Understanding Stone Tools and Archaeological Sites

Understanding Stone Tools and Archaeological Sites

Understanding Stone Tools and Archaeological Sites

Understanding Stone Tools and Archaeological Sites

Synopsis

This generously illustrated instructional guide explains the examination and analysis of stone tools and stone-tool sites anywhere in the world. Lithics expert Brian P. Kooyman explores the production, function, and context of stone tools to understand how human cultures used lithic tools at particular sites and to give readers the practical skills for lithic and site analysis. The guide covers manufacturing techniques, lithic types and materials, reduction strategies and techniques, world-wide lithic technology, production variables, meaning of form, and usewear and residue analysis. The author draws on extensive field work in North America, particularly at Head-Smashed-In in Alberta, Canada. However, the theory, methodology, and analysis applies to the investigation of stone tools and lithic sites worldwide.

Excerpt

Throughout the archaeological record, in all areas of the world, the most frequent evidence of past human activity that we have is stone tools. Even though stone tools were replaced in much of the world by metal tools in most recent history, this process was not as rapid or complete as we often assume (Rosen 1996, 1997). Given the ubiquitous distribution of these remains, an understanding of the information they can provide us about human culture is one of the most important areas of training an archaeologist can have. The intention of this book is to provide the basis of that understanding.

This book is written for anyone interested in archaeology and human culture as reflected in stone (lithic) tools. Wherever one encounters lithic remains, be they in a museum or in a farmer's field, the full significance of their story cannot be seen without understanding the meaning of their form and variation. Small chips of stone may be fragments of broken tools or debris from the process of manufacturing stone tools. In the latter case, a closer examination of the pieces can reveal whether they are from the earliest stages of tool shaping, or from the final finishing stages. This more detailed information, in conjunction with the determined functions of the tools themselves, can provide insight into the role that the archaeological site played in the life of the people who once lived there. The distributions and concentrations of these remains across the breadth of the site can tell us about where people ate, where they slept, and where they cooked their food. In short, these fragments of stone are truly an open book waiting to be read. But like any book, the message cannot be understood until we learn to read. I hope that the following chapters will provide the fundamentals of the ability to read.

Reconstructing past culture through stone tools takes many routes. The techniques used to manufacture lithic tools developed over many thousands of years in many parts of the world. Deducing how the manufacturing occurred, tracing its regional and temporal development, and then tracing its global spread, outlines human technological development and patterns of ancient contact and migration. Many different lithic materials were used to manufacture tools and each held both possibilities and limits for producing tools to accomplish particular tasks. Identifying the various lithic types allows us to see the interplay of these variables of task and suitability. As well, this study permits us to see the development of new, and modification of old, manufacturing techniques as people of past cultures coped with the problems and challenges they faced. In many cases suitable raw material was not available locally and people had to acquire it from more distant locations. By studying details of composition for the lithic types used, we can uniquely characterize each local source of material and so trace where exotic lithic material came from. Not only is this interesting on its own, but it also provides insight into past patterns of trade and contact. These patterns of contact may have been based on preexisting social relations, such as alliances or kin . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.