Lithic core

In archaeology, a lithic core is a distinctive artifact that results from the practice of lithic reduction. In this sense, a core is the scarred nucleus resulting from the detachment of one or more flakes from a lump of source material or tool stone, usually by using a hard hammer percussor such as a hammerstone. The core is marked with the negative scars of these flakes. The surface area of the core which received the blows necessary for detaching the flakes is referred to as the striking platform. The core may be discarded or shaped further into a core tool, such as can be seen in some types of handaxe.

Nucleo en la mano
A flint lithic core for blades, found near the cave of La Viña (Asturias, Spain)

The purpose of lithic reduction may be to rough out a blank for later refinement into a projectile point, knife, or other stone tool, or it may be performed in order to obtain sharp flakes, from which a variety of simple tools can be made. Generally, the presence of a core is indicative of the latter process, since the former process usually leaves no core. Because the morphology of cores will influence the shape of flakes, by studying the core surface morphology, we might be able to know more information about the dimensional flake attribute, including their length and thickness.[1] Cores may be subdivided into specific types by a lithic analyst. Type frequencies, as well as the general types of materials at an archaeological site, can give the lithic analyst a better understanding of the lithic reduction processes occurring at that site.

Lithic Cores may be multidirectional, conical, cylindrical, biconical, or bifacial. A multidirectional core is the product of any random rock, from which flakes were taken based on the geometry of the rock in any pattern until no further flakes could be removed. Often, multidirectional cores are used in this way until no obvious platforms are present, and then are reduced through bipolar reduction, until the core itself is too small to produce useful flakes. Conical cores have a definite pattern. One flake was removed from a narrow end of the tool stone, and this was then used as the platform to take flakes off in a unifacial fashion all around the edge of the rock. The end result is a cone-like shape. Cylindrical lithic cores are made in a similar fashion, but there is a platform on both ends of the toolstone, with flakes going up and down the side of the cylinder from either direction.

Lithic Core Negev
Lithic core (Mousterian) from Makhtesh Gadol, southern Israel.
Upper paleolithic cylindrical blade core France courtesy of Burke Museum
Upper paleolithic cylindrical blade core, France. Courtesy of the Burke Museum.

Biconical cores have several platforms around the edge of the stone, with flakes taken alternately from either side, resulting in what looks like a pair of cones stuck together at the bases.Bifacial cores are similar to biconical cores, except that instead of forming a pair of cones, the flakes are taken off in such a way that the core itself grows thinner, without the edges shrinking much. Bifacial cores are usually further reduced into trade bifaces, biface blanks, or bifacial tools. Bifacial cores have been recognized as a technology allowing for efficient material usage(specifically in the creation of edge scrapers) and for their suitability for highly mobile hunter gatherer groups in need of tools made of high quality lithic materials.[2]

Nucleus Brassempouy Global fond
Lithic core for Lithic reduction - Upper Paleolithic (Gravettian) (–29,000 ; –22,000) -Brassempouy, Landes department, France - Muséum of Toulouse


  1. ^ Pelcin, Andrew. W. (1996). "The effect of core surface morphology on flake attributes: evidence from a controlled experiment". Journal of Archaeological Science 24:749-756.
  2. ^ Morrow, Juliet E. (1997). "End Scraper Morphology and Use-life: An Approach for Studying Paleoindian Lithic Technology and Mobility". Lithic Technology. 22 (1): 70–85.
Bare Island projectile point

The Bare Island projectile point is a stone projectile point of prehistoric indigenous peoples of North America. It was named by Fred Kinsey in 1959 for examples recovered at the Kent-Halley site on Bare Island in Pennsylvania.


Brassempouy is a commune in the Landes department in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in southwestern France.

The settlement is on the route between Mont-de-Marsan and Orthez.

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.

Chopper core

In archaeology a chopper core is a suggested type of stone tool created by using a lithic core as a chopper following the removal of flakes from that core. They may be a very crude form of early handaxe although they are not bifacially-worked and there is debate as to whether chopper cores were ever used as tools or simply discarded after the desired flakes were removed.

They are found in the early Mode 1 tool industries of the Oldowan and Clactonian industries during the Lower Palaeolithic.

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.

Flake tool

In archaeology, a flake tool is a type of stone tool that was used during the Stone Age that was created by striking a flake from a prepared stone core.

People during prehistoric times often preferred these flake tools as compared to other tools because these tools were often easily made, could be made to be extremely sharp & could easily be repaired. Flake tools could be sharpened by retouch to create scrapers or burins. These tools were either made by flaking off small particles of flint or by breaking off a large piece and using that as a tool itself. These tools were able to be made by this "chipping" away effect due to the natural characteristic of stone. Stone is able to break apart when struck near the edge. Flake tools are created through flint knapping, a process of producing stone tools using lithic reduction. Lithic reduction is the removal of a lithic flake from a larger stone in order to reach the desired tool shape and size. The beginning stone is called the flake lithic core. There are three steps to lithic reduction:

Hard hammer percussion is the first step. It involves knocking off the larger flakes to achieve the desired lithic core for the flake tool. In using hard hammer percussion the flake tools were made by taking metamorphic or igneous rock such as granite or quartz and striking it against the stone. This method was often used to flake large core flakes of hard rock.

Soft hammer percussion is the second step. It involves using a hammer made of bone, which was often antler, in order to knock off flakes from the lithic core. Animal antlers such as moose, deer and elk were often the most common ones used. It allows the user more control over the size and shape of the flakes knocked off. Soft hammer percussion was also used when the stone was more brittle.

Pressure flaking is the final step. It involves using a piece of bone, antler, or piece of hardwood in order to have more control of the flakes knocked off of the lithic core. One simply applies outward and downward pressure to achieve the final flake tool.

Grattoir de côté

A Grattoir de côté (translates from French as Side Scraper) is an archaeological term for a ridged variety of steep-scrapers distinguished by a working edge on one side. They were found at various archaeological sites in Lebanon including Ain Cheikh and Jdeideh II and are suggested to date to Upper Paleolithic stages three or four (Antelian).

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.

Lamoka projectile point

Lamoka projectile points are stone projectile points manufactured by Native Americans what is now the northeastern United States, generally in the time interval of 3500-2500 B.C. They predate the invention of the bow and arrow, and are therefore not true "arrowheads", but rather atlatl dart points. They derive their name from the specimens found at the Lamoka site in Schuyler County, New York.

Levallois technique

The Levallois technique (IPA: [lə.va.lwa]) is a name given by archaeologists to a distinctive type of stone knapping developed by precursors to modern humans during the Palaeolithic period.

It is named after nineteenth-century finds of flint tools in the Levallois-Perret suburb of Paris, France. The technique was more sophisticated than earlier methods of lithic reduction, involving the striking of lithic flakes from a prepared lithic core. A striking platform is formed at one end and then the core's edges are trimmed by flaking off pieces around the outline of the intended lithic flake. This creates a domed shape on the side of the core, known as a tortoise core, as the various scars and rounded form are reminiscent of a tortoise's shell. When the striking platform is finally hit, a lithic flake separates from the lithic core with a distinctive plano-convex profile and with all of its edges sharpened by the earlier trimming work.

This method provides much greater control over the size and shape of the final flake which would then be employed as a scraper or knife although the technique could also be adapted to produce projectile points known as Levallois points. Scientists consider the Levallois complex to be a Mode 3 technology, as a result of its diachronic variability. This is one level superior to the Acheulean complex of the Lower Paleolithic.


Lithic may refer to:

Relating to stone tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Plano point

In archeology, Plano point is flaked stone projectile points and tools created by the various Plano cultures of the North American Great Plains between 9000 BC and 6000 BC for hunting, and possibly to kill other humans.

They are bifacially worked and have been divided into numerous sub-groups based on variations in size, shape and function including Alberta points, Cody points, Frederick points, Eden points and Scottsbluff points. Plano points do not include the hollowing or 'fluting' found in Clovis and Folsom points.


In archeology, a racloir, also known as racloirs sur talon (French for scraper on the platform), is a certain type of flint tool made by prehistoric peoples.

It is a type of side scraper distinctive of Mousterian assemblages. It is created from a flint flake and looks like a large scraper. As well as being used for scraping hides and bark, it may also have been used as a knife. Racloirs are most associated with the Neanderthal Mousterian industry. These racloirs are retouched along the ridge between the striking platform and the dorsal face. They have shaped edges and are modified by abrupt flaking from the dorsal face.

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.


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.

Yubetsu technique

The Yubetsu technique (湧別技法, Yūbetsu gihō) is a special technique to make microblades, proposed by Japanese scholar Yoshizaki in 1961, based on his finds in some Upper Palaeolithic sites in Hokkaido, Japan, which date from c. 13,000 bp.

The name comes from the Yūbetsu River (湧別川, Yubetsugawa), on the right bank of which the Shirataki (白滝遺跡, Shirataki Iseki) Palaeolithic sites were discovered.

To make microblades by this technique, a large biface is made into a core which looks like a tall carinated scraper. Then one lateral edge of the bifacial core is removed, producing at first a triangular spall. After, more edge removals will produce ski spalls of parallel surfaces.

This technique was also used from Mongolia to Kamchatka Peninsula during the later Pleistocene.

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