Microblade technology

Microblade technology is a period of technological development marked by the creation and use of small stone blades, which are produced by chipping silica-rich stones like chert, quartz, or obsidian. Blades are a specialized type of lithic flake that are at least twice as long as they are wide.[1] An alternate method of defining blades focuses on production features, including parallel lateral edges and dorsal scars, a lack of cortex, a prepared platform with a broad angle, and a proximal bulb of percussion.[2] Microblades are generally less than 50 mm long in their finished state.[3]

Microblades and Core
Here is an example of two microblades and a microblade core.


The geographic origin of microblades is poorly understood, with differing theories posing origins in Southern Siberia, Northern China, or the PHSK (Paleo-Hokkaido-Sakhalin-Kurile) peninsula, with dates ranging from over 30,000 BP to as little as 18,000 BP. Because microblade technology is economical (using less raw material than other technologies), relatively easy to make, and extremely portable, it came into widespread use over vast parts of northern Asia and northeastern Siberia during and after the Ice Age. Microblade technology was very efficient for hunting because it used light, barbed spears. During the Ice Age, hunter-gatherers suffered from shortage of food resources, so they had to move more frequently. Microblade is suitable for high mobility and rapid weapon production, as well as reducing failure of hunting and lost or damaged weapons.[4] In other words, in the resource-limited environment of the LGM, hunter-gatherers invested more time acquiring better raw materials and developing the technique of lithic manufacture. [5] Barbed tips opened wounds and the resulting blood loss killed prey faster and with less loss of hunting equipment than traditional spears.

These changes in lithic technology appear to have been adaptations to reduced resource availability due to climate changes during the Last Glacial Maximum and Younger Dryas allowing for more efficient sustenance strategies. An important site for learning more about the diverse adaptations of the microblade is Shuidonggou Locality 12 (SDG12). It was at this site that microblades were found along with diverse artifacts: needles, awls, and a bone knife handle. This handle is a big indicator that microblades were used for multiple purposes, and no longer were exclusive to hunting.[6] In at least one site in Northern China, microblades are also found in context with heat shattered and burned stone, usually evidence for stone-boiling practices, another resource intensification strategy aimed at recovering more nutrients from food resources via cooking.[7]

The first Native Americans brought this technology with them across the Bering Land Bridge to North America. At least six independent Native American groups used microblade technology, including the Poverty Point/Jaketown, Hopewell culture, Tikal Maya, and Northwest Coast peoples. Specialized craftspeople manufactured millions of microblades in the Mississippian chiefdom of Cahokia, in Illinois,[8] as did Chumash (tribe) craftspeople in California's Northern Channel Islands. In both of these cases, microblades were sharpened to a point and attached to the end of sticks, creating microdrills. These microdrills were used to drill holes in marine shells to create beads. Shell beads were used as money among the Chumash, and as a result microblades were a vital part of the Chumash economy.

See also


  1. ^ Crabtree, Don E. (1972). An introduction to flintworking, (Occasional papers of the Idaho State University Museum, no. 28). Pocatello, Idaho: Idaho State University Museum.
  2. ^ Johnson, Jay K. (1983). Poverty Point Period Blade Technology in the Yazoo Basin, Mississippi. Lithic Technology.
  3. ^ Arnold, Jeanne E. (1987). Craft Specialization in the Prehistoric Channel Islands, California. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.
  4. ^ Yi, Mingjie; Bettinger, Robert L.; Chen, Fuyou; Pei, Shuwen; Gao, Xing (2014). "The significance of Shuidonggou Locality 12 to studies of hunter-gatherer adaptive strategies in North China during the Late Pleistocene". Quaternary International. 347: 97–104. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2014.04.009.
  5. ^ Mackay, A; Marwick, B (2011). "Costs and benefits in technological decision making under variable conditions: examples from the late Pleistocene in southern Africa". Keeping your Edge: Recent Approaches to the Organisation of Stone Artefact Technology. BAR=S2273.
  6. ^ Yi, Mingjie; Bettinger, Robert L.; Chen, Fuyou; Pei, Shuwen; Gao, Xing (2014). "The significance of Shuidonggou Locality 12 to studies of hunter-gatherer adaptive strategies in North China during the Late Pleistocene". Quaternary International. 347: 97–104. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2014.04.009.
  7. ^ Yi, Mingjie; Bettinger, Robert L.; Chen, Fuyou; Pei, Shuwen; Gao, Xing (2014). "The significance of Shuidonggou Locality 12 to studies of hunter-gatherer adaptive strategies in North China during the Late Pleistocene". Quaternary International. 347: 97–104. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2014.04.009.
  8. ^ Yerkes, Richard W. Microwear, Microdrills, and Mississippian Craft Specialization. Society for American Archaeology.


Arctic small tool tradition

The Arctic Small Tool tradition (ASTt) was a broad cultural entity that developed along the Alaska Peninsula, around Bristol Bay, and on the eastern shores of the Bering Strait around 2500 BC. ASTt groups were the first human occupants of Arctic Canada and Greenland. This was a terrestrial entity that had a highly distinctive toolkit based on microblade technology. Typically tool types include scrapers, burins and side and end blades used in composite arrows or spears made of other materials, such as bone or antler. Many researchers also assume that it was Arctic Small Tool populations who first introduced the bow and arrow to the Arctic. ASTt camps are often found along coasts and streams, to take advantage of seal or salmon populations. While some of the groups were fairly nomadic, more permanent, sod-roofed homes have also been identified from Arctic Small Tool tradition sites.

The Arctic Small Tool tradition includes a number of cultural groups, including the Denbigh Flint Complex in Alaska, the Pre-Dorset culture in Arctic Canada, Independence I culture in the High Arctic and Saqqaq culture in southern Greenland. The ASTt was followed by the Norton tradition in Alaska and the Dorset culture in Arctic Canada.

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.

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.


A cist ( or ; also kist ;

from Greek: κίστη or Germanic Kiste) is a small stone-built coffin-like box or ossuary used to hold the bodies of the dead. Examples can be found across Europe and in the Middle East.

A cist may have been associated with other monuments, perhaps under a cairn or long barrow. Several cists are sometimes found close together within the same cairn or barrow. Often ornaments have been found within an excavated cist, indicating the wealth or prominence of the interred individual.

This old word is preserved in the Swedish language, where "kista" is the word for a funerary coffin.

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.

Eden point

Eden Points are a form of chipped stone projectile points associated with a sub-group of the larger Plano culture. Sometimes also called Yuma points, the first Eden points were discovered in washouts in Yuma County, Colorado. They were first discovered in situ at an ancient buffalo kill site near Eden, Wyoming by Harold J. Cook in 1941. The site, named after discoverer O. M. Finley, eventually yielded 24 projectile points, including eight Eden points, eight Scottsbluff points and one complete Cody point, both other sub-groups within the Plano group. Eden points are believed to have been used between 10,000 and 6,000 years ago by paleo-indian hunters in the western plains.

Eden points are the most common paleo-indian projectile points found today. They have been discovered across the western plain states, including Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, and Montana.

Folsom point

Folsom points are a distinct form of knapped stone projectile points associated with the Folsom tradition of North America. The style of tool-making was named after the Folsom Site located in Folsom, New Mexico, where the first sample was found by George McJunkin within the bone structure of a bison in 1908. The Folsom point was identified as a unique style of projectile point in 1926.

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.

Halfan culture

The Halfan industry is one of the Late Epipalaeolithic industries of the Upper Nile Valley that seems to have appeared in northern Sudan c. 22.5-22.0 ka cal BP. It is one of the earliest known backed-bladelet industries in Northern Africa, dating between 22.5 and 16 ka cal BP in Nubia. The Halfan is restricted to the north of Sudan, its Egyptian counterpart, which is in all respects similar, is known as the Kubbaniyan.It has been suggested that the Halfan was related to the Iberomaurusian industry in the Maghreb. The earliest Iberomaurusian is dated to c. 26.0-22.5 ka cal BP and it is not clear whether the Iberomaurusian or the Halfan is more ancient. The Halfan is believed to have descended from the Khormusan Culture which depended on specialized hunting, fishing, and collecting techniques for survival.

The Halfan people survived on a diet of large herd animals and the Khormusan tradition of fishing. Greater concentrations of artifacts indicate that they were not bound to seasonal wandering, but settled for longer periods at preferred and more convenient sites from where to make short forays into their seasonal ones. The primary material remains of the Halfan complex are their stone tools, flakes, and a multitude of rock paintings.

The Halfan industry is characterized by three main tools: Halfa flakes, backed microflakes, and backed microblades. It is only during a transitional stage that all three occur in significant amounts, but all types do occur in every assemblage. The most general observation, is the relative proportions of flakes, microblades, and cores chosen for retouch. This reflects both the tools desired in each assemblage (i.e., Halfa flakes vs. backed microblades), and the degree of the development of the microblade technology (i.e., backed flakes vs. backed microblades).

The only type which shows a high stage of development is the Halfa core. The basic orientation of the Halfa core to opposed platforms is reflected in the number of poor opposed platform flake cores. These are never extensively utilized, and no real care has gone into their initial preparation. The Haifa core does, however, have a number of features which could lead to more generalized, yet effective, core types.

Levallois cores are present, but they are poorly made and have not received the careful attention that the Halfa cores have. In fact, the Levallois flake is merely a more generalized form of Halfa flake and as such could have been of no great value to an industry producing Halfa flakes.


Jwalapuram (meaning "City of fire" in Sanskrit) is an archaeological site in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, southern India, which shows hominid habitation before and after the Toba event (73 kya) according to the Toba catastrophe theory. It is unclear what species of humans settled Jwalapuram as no fossil remains have yet been found.

Jwalapuram is of particular importance in understanding the emergence of microlithic technology in South Asia and the role of environmental change on lithic technological change. At Jwalapuram Locality 9, five stratigraphic units provide a record of technological change through time. Microblade technology dominates lithic assemblages from Stratum E to the top deposit. There are many different definitions for "microblade" and Clarkson et al. define microblade with a 40mm maximum length in the direction of striking and a length:width ratio greater than 2:1; they also include that the dorsal surface has nearly no cortex (less than 20 percent) and at least on dorsal ridge in the direction of striking as well as nearly parallel lateral margins. Using this definition of microblade, Clarkson et al. track the changing density of microblade technology throughout the strata. The changes in microlithic technology is speculated to have been caused by climate change, which made the area more arid and therefore groups of people had to become more mobile, causing changes in their technological tool kits.The archaeological site was visited by Dr. Alice Roberts, presenter of the BBC documentary The Incredible Human Journey.

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.


Microblade may refer to:

Microblade technology for the creation and use of small stone blades

Microblading, a tattooing technique

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.

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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