Quern-stones are stone tools for hand-grinding a wide variety of materials. They are used in pairs. The lower, stationary, stone is called a quern, while the upper mobile stone is called a handstone. The central hole is called the hopper and a handle slot enables the handstone to be rotated.[1] They were first used in the Neolithic era to grind cereals into flour.[2]

The upper stone of a Scottish hand quern from Dalgarven Mill, North Ayrshire
An ancient tool used to grind food items in Nepal
Nepali women using quern-stones to grind a food item

Uses of quern-stones

An old Gaelic proverb is "The quern performs best when the grindstone has been pitted."[3]

Design of quern-stones

The upper stones were usually concave whilst the lower was convex. Quern-stones are frequently identifiable by their grooved working surfaces which enabled the movement of flour. Sometimes a millrind was present as a piece of wood (or other material), which allowed the cereal etc to be added but still acted as a centering device. The upper stone sometimes had a cup-shaped area around the hopper hole with a raised edge.[4] Most handstones have a handle hole on the upper surface, however one class of quern-stones have a slot handle which indicates that a piece of wood was placed horizontally and protruded out from the edge so that the operator could turn the stone by standing and using a rod vertically.[5] One class of upper quern-stones has from two to three sockets for the rod used to turn them and this is thought to reflect the need to reduce wear and tear by having alternative points of contact when in active use.[6]


Cliffecastlemus 016
Revolving beehive quern-stones and [lower] a saddlestone on display at Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley.

Quern-stones have been used by numerous civilizations throughout the world to grind materials, the most important of which was usually grain to make flour for bread-making. They were generally replaced by millstones once mechanised forms of milling appeared, particularly the water mill and the windmill, although animals were also used to operate the millstones. However, in many non-Westernised, non-mechanised cultures they are still manufactured and used regularly and have only been replaced in many parts of the world in the last century or so.

In early Maya civilizations the process of nixtamalization was distinctive in that hard, ripe kernels of maize (corn) were boiled in water and lime, thus producing nixtamal which was then made into unleavened dough for flat cakes by grinding with a handstone on a quern (metate).[7]

Quern stones were used in China at least 10,000 years ago to grind wheat into flour. The production of flour by rubbing wheat by hand took several hours.[8] Due to their form, dimensions, and the nature of the treatment of the surfaces, they reproduce precisely the most ancient implements used for grinding cereal grain into flour. Saddle querns were known in China during the Neolithic Age but rotary stone mills did not appear until the Warring States Period.[9] A prehistoric quern dating back to 23,000 BCE was found at the Longwangchan archaeological site, in Hukou, Shaanxi in 2007. The site is located in the heartland of the northern Chinese loess plateau near the Yellow River.[10]

Other materials

As well as grain, ethnographic evidence and Mesopotamian texts show that a wide range of foodstuffs and inorganic materials were processed using stone querns or mortars, including nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, meat, bark, pigments, temper and clay.[11] Moreover, one study analysing quern-stones noted that a number of querns had traces of arsenic and bismuth, unlike their source rocks, and had levels of antimony which were ten times higher than those of the rocks. The authors concluded that this was probably due to the use of these querns in the preparation of medicines, cosmetics, dyes or even in the manufacture of alloys.[12]

Querns were widely used in grinding metals ores after mining extraction. The aim was to liberate fine ore particles which could then be separated by washing for example, prior to smelting. They were thus widely used in gold mining in antiquity.

In the Shetlands tobacco was not smoked when first introduced, but instead was ground up into snuff, and inhaled up the nose. Snuff-querns consisted of an upper and lower stone, fixed together by a central iron pivot. The quern was held on the user's lap, the eye of the quern was filled with dried tobacco leaves, and then the upper-stone was turned using the handle. The friction caused by the turning ground the leaves into a fine powder that built up around the edge of the lower-stone. Many snuff-querns had a small hole or cut made near the edge of the upper-stone, into which a pointed end of a lamb's horn was placed in order to turn the stone; an alternative to using a handle.[13]

Incidental uses

Quern-stones in China small
A stack of quern-stones for sale in a market in Haikou, Hainan, China. These quern-stones are only about 30 cm wide.

There are, however, more surprising recorded uses of quern-stones. For example, DeBoer, in his review of the traditional gambling games of North American tribes, reports that one of the games involved bouncing a group of split canes off a quern.[14]

Violence is recorded thus in the Old Testament in the Book of Judges (9:53; NRSV): “But a certain woman threw an upper-millstone on Abimelech’s head, and crushed his skull.”

Manufacture of quern-stones

The best type of stone from which to manufacture quern-stones are igneous rocks such as basalt. These have naturally rough surfaces, but grains do not detach easily, so the material being ground does not become gritty. However, such rocks are not always available, meaning that quern-stones have been manufactured from a wide variety of rocks, including sandstone, quartzite and limestone. Quernmore Crag near Lancaster in England is named after the quarrying of millstone grit used to make quern stones in these parts.

Rutter was able to show, for the southern Levant, that basalt quern-stones were preferred to those manufactured from other rock types. Basalt quern-stones were therefore transported over long-distances, leading him to argue that, despite their every-day, utilitarian function, they were also used as a status symbol.[15]

Research in Scotland has indicated that to a degree regional styles existed.[16]

Evolution of quern-stones

Knocking stones were used in the preparation of small quantities of cereal however the earliest forms of quern were the saddle and trough querns. The earliest quern so far discovered dates to c. 9,000 BCE and was found at Abu Hureyra, Syria.[2] A later development was the rotary quern, which takes several forms.

Saddle quern

The saddle quern is produced by rocking or rolling the handstone using parallel motions (i.e., pushing and pulling the handstone), which forms a shape looking like a saddle. These are the most ancient and widely used type of quern-stone and were superseded around the 5th to the 4th century BC by the more efficient rotary quern.[17] The handstones for saddle querns are generally either roughly cylindrical (not unlike a rolling pin) and used with both hands, or rough hemispheres and used with one hand. This provides a crushing motion, not a grinding action and is more suitable for crushing malted grain. It is not easy to produce flour from a saddle quern with unmalted grain. The handstone is also referred to as a 'rubber' or 'mouler'.[18]

Rotary hand quern

As the name implies, the rotary quern used circular motions to grind the material, meaning both the quern and the handstone were generally circular. The handstone of a rotary quern is much heavier than that of saddle quern and provides the necessary weight for the grinding of unmalted grain into flour. In some cases the grinding surfaces of the stones fit into each other, the upper stone being slightly concave and the lower one convex.

Quern at Estonian Open Air Museum
Rotary Hand Quern at the Estonian Open Air Museum

Beehive quern

Quern stones
Querns from the Whithorn Museum

In this type the upper stone is hemispherical, or bun-shaped, with a central conical hopper to hold the grain that falls down a hole to the grinding surface. It is held in position with a pivot that fits into a central hole in the bottom stone. The upper stone also has a deep horizontal socket in its steep side in which to place the wooden peg used as a handle to rotate or oscillate the upper stone. This was the earliest type of rotary quern to appear in the British Isles. It arrived in Britain in the middle of the Iron Age (about 400-300 BC) and spread into the northern half of Ireland, probably from Scotland, some time after the 2nd century BC.[19]

Disc quern

A hand quern being operated[20]

The adjustable, discoid rotary quern has larger, flatter and more discoid stones than the beehive type. The lower stone was completely perforated. The long handle rotated in a shallow socket in the upper surface of the upper stone. They are thought to have originated in Spain 2,500 years ago[21] and appear to have arrived in maritime Scotland from about 200 BC with people who built the defensive homes known as brochs. This Iron Age type closely resembles the adjustable Highland quern still in use in historic times.[22]

Girl with ponytail-Women at the Quern
The quern rests on the earasaid of the woman on the right, possibly to catch grain; she feeds the stone with grain from the bowl at her left. Woodcut from Thomas Pennant's 1772 book A Tour in Scotland.

Garnett in his 1800 tour of Scotland describes the use of a hand quern as follows: "The quern consists of two circular pieces of stone, generally grit or granite, about twenty inches in diameter. In the lower stone is a wooden peg, rounded at the top; on this the upper stone is nicely balanced, so as just to touch the lower one, by means of a piece of wood fixed in a large hole in this upper piece, but which does not fill the hole, room for feeding the mill being left on each side: it is so nicely balanced, that though there is some friction from the contact of the two stones, yet a very small momentum will make it revolve several times, when it has no corn in it. The corn being dried, two women sit down on the ground, having the quern between them; the one feeds it, while the other turns it round, relieving each other occasionally, and singing some Celtic songs all the time."[20]

Miniature quern

Under 200 mm (7.9 in) in diameter and varying from roughly dressed to carefully worked, often with vertical handle sockets, a new class of querns has been identified having been overlooked in the past as weights, etc. In all respects they are like full sized quern stones and they show the typical wear signs that indicate that they were used for grinding small amounts of seeds, minerals or herbs. A suggestion that they may have been made as toys is thought to be unlikely.[23]

Other types of quern stones

Other forms of quern-stone include hopper-rubbers and Pompeian mills, both used by the Romans. The larger rotary mills were usually worked by a donkey or horse via an extension arm of wood attached to the upper stone.

Sound of a Roman mill.

Laws against use

There was a legal requirement in Scotland for tenants to pay for use of the baron's mill. Early leases of mills gave to the miller the legal right to break quern-stones which were being used in defiance of thirlage agreements.[24]

The obligations of thirlage eventually ceased to apply, but thirlage in Scotland was only formally and totally abolished on 28 November (Martinmas) 2004 by the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000.[25]

Similar requirements existed and were enforced actively in England.[26]

Ornament and inscription

A number of handstones have been found with extra carving however it is not always straightforward to separate decoration from practical functional purposes. The designs invest in the appearance of the handstone when it is in circular motion and the ability of the quern-stones to change seeds into flour may invoke a feeling of transformative magic that attracted both reverence and status to these household objects.[27] Three beehive querns found in Ireland have inscribed ornament of La Tène type,[19] as do examples from England and Wales.[28] Many of the horizontal slot-handled quern-stones have decoration that usually follows the basic pattern of motifs that encircle the hopper and/or the handle slot. One type though has an irregular pattern of cup marks that encircle the hopper.[1]

A quern was discovered at Dunadd in Scotland which has a cross carved into the upper stone. The cross has expanded terminals and ultimately derives its form from Roman and Byzantine predecessors of the fifth and sixth centuries. This example has a high quality of finishing which reflects its 'cost' and enhances its symbolic value and social significance. The cross is likely to have 'protected' the corn and the resultant flour from evil, such as fungal rust or ergot. Various legends give miraculous power to mill-stones and several have been found which have been re-used in the construction of burial cists or as tomb stones. The association between quern stones and burial may be because they are used in the process of making bread, the staple of life. A broken or disused quern therefore can be seen as symbolic of death.[29] In Clonmacnoise, near Athlone in County Offaly in Ireland, a quern stone was found which had been made into a tombstone, having been ornamented and the name Sechnasach, who died in 928 AD, inscribed onto it.[30] A large quern was discovered on the Lough Scur crannog in Ireland.

The Wondrous Mauchline Quern

In the 9th century the Welsh monk Nennius wrote a history of Britain, the Historia Brittonum, in which he lists the thirteen wonders of Britain, and included in it is the wondrous 'Mauchline Quern' that ground constantly, except on Sundays. It could be heard working underground and the local placename 'Auchenbrain' may celebrate it, translating from the Gaelic as 'field of the quern.[31]

Related grinding tools

See also


  1. ^ a b McLaren D, Hunter F (2008). "New aspects of rotary querns in Scotland". Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 113: 106. ISSN 0081-1564.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b "Explore/Highlights: Quern stone for making flour". London: The British Museum. Archived from the original on April 21, 2009.
  3. ^ Burnet, Graeme Macrae (2015). His Bloody Project (First ed.). Glasgow: Contraband. p. II. ISBN 9781910192146.
  4. ^ McLaren D, Hunter F (2008). "New aspects of rotary querns in Scotland". Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 138: 106. ISSN 0081-1564.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  5. ^ McLaren D, Hunter F (2008). "New aspects of rotary querns in Scotland". Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 138: 112. ISSN 0081-1564.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  6. ^ McLaren D, Hunter F (2008). "New aspects of rotary querns in Scotland". Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 115: 106. ISSN 0081-1564.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  7. ^ Coe, Michael D. (1999). The Maya (Sixth ed.). New York: Thames & Hudson. p. 13. ISBN 0-500-28066-5.
  8. ^ Greenberger, Robert (2005). The Technology of Ancient China. Rosen Publishing Group. p. 10. ISBN 978-1404205581.
  9. ^ Huang, H.T. (2000). Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 6, Biology and Biological Technology, Part 5, Fermentations and Food Science. 6. Cambridge University Press (published November 30, 2000). p. 463. ISBN 978-0521652704.
  10. ^ Shelach-Lavi, Gideon (2015). The Archaeology of Early China: From Prehistory to the Han Dynasty. Cambridge University Press (published January 26, 2015). p. 53. ISBN 978-0521145251.
  11. ^ Wright 1992:87f
  12. ^ Lease et al. 2001:235
  13. ^ Snuff Quern. Accessed | 2009-11-20
  14. ^ DeBoer 2001:223.
  15. ^ Rutter, Graham (2003). Basaltic-rock procurement systems in the southern Levant. PhD thesis, University of Durham. p. 236. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  16. ^ McLaren D, Hunter F (2008). "New aspects of rotary querns in Scotland". Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 138: 122–125. ISSN 0081-1564.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  17. ^ McLaren D, Hunter F (2008). "New aspects of rotary querns in Scotland". Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 138: 105. ISSN 0081-1564.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  18. ^ MacSween, A & Sharp, M (1989), Prehistoric Scotland. London : B.T.Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-6173-X. p. 17.
  19. ^ a b J.T. Koch, An Atlas for Celtic Studies (2007), p. 150.
  20. ^ a b Garnett, T. Observations on a Tour through the Highlands and part of the Western Isles of Scotland, particularly Staff and Icolmkill. Pub. T. Cadell. The Strand. P. 155.
  21. ^ Ritti, Grewe & Kessener 2007, p. 159
  22. ^ E.W. MacKie, The broch cultures of Atlantic Scotland: origins, high noon and decline: part 2: The Middle Iron Age: high noon and decline c.200 BC – AD 550, Oxford Journal of Archaeology, vol. 29, no 1. (2010), pp. 89-117 (100).
  23. ^ McLaren D, Hunter F (2008). "New aspects of rotary querns in Scotland". Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 138: 119–122. ISSN 0081-1564.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  24. ^ Enid Gauldie, The Scottish Miller 1700–1900(John Donald 1981), ISBN 0-85976-067-7.
  25. ^ [1]
  26. ^ Querns and millstones Archived September 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ McLaren D, Hunter F (2008). "New aspects of rotary querns in Scotland". Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 119: 106. ISSN 0081-1564.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  28. ^ McLaren D, Hunter F (2008). "New aspects of rotary querns in Scotland". Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 113: 117. ISSN 0081-1564.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  29. ^ Ewan Campbell, A cross-marked quern from Dunadd and other evidence for relations between Dunass and Iona, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 5, no. 117 (1987), pp. 105 - 117.
  30. ^ Janet and Colin Bord, Mysterious Britain (Garnstone 1973), ISBN 0-85511-180-1. P. 62.
  31. ^ Watson, William J. (1926). The History of the Celtic Place-Names of Scotland. Edinburgh : William Blackwood & Sons Ltd., p.187


  • DeBoer, W. (2001) Of dice and women: gambling and exchange in Native North America, In Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 8:215-268.
  • Gauldie, Enid (1981) The Scottish Miller 1700–1900. Pub. John Donald. ISBN 0-85976-067-7. 98-99.
  • Lease, N., Laurent, R., Blackburn, M. and Fortin, M. (2001) Caractérisation pétrologie d’artefact en basalte provenant de Tell ‘Atij et de Tell Gudeda en Syrie de Nord (3000-2500 av J-C), In Serie archéométrie 1:227-240.
  • Ritti, Tullia; Grewe, Klaus; Kessener, Paul (2007), "A Relief of a Water-powered Stone Saw Mill on a Sarcophagus at Hierapolis and its Implications", Journal of Roman Archaeology, 20: 138–163
  • Wright, K. (1992) Ground stone assemblage variations and subsistence strategies in the Levant, 22,000 to 5,500 bp, unpublished PhD thesis, Yale University.

External links

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.

Book of Henryków

The Book of Henryków (Polish: Księga henrykowska, Latin: Liber fundationis claustri Sanctae Mariae Virginis in Heinrichau) is a Latin chronicle of the Cistercian abbey in Henryków in Lower Silesia. Originally created as a registry of belongings looted during the Mongol raids of 1241, with time it was extended to include the history of the monastery. It is notable as the earliest document to include a sentence written entirely in what can be interpreted as an Old Polish language Currently the book is on exhibition in the Archdiocesan Museum in Wrocław. On October 9, 2015 the Book of Henryków was entered in the list of UNESCO's "Memory of the World".

The first part of the 100-page-long book is devoted to the early history of the abbey, from its foundation by Henry the Bearded in 1227 until 1259. The second part includes the later history until 1310. In the record for 1270 a settler from the nearby village is reported to have said to his wife "Day, ut ia pobrusa, a ti poziwai", which could be roughly translated as "Let me, I shall grind, and you take a rest".

The circumstances under which this sentence was written closely reflected the cultural and literary conditions in Poland in the first centuries of its national existence. It appeared in a Latin chronicle, written by a German abbot. The man who reportedly uttered the sentence almost one hundred years earlier was Bogwal, a Czech (Bogwalus Boemus), a local settler and subject of Bolesław the Tall, as he felt compassion for his local wife, who "very often stood grinding by the quern-stone". The local village, Brukalice, came to be named after him.

Bracken Hall Countryside Centre and Museum

Bracken Hall Countryside Centre and Museum is a children's museum, natural history education centre and nature centre established in 1989 at Bracken Hall on the edge of Baildon Moor, close to Shipley Glen in West Yorkshire.

In 2013 the Bradford Council removed their funding of the museum. The Friends of Bracken Hall worked to gather support in order to reopen the museum, and whilst the centre was planned to re-open in late 2015, it was finally re-opened to the public in April 2016 with the help of Baildon Town Council.

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.

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.

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.

Lochmaben Stone

The Lochmaben Stone (grid reference NY 3123 6600) is a megalith standing in a field, nearly a mile west of the Sark mouth on the Solway Firth, three hundred yards or so above high water mark on the farm of Old Graitney in Dumfries & Galloway in Scotland. The area is also known as Stormont. Together with a smaller stone it is all that is left of a stone circle dating back to around 3000BC.

The principal stone or megalith, referred to as the Lochmabonstone by Logan Mack in 1926, has, in the Borders context, an unsurpassed extent of history attached to it. It is an erratic, 7 feet high and 18 feet in girth and weighs approximately ten tons. It is composed of weathered granite, exposed to severe glacial action.

In these treeless flatlands this stone, given its size, would have been a distinctive landmark on the flat Solway Plain for several millennia.


A miller is a person who operates a mill, a machine to grind a grain (for example corn or wheat) to make flour. Milling is among the oldest of human occupations. "Miller", "Milne", and other variants are common surnames, as are their equivalents in other languages around the world ("Melnyk" in Ukrainian, "Meunier" in French, "Müller" or "Mueller" in German, "Mulder" and "Molenaar" in Dutch, "Molnár" in Hungarian, "Molinero" in Spanish, "Molinaro" or "Molinari" in Italian etc.). Milling existed in hunter-gatherer communities, and later millers were important to the development of agriculture.

The materials ground by millers are often foodstuffs and particularly grain. The physical grinding of the food allows for the easier digestion of its nutrients and saves wear on the teeth. Non-food substances needed in a fine, powdered form, such as building materials, may be processed by a miller.


Moneenabrone, an Anglicisation of the Gaelic, ‘Moínín na Brón’, meaning The Little Bog of the Quern-stone, is a townland in the civil parish of Templeport, County Cavan, Ireland. It lies in the Roman Catholic parish of Glangevlin and barony of Tullyhaw.

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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