Understanding Stone Tools and Archaeological Sites

By Brian P. Kooyman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Wider Applications
of Lithic Analysis

10.1
Introduction

This chapter will shift the focus from the minute details of lithic analysis to larger scale questions of human culture that can be addressed with data from lithic analysis. Lithic technology studies are not undertaken solely to provide information about how tools were manufactured, but also to use that insight to examine questions of human behavior ( Carr 1994a). It is time to step back and look at that broader perspective.


10.2
Site Type and Settlement Patterns

The kind of information lithic analysis can supply in this area concerns the activities that occurred at a site. These activities include inferences about the materials worked with the tools, the stages of tool manufacturing that occurred at a site, and the implications these inferences hold for what other types of sites must also have been present to encompass all the activities that a cultural group would need to undertake. These inferences allow definition of a settlement pattern, the location and distribution of sites within a region that allow the people to successfully exploit that environment to obtain their physical and social requirements. These activities can be examined both synchronically, at a single time period, and diachronically, as these activities changed through time. Some aspects of this are also discussed in the section "Sourcing: Defining Contact, Exchange, and Material Transportation."

Habitation sites are likely to have a wide range of tool types because a variety of activities are undertaken there. Much time is spent in such sites so tool manufacturing and repair/ maintenance will occur; hence some maintenance debris may be present. Such sites may even have cores and blanks of raw material brought from a quarry elsewhere.

Specialized sites, such as those associated with food getting or obtaining particular resources, will have a restricted range of tools. The tools present will reflect the particular activity undertaken at the site (e.g., projectile points at a hunting stand, axes where clearing agricultural land). Broken and exhausted tools might be found at such specialized sites, as well as resharpening flakes from maintaining the tools during use. The kill area I excavated at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta ( Kooyman 1992), for example, has a lithic assemblage with projectile points being the main tool. The debitage is dominated by small finishing/resharpening flakes from cutting tools, as identified by the acute exterior platform angle of the flakes.

The most obvious aspect of this area of study is that the process of manufacturing stone tools goes through various stages, and only particular stages or sets of stages would be in evidence at particular types of sites. The lithic variables that can be employed in this type of study include flake debitage type (decortication, BRF, etc.), the dorsal and platform scarring criteria,

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