and it can only be used on flakes that are unifacial.[14]

Above all, whether the typological classification, function or technology, there is a premise in these analytic method. The premise is that archaeologists presume a blueprint of the end-product of stone tool, or say a mental map with step-by-step processes of prehistoric people in mind. This assumption contain the concept that people tend to shape stone tool into certain specific form for specific purpose. This is the foundation of lithic typology and widely accepted. However Hiscock (2004)[15] provides an ethnographic observation from Australia and points out that the processes of making lithic flake are actually more social dynamic and with lots of negotiation between lithic knappers, the common measure attributes, such as retouched scar, form of flake and optimal economic presumption, are all less related to the function of the end-product. Although there are several other ethnographic studies lead to similar conclusion, Hiscock reminds that these observations are not to overthrow the classification system now but to provide an alternative possibility to consider lithic study. Shott proposed that the settlement mobility and lithic technology are related based on ethnographic and archaeological studies. The technological diversity decreases when the mobility frequency and magnitude become greater, which is consistent with theoretically derived expectations from 14 ethnographic groups.[16] Though diversity decreases, however, the range in the tool's flexibility in function greatly increases. As a result, the tool limit a group can carry can be determined by their mobility. Foragers need only two to three different tool classes in order to survive.[17]

Petrological and geochemical analysis

Petrological and geochemical analysis can be useful in identifying the sources of lithics and assist in establishing trade and migration routes.[18] Methods used are typical of those used in geologic research, such as petrographic thin section analysis, neutron activation analysis, stable isotope analysis, and X-ray fluorescence. One example of this application is Yellin (1996) in which neutron activation analysis was used to trace the source of obsidian artifacts found at the Gilat site in Israel.[19] This investigation found that earlier obsidian was obtained from central Anatolia, but in later times, obsidian was obtained from another region in eastern Anatolia. This is used as evidence for changing trade relationships in Israel during the Chalcolithic period.


Lithic reduction itself can be studied to help illuminate the settlement and movement patterns of hunter-gatherer groups by following the idea of Central Place Foraging Models. The Model dictates that the farther from a resource a group inhabits, the more processing of that resource will occur in the field before being transported to the primary habitation. Testing of this model has indicated it is indeed applicable to lithic assemblages, and can help to identify assemblages created by highly mobile hunter-gatherer societies in prehistory.[20]


  1. ^ Andrew W.Pelcin "The Threshold Effect of Platform Width: A Reply to Davis and Shea", Journal of Archaeological Science, July 1998.
  2. ^ Luedtke, B.E. 1992. An archaeologist's guide to chert and flint. Archaeological Research Tools 7. Institute of Archaeology. University of California, Los Angeles. ISBN 0-917956-75-3
  3. ^ Driscoll, Killian. 2010. Understanding quartz technology in early prehistoric Ireland
  4. ^ Méry, S.; Anderson, P.; Inizan, M. L.; Lechevallier, M.; Pelegrin, J. (2007). "A pottery workshop with flint tools on blades knapped with copper at Nausharo (Indus civilisation, ca. 2500 BC)". Journal of Archaeological Science. 34 (7): 1098–1116. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2006.10.002.
  5. ^ Sillitoe, P. and K. Hardy 2003 Living lithics: ethnoarchaeology in highland Papua New Guinea. Antiquity 77:555-566.
  6. ^ Marwick, Ben (May 2008). "What attributes are important for the measurement of assemblage reduction intensity? Results from an experimental stone artefact assemblage with relevance to the Hoabinhian of mainland Southeast Asia". Journal of Archaeological Science. 35 (5): 1189–1200. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2007.08.007.
  7. ^ Speth, J.D. (1981). "The Role of Platform Angle and Core Size in Hard Hammer Percussion Flaking". Lithic Technology. 10 (1): 16–721. doi:10.1080/01977261.1981.11720840.
  8. ^ Patterson, Leland W. (1990). "Characteristics of Bifacial-Reduction Flake-Size Distribution". American Antiquity. 55 (3): 550–558. doi:10.2307/281285. JSTOR 281285.
  9. ^ Cotterell, B.; Kamminga, J. (1987). "The formation of flakes". American Antiquity. 52 (4): 675–708. doi:10.2307/281378. JSTOR 281378.
  10. ^ Shott, Michael. J. (2007). "Flake Size from Platform Attributes: Predictive and Empirical Approaches". Journal of Archaeological Science. 27 (10): 877–894. doi:10.1006/jasc.1999.0499.
  11. ^ Kuhn, S. (1990). "A geometric index of reduction for unifacial stone tools". Journal of Archaeological Science. 17 (17): 583–593. doi:10.1016/0305-4403(90)90038-7.
  12. ^ Eren, M.; Sampson, C (2009). "Kuhn's Geometric Index of Unifacial Stone Tool Reduction (GIUR): does it measure missing flake mass?". Journal of Archaeological Science. 36 (6): 1243–1247. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2009.01.011.
  13. ^ Hiscock, P.; Clarkson, C. (2009). "The reality of reduction experiments and the GIUR: reply to Eren and Sampson". Journal of Archaeological Science. 36 (7): 1576–1581. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2009.03.019.
  14. ^ Eren, Metin I.; Sampson, C. Garth (2008). "Kuhn's Geometric Index of Unifacial Stone Tool Reduction (GIUR): does it measure missing flake mass?". Journal of Archaeological Science. 36 (6): 1243–1247. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2009.01.011.
  15. ^ Hiscock, Peter (2004). "Slippery and Billy: intention, selection and equifinality in lithic artefacts". Cambridge Archaeological Journal. 14 (1): 71–77. doi:10.1017/s0959774304230050.
  16. ^ Shott, M.J. (1986). "Technological organization and settlement mobility: An ethnographic examination". Journal of Anthropological Research. 42: 15–51. doi:10.1086/jar.42.1.3630378.
  17. ^ Shott, M.J. (1986). "Technological organization and settlement mobility: An ethnographic examination". Journal of Anthropological Research. 42 (1): 15–51. doi:10.1086/jar.42.1.3630378. JSTOR 3630378.
  18. ^ Driscoll, Killian. "Irish lithic landscapes macroscopic petrographic geochemical characterisation chert". Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  19. ^ Yellin, Joseph; Thomas E., Levy; Yorke M., Rowan (1996). "New evidence on prehistoric trade routes: the obsidian evidence from Gilat, Israel". Journal of Field Archaeology. 23 (3): 361–368. doi:10.1179/009346996791973873.
  20. ^ Beck, Charlotte; Taylor, Amanda K.; Jones, George T.; Fadem, Cynthia M.; Cook, Caitlyn R.; Millward, Sara A. (2002). "Rocks are heavy: transport costs and Paleoarchaic quarry behavior in the Great Basin". Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 21 (4): 481–507. doi:10.1016/s0278-4165(02)00007-7.

Analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance into smaller parts in order to gain a better understanding of it. The technique has been applied in the study of mathematics and logic since before Aristotle (384–322 B.C.), though analysis as a formal concept is a relatively recent development.The word comes from the Ancient Greek ἀνάλυσις (análusis, "a breaking up", from ana- "up, throughout" and lusis "a loosening").As a formal concept, the method has variously been ascribed to Alhazen, René Descartes (Discourse on the Method), and Galileo Galilei. It has also been ascribed to Isaac Newton, in the form of a practical method of physical discovery (which he did not name).

Archaeological science

Archaeological science, also known as archaeometry, consists of the application of scientific techniques to the analysis of archaeological materials, to assist in dating the materials. It is related to methodologies of archaeology. Martinón-Torres and Killick distinguish ‘scientific archaeology’ (as an epistemology) from ‘archaeological science’ (the application of specific techniques to archaeological materials). Martinón-Torres and Killick claim that ‘archaeological science’ has promoted the development of high-level theory in archaeology. However, Smith rejects both concepts of archaeological science because neither emphasize falsification or a search for causality.In the United Kingdom, the Natural and Environmental Research Council provides funding for archaeometry separate from the funding provided for archaeology. However, in almost all cases of archeometric research, scientists from the natural sciences assist in the scientific analysis of archeological artifacts. Universities that offer courses in archeometry offer these courses frequently as free choice for archeology students and these courses contain mainly a nonscientific overview over the possibilities that different scientific analyses offer to them.

Bulb of applied force

In lithic analysis, a subdivision of archaeology, a bulb of applied force (also known as a bulb of percussion or simply bulb of force) is a defining characteristic of a lithic flake. Bulb of applied force was first correctly described by Sir John Evans, the cofounder of prehistoric archeology. However, bulb of percussion was coined scientifically by W.J. Sollas. When a flake is detached from its parent core, a portion of the Hertzian cone of force caused by the detachment blow is detached with it, leaving a distinctive bulb on the flake and a corresponding flake scar on the core. In the case of a unidirectional core, the bulb of applied force is produced by an initiated crack formed at the point of contact, which begins producing the Hertzian cone. The outward pressure increases causing the crack to curve away from the core and the bulb formation. The bulb of applied force forms below the striking platform as a slight bulge. If the flake is completely crushed the bulb will not be visible. Bulbs of applied force may be distinctive, moderate, or diffuse, depending upon the force of the blow used to detach the flake, and upon the type of material used as a fabricator. The bulb of applied force can indicate the mass or density of the tool used in the application of the force. The bulb may also be an indication of the angle of the force. This information is helpful to archaeologists in understanding and recreating the process of flintknapping. Generally, the harder the material used as a fabricator, the more distinctive the bulb of applied force. Soft hammer percussion has a low diffuse bulb while hard hammer percussion usually leaves a more distinct and noticeable bulb of applied force. Pressure flake also allowed for diffuse bulbs. The bulb of percussion of a flake or blade is convex and the core has a corresponding concave bulb. The concave bulb on the core is known as the negative bulb of percussion. Bulbs of applied force are not usually present if the flake has been struck off naturally. This allows archaeologists to identify and distinguish natural breakage from human artistry. The three main bulb types are flat or nondescript, normal, and pronounced. A flat or nondescript bulb is poorly defined and does not rise up on the ventral surface. A normal bulb on the ventral side has average height and well-defined. A pronounced bulb rises up on ventral side and is very large.When explained visually, the bulb of percussion is visible on the ventral face as opposed to the dorsal face (where it is smoother) and considered to be on the "inside" of the parent core. The bulb of percussion is the primary feature that identifies the ventral surface of a flake or blade artifact. Locating its position reveals which is the proximal end of an artifact. Along the proximal end there may be the formation of ripple marks. These ripple marks allow for the direction traveled by the applied force through the lithic when it was detached. Typically, the striking of the flake is produced by knapping (or flintknapping), a process in which requires the user to chip away material from high-silica stones like "flint" in a carefully controlled manner with special tools to produce sharp projectile points or tools. A common characteristic that is associated with the bulb of applied force is a bulbar scar. This scar is from a small chip or flake on the bulb. This is known as an eraillure flake scar. It is produced during the initial impact of flake removal. Occasionally, there is more than one contact point on a striking platform which creates a series of superimposed waves. The eraillure flake is a chip removed through contact of a dominant force wave that creates the conchoidal flake and inferior waves. Bulb of applied force is not produced by bipolar technology or wedging initiation.

Chaîne opératoire

Chaîne opératoire (French for “operational chain” or “operational sequence”) is a term used throughout anthropological discourse, but is most commonly used in archaeology and sociocultural anthropology. It functions as a methodological tool for analysing the technical processes and social acts involved in the step-by-step production, use, and eventual disposal of artifacts, such as lithic reduction (the making of stone tools) or pottery. This concept of technology as the science of human activities was first proposed by French archaeologist, André Leroi-Gourhan, and later by the historian of science, André-Georges Haudricourt. Both were students of Marcel Mauss who had earlier recognised that societies could be understood through its techniques by virtue of the fact that operational sequences are steps organised according to an internal logic specific to a society.The chaîne opératoire was born out of the need to explicitly describe the methodology of lithic analysis in archaeological scholarship. It allows archaeologists to reconstruct the techniques used and the chronological ordering of the different steps required to produce an artifact. By understanding the processes and construction of tools, archaeologists can better determine the evolution of tool technology and the development of ancient cultures and lifestyles.

Artifact analysis has undergone several changes throughout its history, shifting from an orientation as a natural science of prehistoric humans to a social and cultural anthropology of the production techniques of prehistoric societies. From this perspective, a chaîne opératoire can be understood as a social product, as it calls for an interdisciplinary approach to artifact analysis (the integration of associated disciplines: archaeology, sociocultural anthropology, biological anthropology, and anthropological linguistics), which offers a multidimensional view of a society, and demonstrates how chaînes opératoires cannot operate independently of the society that produces it. Consequently, the study of the technique - or chaîne opératoire - enables one to better understand not only the society in which the technique originated, but also the social context, actions, and cognition that accompanied the production of an object.

Cortex (archaeology)

In lithic analysis in archaeology the cortex is the outer layer of rock formed on the exterior of raw materials by chemical and mechanical weathering processes. It is often recorded on the dorsal surface of flakes using a three class system: primary, secondary, and tertiary. The amount of cortex present on artifacts in an archaeological assemblage may indicate the extent of lithic reduction that has occurred. Primary, secondary, and tertiary designations for flakes are generally determined by relative amounts of cortex presented on the dorsal surface. Some archaeologists classify flakes with no cortex as tertiary, flakes with some cortex as secondary, and flakes with all cortex as primary, whereas others may distinctions at every third or half of the dorsal surface covered. Differences in how archaeologists classify the amount of cortex and the results of experimental archaeological tests demonstrating moderate correlation between amount of cortex and stage of reduction, have limited the validity of assumptions based on amount of cortex solely.


Debitage is all the material produced during the process of lithic reduction and the production of chipped stone tools. This assemblage includes, but is not limited to, different kinds of lithic flakes and lithic blades, shatter and production debris, and production rejects.

Dust Cave

Dust Cave is a Paleoindian archaeology site located in northern Alabama. It is in the Highland Rim in the limestone bluffs that overlook Coffee Slough, a tributary of the Tennessee River. The site was occupied during the Pleistocene and early Holocene eras. 1LU496, another name for Dust Cave, was occupied seasonally for 7,000 years. The cave was first discovered in 1984 by Dr. Richard Cobb and first excavated in 1989 under Dr. Boyce Driskell from the University of Alabama.Other major Paleoindian sites in northern Alabama include Stanfield-Worley, Mulberry Creek, the Quad site and Heaven's Half Acre.

Edgewater Park Site

The Edgewater Park Site is a 3,800-year-old Late Archaic campsite situated along the Iowa River in Coralville, Iowa, United States. Plant remains recovered from the site suggest the inhabitants were in the earliest stages of adapting domesticated plants.

Excavations revealed a small encampment of two hearths and areas for faunal and stone tool production. Other features identified include a discard area and a deep feature of unknown function. Lithic analysis reveals that the site occupants probably recently traveled along the Iowa River from the north center of the state and were engaged in late-stage tool manufacture and maintenance. Floral analysis indicates the site occupation occurred during the warm half of the year and that the occupants utilized little barley, a non-local plant which was later cultivated, and barnyard grass, a local plant probably also later cultivated. This site is interpreted as a short-term, late warm-season occupation of people migrating down the Iowa River, possibly towards winter encampments in what is now the southeast part of the state.


In lithic analysis (a subdivision of archaeology), an eraillure is a flake removed from a lithic flake's bulb of force, which is a lump left on the ventral surface of a flake after it is detached from a core of tool stone during the process of lithic reduction. The mechanics of eraillure formation are related to the propagation of a Hertzian cone of force through the cryptocrystalline matrix of the stone, but the particulars are poorly understood. Eraillures usually form only when a hammerstone is used for lithic reduction, and then only occasionally; use of 'soft' hammer fabricators made from bone, antler, and wood produce different flake characteristics but may also produce an eraillure in rare cases.


Lithic may refer to:

Relating to stone tools

Lithic analysis, the analysis of stone tools and other chipped stone artifacts

Lithic technology, the array of techniques to produce tools from stone

Lithic reduction, the process of removing flakes from a stone to make a tool

Lithic flake, the portion of a rock removed to make a tool

Lithic core, the part of a stone which has had flakes removed from it

Lithic stage, the North American prehistoric period before 10,000 years ago

Lithic fragment (geology), pieces of rock, eroded to sand size, and now sand grains in a sedimentary rock

Lithic sandstone, sandstone with a significant component of (above) lithic fragments

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.

Outline of archaeology

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to archaeology:

Archaeology – study of human cultures through the recovery, documentation, and analysis of material remains and environmental data, including architecture, artifacts, biofacts, human remains, and landscapes.

Projectile point

In archaeological terms, a projectile point is an object that was hafted to weapon that was capable of being thrown or projected, such as a spear, dart, or arrow, or perhaps used as a knife. They are thus different from weapons presumed to have been kept in the hand, such as axes and maces, and the stone mace or axe-heads often attached to them.

Stone tools, including projectile points, can survive for long periods, were often lost or discarded, and are relatively plentiful, especially at archaeological sites, providing useful clues to the human past, including prehistoric trade. A distinctive form of point, identified though lithic analysis of the way it was made, is often a key diagnostic factor in identifying an archaeological industry or culture. Scientific techniques exist to track the specific kinds of rock or minerals that used to make stone tools in various regions back to their original sources.

As well as stone, projectile points were also made of worked bone, antler or ivory; all of these are less common in the Americas. In regions where metallurgy emerged, projectile points were eventually made from copper, bronze, or iron, though the change was by no means immediate. In North America, some late prehistoric points were fashioned from copper that was mined in the Lake Superior region and elsewhere.

Robert Bollt

Robert Bollt (26 August 1971 – 26 January 2010) was an American archaeologist, specializing in Pacific Archaeology.

Robert L. Kelly

Robert Laurens Kelly (born March 16, 1957) is an American anthropologist who is a Professor at the University of Wyoming. As a professor, he has taught introductory Archaeology as well as upper-level courses focused in Hunter-Gathers, North American Archaeology, Lithic Analysis, and Human Behavioral Ecology. Kelly’s interest in archaeology began when he was a sophomore in high school in 1973. His first experience in fieldwork was an excavation of Gatecliff Rockshelter, a prehistoric site in central Nevada. Since then, Kelly has been involved with archaeology and has dedicated the majority of his work to the ethnology, ethnography, and archaeology of foraging peoples, which include research on lithic technology, initial colonization of the New World, evolutionary ecology of hunter-gatherers, and archaeological method and theory. He has been involved in research projects throughout the United States and in Chile, where he studied the remains of the Inca as well as coastal shell middens, and Madagascar, where in order to learn about farmer-forager society, Kelly has participated in ethnoarchaeological research. A majority of his work has been carried out in the Great Basin, but after moving to Wyoming in 1997 he has shifted his research to the rockshelters in the southwest Wyoming and the Bighorn Mountains.

Outside of his research in archaeology, Bob Kelly also promotes tourism to historic and archaeological sites in Wyoming. In doing so, he has given many lectures around Wyoming and helped create a website to promote Wyoming’s heritage. The website, funded by the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund and maintained by the University of Wyoming Department of Anthropology, acts as a directory for information about Wyoming Prehistoric and Historic Sites. Kelly also served as an Amicus Curiae in the Kennewick case.. He has served as President of the Society for American Archaeology from 2001 to 2003.

He is running a major research project in Glacier National Park to examine the effects of climate change.

Sanghao Cave

Sanghao Cave is a Paleolithic site, located near the village of Sanghao, northeast of Mardan, Pakistan that was excavated by Ahmad Hasan Dani. Excavations from the site yielded evidence of human activity from the Middle Paleolithic period, over 30,000 years ago.

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.

Three-age system

The three-age system is the categorization of history into time periods divisible by three; for example: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age; although it also refers to other tripartite divisions of historic time periods. In history, archaeology and physical anthropology, the three-age system is a methodological concept adopted during the 19th century by which artifacts and events of late prehistory and early history could be ordered into a recognizable chronology. It was initially developed by C. J. Thomsen, director of the Royal Museum of Nordic Antiquities, Copenhagen, as a means to classify the museum’s collections according to whether the artifacts were made of stone, bronze, or iron.

The system first appealed to British researchers working in the science of ethnology who adopted it to establish race sequences for Britain's past based on cranial types. Although the craniological ethnology that formed its first scholarly context holds no scientific value, the relative chronology of the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age is still in use in a general public context, and the three ages remain the underpinning of prehistoric chronology for Europe, the Mediterranean world and the Near East.The structure reflects the cultural and historical background of Mediterranean Europe and the Middle East and soon underwent further subdivisions, including the 1865 partitioning of the Stone Age into Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods by John Lubbock. It is, however, of little or no use for the establishment of chronological frameworks in sub-Saharan Africa, much of Asia, the Americas and some other areas and has little importance in contemporary archaeological or anthropological discussion for these regions.


In archeology, a uniface is a specific type of stone tool that has been flaked on one surface only. There are two general classes of uniface tools: modified flakes—and formalized tools, which display deliberate, systematic modification of the marginal edges, evidently formed for a specific purpose.

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